Summer 2016/2017 Newsletter

We rejoice in the green of summer after many dry seasons.  It is good to hear streams splash and watch dams fill, but the drought is not over yet.

uMngeni Catchment

During October we heard reports that the Midlands water table had dropped by 60 metres!  Fortunately, it has been raining quite a lot since then, but don’t be fooled by the grey and drizzly days – the drought is not over. 

For the first time in two summers, the Midmar-uMngeni River catchment received good rain in early November, and the rivers are flowing again at volumes not seen for over eighteen months. However, Midmar is only half full.  Springgrove is 40% full (it is half the size of Midmar), so clearly, we are not out of the woods, despite the clouds and green hills.

Midmar used to be fed by only the small uMngeni catchment, but since the Springgrove dam was built on the Mooi River, water from that catchment is transferred to the Mpofana River, which joins the Lions River and then the uMngeni heading to Midmar.  We haven’t created more water – simply diverted water that used to go into the Thukela to the uMngeni.  This transfer scheme is the only reason Midmar did not dry up last summer. Do not be fooled by the happy canoeists on the full river flowing through Lions River – the catchment has not had a lot of rain and the drought has not broken. The drought is now forecast to continue for another two years.  This small catchment can no longer supply enough water to everyone due to growing demand.  We need to ensure that what little water we have lasts for as long as possible – so keep practicing your water wise habits.

small stream off Impendle road

Spring Hike on Inhlosane

On Saturday, 8 October 2016, 35 brave people assembled in the Everglades Country Hotel parking lot to join in the walk up Inhlosane. All week, people called asking if it would go ahead if there was mist or bad weather. Ashley Crookes assured them that come rain or shine, he would be leading them up the mountain! Dargle Conservancy sponsored a trip for the Nxamalala Enviro Club and Pauline Holden made snacks to keep the kids energy levels up.

Ashley reports:

The weather was pretty bad - really cold misty weather completely hid the mountain from us all the way up, but, no complaints were heard. Only the sounds of excited kids chatting amongst themselves, and boots plodding along the trail all the way up to the beacon. Not much wildlife was seen, but a few flowers and plants dotted the grassland to add a little colour to an otherwise dull and dreary day.

We all reached the summit, took some photos at the beacon and eagerly opened up the snack bags. Local veterinarian, Dr Dave Gibbs, decided that a 'couple of cold ones' were just what was needed and shared those he had carried up the hill! When we were about half way back down, the mist and the clouds cleared up and we had a lovely view for a few brief moments before it all closed up again. Hopefully we will have some good sunny weather on our Spring hike up Inhlosane next year!

Spring hike on Inhlosane

Forest Diversity and Fun

Charlene Russell of Midlands Meander Education Project brought groups of learners from Corrie Lynn and Dargle Primary to Kilgobbin forest during Spring (sponsored by Dargle Conservancy) to investigate the structure of the forest by physically measuring the heights of plants along a transect, and to measure the biodiversity of invertebrate life using a 50x50cm quadrant.  

It’s fantastic to see the theory that we covered in class about forests in ‘real life’ – the children eagerly identified all the different layers of the forest, and hopefully will enjoy seeing their data turn into the same picture when we put it onto a graph back at school. They said that they were excited to see that what they had learnt about the layers of the forest was actually true!

We started with quiet time, breathing in the smells of the forest, and envisioning what life would be like as one of the old trees in the forest. Then we broke into two teams, and laid out the transect. Each group measured 20m of the transect. They were slow at first, but soon got into the rhythm of measuring the height of three plants at every meter, an at every 5m meters we placed the quadrant and counted the number of invertebrates we could find. We also kept a record of other signs of life such as footprints, dung and feathers – which we added to our biodiversity score. Once the ecological study was completed, we headed up the path to the picnic site. There we greeted the old Lemonwood tree, which is over 2000 years old. I told the children to introduce themselves to the tree, and to tell it something special about themselves, because it was an extremely old tree and had met many people in its time. We had our picnic, kissed and hugged the trees goodbye, and left the forest. 

 Dargle Primary learners explore the forest floor

Sustainable Schools

This year, we have supported Zandile Sikhakane of the Impendle Sustainable Schools Project with administration and reporting. Zandile does great work in five Impendle schools. Lessons over the past six months have focussed on low energy cooking solutions (building solar cookers, rocket stoves and wonderbags), nutrition, fracking, water and gardening.

During the first part of the December holidays, Zandile held a Holiday Club for youngsters – hiking to visit the spring that supplies much of their community with water, birdwatching and learning about birds’ place in the eco-system and cleaning litter from the streams.

We are delighted that the Midlands Meander Education Project has agreed to take this project under their wing in 2017. Dargle Conservancy will continue to support Impendle schools as much as possible.

weaver nest

Dargle Trade Flourishes

On the third Thursday of each month, Darglians and friends gather on the veranda of il Postino with bags and boxes crammed with excess produce from our gardens and kitchen (and some craft, clothes, books too) to share with neighbours and friends.  This has become a lovely social occasion as we barter for cappuccino and catch up on local gossip.  Interestingly, it always feels like you go home with more than you brought!

Join us on 19 January. If you would like to be added to our Dargle Trade What’s App Group send your number to 083 289 3110.  Sharon Barnsley says “With the abundance of home grown produce one gets from time to time, I thought it would be great to share with others who would enjoy it and, if they had anything to swap, then that would be the cherry on top. I also like the fact that swapping locally cuts down on having to travel into town to shop, one of my pet hates. An added bonus is meeting other like-minded people and making new friends.”

Dargle Trade Market

Wildflowers of Summer

Should you be unsure what the colourful treasures you spot on your grassland walks are – remember there is lots of info about the wildflowers found in Dargle on our website.  Look out for Papaver aculeatum, Sandersonia aurantiaca, Pelargonium luridum and Wahlenbergia during the holidays.  Catch up on past editions of our Wildlife Sightings on the website too, while you have some time to spare.  Plenty of plants posted on Facebook and Instagram – Dargle.KZN too. Please share yours - #dargle . 


Fly Fishermen at Work

Andrew Fowler and the Natal Fly Fishers Club continue to do exceptional work clearing invasive plants along the banks of the uMngeni in Upper Dargle, contributing to improved water resources for millions of downstream users.

Andrew tell us “As fly-fishermen, our interest in clearing the river is driven by a desire for a river which is less prone to siltation, more diverse in its aquatic and terrestrial insect population, and is therefore more suited to healthy fish populations. We desire well grassed banks, devoid of exotic invasive species that shade and denude, and better water flows.  Easier going and casting are very much secondary benefits and are not the main aim at all.  We are therefore supportive of clearing all the tributaries, and land in the catchment, and desire a restored grassland landscape with a healthy biodiversity, in which we are more likely to encounter wildlife and birdlife.  The #BRU initiative hopes to extend beyond just the farms to which the fishermen have access, in the interests of the entire catchment and river, and is intended to endure for the long run.  It is our intention to hold annual clearing days in which follow up work is done to control wattle regrowth. Promotion of the uMgeni as a great trout fishery, to ensure that it attracts future guardians, is also key to the long term success of our endeavors.”

Progress can be tracked on the Blue Ribbon Umgeni blog site 

BRU clearing on uMngeni summer 2016

Frack Free Dargle

Keen to wear your heart on your gate?  Frack Free Dargle Correx signs available at R50 each from

The Dargle Country Market hosted a Frack Free Fingernail Bar recently, painting nails purple and green as a device to start conversations about fracking. You can do this too – it certainly gets people talking!  Many locals still do not know about the threat of fracking to South Africa, so do your best to spread the word.

Frackfree finger nails

Read about the recent National Assembly Debate on Fracking and other interesting articles in Latest News at Subscribe to keep abreast.

Seasonal Celebrations

This summer embrace the sun soaked occasions, the cry of the hadeda and storms that celebrate the uniqueness of our valley.  Gather friends and family around colourful tables with the smell of hot earth or freshly cut grass wafting through the windows.

Visitors may arrive bearing gifts, reciprocate with local food and low carbon presents available right here in the creative Midlands.

While the world may seem overwhelming at times, making choices that support small local producers has a ripple effect – the more of us who do it, the more chance we have of changing the world one delicious meal and one gorgeous gift at a time.    

Slow down a little.  You may have a watch, but do you have time? In Dargle we do.

walking down Inhlosane