Newsletter - Spring 2012


Conservation is not only about plants and animals. Taking care of cultural heritage is important too and often natural and cultural heritage are entwined. To quote Claire Adderley, curator of the Howick uMngeni Museum, "Heritage is about receiving – receiving what is left or consciously passed on. What is inherited depends on what has been invested, how the investment has been protected, conserved and grown. This applies to both cultural and natural heritage and is the evidence of the creativity, curiosity and inventiveness of humans - a reflection of relationships and resources."

During the Bambatha Rebellion, iNhlosane was the furthest point that troops came – their cries from the top of the peak chilling the blood of the pioneer settlers in the valley. Apparently the stone walls on the iNhlosane ridge were built by British troops stationed in the area towards the end of the Anglo Boer War. The troops were awaiting their demobilisation after the war and they were put to work in this way to keep them busy until they were sent home. The beautiful dry stone walls that criss-cross the Dargle hills, were built by Italian prisoners of war during WW2. Stone Signal Posts are in evidence on the top of Carlisle farm. At the end of the Second World War a big fire was lit on the peak of iNhlosane to spread the news.

Many of the fences are still strung between Sneezewood posts. These were cut by the settlers and much sought after as besides being hard, the peppery oil they contain repels insects and prevents them from rotting.

Saw pits where big Yellowwoods were felled for furniture and building are still visible today – there are many in the Kilgobbin Forest.

Do you have any information to share on the cultural and natural heritage of our valley? Can you verify any of the info above as correct, or not? Do you have stories or old photos for the History page on the Dargle Conservancy website, to share?

How About?

Joining our Dargle Conservancy Committee and being part of all the positive action?  Gill Addison and Katie Robinson are no longer available to serve. We thank them both for the contributions they have made to the Conservancy and will continue to make to our community.  Contact Barry Downard on 082 556 2417 or if you are keen – we’d be delighted to have some fresh ideas and extra hands.

Have You?

Paid your subs for 2012? R250 per year. That is only 68 cents per day – a tiny contribution to make towards conserving our beautiful valley for the benefit of present and future generations. Contact Clive Shippey to check if you are unsure: 082 490 3467 First National Bank Ltd, Howick Account No.: 62211879236 Branch Code: 220725


What has been happening in Dargle?  Curiously, we seem to have become a centre of inspiration in the Midlands. Many people talk about our work in conservation, community building and creativity. Our wildlife sightings are extremely popular, with more people from far and wide asking to be added to the mailing list.  Sam Rose has started a petition about the uMngeni Municipal Landfill Site – hope you will join us in signing and distributing widely.

We've had lots of publicity - from the local press Village Talk, Hilton and District Times and Meander Chronicle, as well as the National Eco-Schools Newsletter, The Food with a Story blog and the Eco-Focus Newsletter.

Here are reports on a few of the recent events – Water workshop, Forest field trips, the Snake man’s visit, Learning about Sustainability Tour, Edu-Plant Award for local Eco-School and our First Birthday on our Local Market. Relax and enjoy the read.


The Dargle Conservancy invited Penny Rees to repeat her presentation on the uMngeni River Walk in May for members and riverside residents at Inversanda.  As always, the presentation was very well received with landowners surprised at how quickly the river quality deteriorates.  Many landowners in the area do not observe the 30m riverine reserve boundaries, farming virtually right up to the edge, which has a big impact on the health of the river. Penny and Mike Farley offered to visit landowners and give advice.
A workshop beside the uMngeni river on Tom and Lucinda Bate’s farm, followed. Penny briefed everyone on how to conduct the now famous mini-sass test. Despite the chilly weather everyone got in enthusiastically, overturned rocks, disturbed muddy edges and scooped up all the creatures they could find.

Brandon was determined to find a crab as he had been bitten by one the week before.  Crabs, however, can live in quite polluted water so finding one wouldn’t have improved the score much. “They are good for otters to eat” quipped Tom. They were all collected in a big white bucket for identification.  Evert was excited to see small creatures that are sometimes found in great abundance in his stream further up – until Penny pointed out that they were indicators of poor river health! This was challenging for the novices, but Penny explained clearly how to go about it. Everyone was riveted.

We found Minnow Mayflies and Stout Crawlers, Plenaria (with arrow shaped heads) , water pennies, orange Caddisfly, scavenger water beetles and fly larvae.  The final score was 5.8.  Penny thought it should have been higher and suggested that the Bates’ do another in a couple of weeks. Dieter pointed out that one’s neighbours actions upstream would have a big impact – Penz agreed “we all live downstream.” Nikki suggested that everyone test regularly at the beginning and end of their properties to see if their practices (good or bad) were having an effect on water quality. Emily and Brandon dished out fresh asparagus tarts and river chilled drinks to all the amateur scientists!

The Dargle Conservancy hopes to encourage residents along the river to do regular water tests to submit for the monthly Wildlife Sightings. In this way any major changes in scores can be reported and attended to before major damage occurs.  As custodians of one of the most important water catchment areas, we have a responsibility to care for the riverine environment. Our actions impact on over 5million people in KZN.

“It was an absolute pleasure having a delightful, enthusiastic crowd of people visit our part of the river.” said Lucinda. Tom promised another picnic if we go back again and ensure that the score is MUCH higher!  Non-indigenous vegetation on the banks of the river, impoverishes the eco-system and often causes blockages when felled. 
Penny Rees is very happy to do more mini-sass workshops or give advice, contact her on Read the whole story and see pictures at:


Last month, just as the tiny green leaves on the Celtis africana trees were beginning to emerge, children from Corrie Lynn School in Dargle headed into the Kilgobbin forest on a field trip organised by the Dargle Conservancy.  The Zulu name for Celtis is uMvumvu which describes the sound the bare branches make rubbing together in the wind, during winter.  The common name, White Stinkwood, describes the unpleasant smell of the wood when freshly cut.
Along the path there were signs of animal activity – bush pigs and duiker too.  On a couple of trees the lower bark was rubbed smooth, obviously by animals using the tree as a scratching post. This provided an opportunity for everyone to do some bark rubbings.  Some tree stems were very rough while others were quite smooth.

A Knysna loerie (igwalagwala) calling stopped everyone in their tracks as they peered to see it perched on the branch of a tall Cape Chestnut. We discussed the National Tree of South Africa - Podocarpus latifolius.  The first guess at the name of our national tree was Wattle! The yellowwood family is ancient, having grown in this part of Africa for over 100-million years. In forests, the trees can grow up to 40m in height with the base of the trunk sometimes up to 3m in diameter.

After a picnic lunch, it was time for a little ‘solitaire’. Sitting quietly on their own in the forest allowed everyone time to really listen to the sounds around them. They heard Samango monkeys, birds, rustling leaves, and described the sounds like shwee shweee  and kroo kroo kroo. Being alone was a bit frightening at first, but after a few minutes they settled down, got comfortable and felt peaceful and happy. A bush buck was spotted in the undergrowth.

Too soon, the African Insight bus arrived to take everyone back to school. The Dargle Conservancy believes that interesting fieldtrips which support curriculum learning, help to inspire the children to value our special biodiversity.

Thanks to Barend Booysen for hosting the group and providing accommodation for the facilitator, Andrew Anderson for the transport, Jonette Lee for sandwiches, Jenny Fly for fruit.

Food & Fun

Dargle Local Market celebrated its first anniversary at the October Market.  As other markets in the Midlands have come and gone during this time, it is quite an achievement – mostly due to the dedicated stallholders who turn up regularly to share their produce with the Dargle Community. To mark the occasion, the Bates tribe served champagne and orange juice. Tash Allie popped a candle onto her delicious brownies -and iced her cranberry cupcakes with love and glitter. Lots and lots of people turned up – old friends and strangers too.

Everyone made a special effort with their stalls as there were prizes for the best ones.  Gilly Robartes went to town with a seriously country theme. “The market was such a buzz, and had such a great atmosphere.  If the Dargle Market continues to be like this – Il Postino will have to extend their verandah!” she laughed. Anne and Mike Weedon sold chunks of their award-winning pumpkin, and very generously shared seedlings grown from the seeds too.  They will have a lot of competition next year…Their duck egg display was very stylish and won them a voucher from The Lavender Company. There were lots of cakes to taste – Jethro Bronner won Dargle Dollars and an art class with Willem van Heerden for his scrumptious carrot cake.

A couple of people traded in LETS – the Midlands alternate currency. Kate Pallet shopped at the Dargle Abundance Stall with her Cape Town ‘Talents’.  Karina was terribly excited to find raw milk “The market is great, but finding real, fresh, happy milk was such a bonus!” she said. Buskers provided some unplugged music and head and shoulder massages were offered to weary shoppers. 

Judges Yvonne Munk and the Gourmet Girls tasted and shopped to their hearts’ content and were photographed by Clinton Freidman for Erica Platter’s new Midlands food book, before handing out the prizes. Thanks to il Postino Pizzeria, Colleen and Willem van Heerden and The Lavender Company for their generosity. Despite the dodgy weather forecast, it was a glorious morning.  Regular shoppers -Ross, Pam and Bruce Haynes commented “We think that every market should be a birthday market! What fun today, and what creativity and variety. Congrats to all the Dargelites on what has been built up in only a year. Long may it continue!”

See more pictures on the Dargle Local Living blog. Why not click the FOLLOW button while you are there so that you get new stories about Dargle Life right in your email inbox?

Register to trade in our local Midlands currency at


The Eco-Committee at Shea O’Connor School in Nottingham Road has chosen to focus on Sustainable Technology for their WESSA Eco-Schools portfolio this year.  During the holidays they visited Dargle to find out how people are actually living in a more sustainable way. African Insight provided the transport.

First stop was Lane’s End Farm, home of Susi and Andrew Anderson who are determined to become as food independent as possible. Cows convert the grass into meat and milk, provide manure for the compost heaps and biogas digester. Keeping cows can create lots of flies, so the chickens eat fly larvae to reduce this problem and provide eggs, meat and manure. The highlight of the morning was seeing how the biogas digester worked. Only a bucket of manure (about 5kgs) is needed to keep it producing gas for cooking and hot water for showers. Sanele Maduna in Grade 10 was most impressed at this saying “Geysers waste so much energy and there are problems with solar geysers on rainy days,” adding “We really should use this system at school to cook. We could be an example for the whole community.”

Then it was around the base of iNhlosane to Rainbow Homestead, the off the grid home of Sam Rose and Shine Murphy.  After ceremoniously cutting through their Eskom electricity line, they have been living ‘off the grid’ for the past few years, generating energy from a couple of solar panels, fires, a parabolic sunstove and a solar oven. The flourishing food garden supplies their community of ten with fresh greens and vegetables.  Situated on a sunny slope, deep swales catch all the water which falls, rather than allowing it to drain away into the valley.  Compost heaps are everywhere and nothing is taken off site – everything goes back into the soil. A solar driven dehydrator dries herbs and excess fruit for storage. Their home is built from wood found on site – only the poles and roof had to be brought in.  “If I built it again, I would definitely use wattle and daub – it is the best building material in the world.” said Shine.  Solar panels and 400amps of battery provide enough power for their laptop, plenty of LED lighting and even the sewing machine. “Eish, this guy is intelligent” said Lungisane Mthalane “I didn’t know that someone in South Africa can live like this. It is impressive.”

Rainbow is also an Eco-School and everyone was delighted to see the familiar green flag hanging on the classroom wall. Vice-Principal of Shea O’Connor School, Antonia Mkhabela, said after the fieldtrip “Now things we introduce at school will be sustained because the learners have been on site and experienced for themselves. They can see that the theory is implementable.”

Education is key to helping change perceptions and behaviour so we were pleased to assist in inspiring the learners. “I have hope for the future when I meet young people like these.” concluded Andrew Anderson.


Don’t miss Jane Harley's presentation  "Getting off the Grid" on Wednesday 24th or the opportunity to learn how the biogas digester works (and other alternate energy solutions) on 3 November at Lane’s End Farm.


In an attempt to dispel some of the myths and fears surrounding snakes, The Dargle Conservancy invited Pat McKrill from Snake Country to visit three schools in the area and also to do a presentation to farm staff, efroe spending the evening with members and friends.  Initial reaction when he produced a plastic snake 'made in china' was shrieks of horror, but Pat soon had his audience absolutely captivated.

He began by asking everyone to guess the number of deaths caused annually in South Africa by HIV/AIDS, road accidents and cigarette smoking. Of course, the numbers were all huge. The audience was then startled to hear that on average only about 10 people die of snake bites every year in our country! After listening to the interesting facts about where snakes fit into our eco-system and asking questions, everyone realised that snakes had real value and if treated with respect, were very unlikely to harm anyone. When you come across a snake by surprise, Pat’s advice is simple. Stand still.  Snakes can only see movement, so will probably think you are a tree if you don’t move and simply go on their way. By the end of the talk, learners were clamouring for a chance to hold the snakes in their hands and to feel the smooth skin and the flicking tongue.
"It is the talk of the day. Learners are telling others that they must not kill a snake if they see it on the road. Thank you so much for this opportunity". Ms Busi Nondaba principal Lion's River Primary, said afterwards.

Farm staff too were surprised at how comfortable they felt, getting over their initial fear. Nobuhle Sokhela commented after touching a snake “It’s unbelievable. I won’t ever scream when I see a snake again, I am not frightened now.” Nombuizelo Nokhoakhoa added “I thought it would feel wet, but it was smooth and dry, just like my skin.” 
Pat commented “I find it interesting how the questions are always the same – whether I am at a rural school or a corporate event.  Across the board people have similar fears and lack of knowledge.”

Full story and pictures at

Planet Permaculture

 The Rainbow Eco-HomeSchool in Dargle, was the first home school to ever enter the Food & Trees for Africa EduPlant competition. Hundreds of schools enter the competition, held every two years, but only 60 schools make it to the finals. Rainbow school won the Provincial award out of 6 schools in KwaZulu Natal. 
Each school presented a 10 minute performance about permaculture at their school. The Rainbow school decided on a sci-fi approach, blending real facts into a fictional play called “A Visit to Planet Permaculture.”
The story is about an Alien being which lands on this new planet saying: “I used to live on Planet Earth but the humans destroyed the environment so much that it made it impossible to live there anymore.  I’m searching for a new planet to live on.” The fun performance includes the Earth Alien confusing compost piles for giant mole hills, the solar cooker with a DSTV dish, and swales for burial ditches.  Of course, the Earth Alien soon realizes what a wasteful system he has lived in where homes are built and energy is sourced from materials dug from deep in the earth and transported long distances. Homes could be built from the natural resources like wattle and daub or cob and powered using the sun—as it is on Planet Permaculture.  He concludes by saying “I’m very happy to have discovered Planet Permaculture.  I wish the humans on my Planet had learned these principles before we destroyed our planet with our unsustainable ways of living.”

Besides the performances, all the schools participated in eight fun-filled workshops.  All schools went home with bags of resources and Rainbow Homeschool won a cash prize too. Well done for showcasing the Dargle in Gauteng! 

The Rainbow Eco-HomeSchool is both an advisory service and a demonstration site for permaculture practices.   Contact Samantha and Shine at or 083-599-4792 if you would like to visit.


Help Make a Difference

As part of Rainbow’s Eco-Schools work, they have decided to petition for the improvement of the Howick Landfill site and waste management. On a visit to the Howick municipal dump in August 2012, they were appalled to see so many things being “wasted” there - things that can be recycled, composted, or re-used.  Along with other uMngeni residents who use the site, they are concerned about air pollution, water pollution, the health of dump workers, the size of the landfill, and the amount of resources going to waste there. They intend to send with a petition (at the beginning of December) to the municipal leaders to express their concern about how the Howick waste is managed.

Would you be willing to print and post (or circulate) this petition at your work place, action groups, and to friends and neighbours? You can download it here. Contact Sam Rose: 083 599 4792 or

Hard at Work

In collaboration with the Midlands Conservancies Forum and other NGOs like DUCT, WWF Water Balance programme, Working for Water, Umgeni Water and Department of Agriculture we have put together and submitted funding applications for Invasive Plant Clearing Project along the uMngeni River and road verges. These projects intend to address stabalisation, restoration, erosion control, monitoring and follow up in partnership with landowners. 

WWF have started some work at the beginning of the river already. Invasive vegetation displaces natural plants, which reduces biodiversity. Alien trees unnaturally shade the river banks and water which changes the habitat and influences water quality.  Often these trees fall into the streams and rivers causing blockages.  As we are custodians of the water resource for most of KZN, we have a responsibility to take care of it.

Hosting the Midlands

In July, the Dargle Conservancy host the quarterly Midlands Conservancies Forum Roadshow. The roadshow is an opportunity for conservation minded folk to gather at different Conservancies to learn more about the area. Presenters from environmental and conservation organisations are also able to reach a large number of Conservancies at the same time.  The afternoon began with a walk in Kilgobbin Forest, led by Barend Booysen. Thereafter everyone returned to Old Kilgobbin farm for refreshments in The Cairn.

The local Dargle food went down a treat. Thanks to Gilly Robates, Sharon Barnsley, Ross Young, Malvina van Bremem, Sue Hofman, Debbie Hayes, Tinks Fowler, Kathy Herrington, Serene de Chazal, Carl Bronner and Nikki Brighton. 

Everyone enjoyed fascinating presentations by Kevan Zunckel on Payment for Eco Systems services and Ian Little on the EWT Grassland programme. Nikki Brighton finished off the meeting with a presentation on Dargle Conservancy and in particular the Local Living Initiative to illustrate why we need to change our lifestyles if we are to have any hope of saving the cranes and oribi.

Comments from those who joined us:

I had a blast!  What a lovely walk in the forest, it was so tranquil and calming to the mind.
I really enjoyed the talks as well, and I do have the list of upcoming walks/events so you will be seeing more of me soon. Reshnee Lalla EDRR – SANBI

Thank you for a truly wonderful afternoon in the Dargle. The walk through the forest with Barend was amazing.   The tea and wonderful eats were incredible and I thought, when I saw the spread, there would be so much left over, but not so.  It was so good that I am sure most of us overindulged. The speakers to were interesting and I especially enjoyed the presentation on The Dargle and your way of living there.  There is clearly something to be learnt from what you are doing. Thank you for sharing this with us. Margie and Warwick Fraser – Lion’s Bush Conservancy.

Thanks, it was a very interesting afternoon and you certainly do live in a most beautiful place! Sarah Allen – Curry’s Post Conservancy

I thoroughly enjoyed it! I have attended the past 3 meetings and this one was fantastic. I really enjoyed your presentation. Living simply is something that I am trying to strive towards!  Deren Coetzer Hilton College

David and Wendy Crowe and I thoroughly enjoyed the road show on 26 July – good presentations, very informative and an exceptional afternoon tea, just the best bread, spreads and scones we have eaten in a long while. Our thanks for a great afternoon. Yvonne Thompson Balgowan Conservancy.

We left so elated to live in such an amazing community.  We can’t thank you enough for all your energy and enthusiasm. Tom and Lucinda Bate

What a very pleasant surprise we had yesterday, thank you for your hard work. Chris O’Flaherty

Yesterday was great. I enjoyed walking in the forest and the speakers were so interesting.  Gilly Robartes

Hope For Biodiversity

The Midlands Meander Education Project has been doing creative lessons on Endangered Species with Grade 4&5 at Dargle School, Grade 4&5 at Corrie Lynn and Grade 1-3 at Lions River Primary.  They had lessons on what animals eat (herbivores, omnivores and carnivores) and their habitats.

The children chose to focus on Rhinos deciding that they are 'Not Cute' but they are a vital part of our heritage. They entered the 'Rethink' competition at the Midlands Mall – all entries had to incorporate recycled materials. See how young people value our Natural and Cultural Heritage at the exhibition at the Liberty Midlands Mall until 22 October.
Read an interesting article about Rhinos at:


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