Newsletter - Winter 2012

Our valley is a patchwork of brown and gold and black right now. Fire season can be pretty scary. However, it is easy to put your neighbours at ease. Kevin Barnsley sends text messages to everyone who might spot the fire, even though by law you are only required to contact immediate neighbours. Folk on the other side of the valley are reporting that his message has them checking that their bakkie sakkies are full of water "just in case". Small, thoughtful actions like this have a big impact. As does driving at 40kms per hour on dirt roads to avoid smothering pedestrians in clouds of dust.

Our Logo

You may have noticed that the Crown on our Crane has been updated? Barry Downard has given it a much crisper look. Thank you, Barry. Do you know the folktale of how the Crowned Crane got it's Crown? Download the story at under Eco Education.

Our History

At the recent KZN Conservancies Association AGM, we were surprised to receive a certificate "in recognition of outstanding commitment and contribution to the natural environment of KZN for 30 years". The current Dargle Conservancy was started in 2003, but obviously Ezemvelo still have records dating from the first conservancy started in the 1980's and didn't mind that we were non-existent for a number of years! Nikki Brighton received the certificate on our behalf from Graham Keet (EKZNW) and Malcolm Stainbank (Chair KZNCA). We are gathering information for a History page on our website, so if you have any stories to share from the old conservancy, we would be delighted to hear them.

Nick and Helen Methley sent us this:

The DC used to employ a game guard with a sawn off shotgun to go through the Conservancy, clearing snares and checking on the number and health of fauna and flora. There was a small herd of resident blesbuck that used to jump through or over the fences, and roam across the hilltops of the local farms.

One of the things that happened while we were living at Lemonwood was when we received a phone call from Dave Kimber, our neighbour next door. He told us that he had ridden up to the top of the hill checking the boundary fences. While up there he saw what looked like the game guard lying asleep in the grass on our side of the fence. He dismounted, came through to check on him, and found he had been shot dead and his shotgun missing. There had been a fire there with the horns and remains of a blesbuck around it. Obviously poachers had trapped one in a snare on the fence, and while eating it there, had been accosted by the guard. They must have overpowered him and shot him with his own shotgun."

Nick sent this old photo of burning on Lemonwood with Ian Sinclair.

Our Fires

Debate rages about the neccessity of fire in our grasslands.  However, while landowners are still using fire as a management tool, the CARA regulations must be adhered to.

Message from Bobby Hoole of LRFPA regarding burning:

We were fortunate in the Midlands to receive a light rainfall ranging between 8-16mm on Sunday.  I would sincerely encourage landowners to review their block burning strategies this year as we have had a very dry autumn and low winter rainfall to date.  Sunday’s rain could be compared to a “drop in the ocean” and after Mondays fresh northerly winds the majority of this moisture has been nullified.  In view of this I would recommend that you delay you block burning a while longer and until such time as we have had least 25mm of rain within a 24 hour period.  Lions River FPA in terms of its rules & regulations adopts the guidelines in terms of CARA and hence request members to follow suit.

I have also noticed whilst travelling the area, that a few landowners have been burning off fairly large blocks of veld when burning fire breaks during June  - I am sure this is not as a result of “an over achievement” but in my opinion intentionally burnt off as a very large fire break.  Besides being a very risky procedure, one is only damaging the quality grasslands and soils you have on your land – high intensity fires has consequences for our various grass species - unwanted grass species start to germinate.

Judy Bell of the Winterskloof Conservancy has started an important debate:

We need to start addressing the issue of fire in an holistic manner that generates and promotes debate and new ideas.  We have used fire for centuries, but the planet is now very different and due to there being too many people, using too many resources and generating too many wastes, “business as usual” requires constant testing, review and critique to ensure we act sustainably and differently in this “new world”.

Burning, whether it is of biomass that is considered waste, for firebreaks, to renew grasslands, to treat hazardous waste or generate electricity has significant impacts, with the most critical being the health effects.  There is no “away” and the particulates and other hazardous pollutants accumulate in the atmosphere, sometimes travelling exceptional distances.

DEA has just issued limits for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) due to the impact of these pollutants on human health – huge and thus needs to be controlled.

There is really no point in having this limit, if we burn everything in winter releasing particulates when the potential for accumulation of these pollutants is highest, due to inversions and other weather conditions that prevent effective dispersion.  Surely by now we have another way to protect ourselves from runaway fires and to deal with moribund grasslands and “get rid of” waste biomass?

Our Blog

Have you noticed the updated look on  There are a number of new pages including Seed Savers and Travel Share.  The latter is an attempt to assist people to reduce journeys and utilise free space in vehicles.   Do you travel somewhere regularly?  Let us know and we’ll try to link you with other travellers to save money, fuel and help the planet too. For example: Andrew Anderson is offering a ride to the Midlands from OR Tambo Airport on 14 July. Contact him on 082 494 0668

We are also keen to include a FreeCycle page where unwanted items can be offered to others.  That old bath might be very useful for someone starting a worm farm, the bent gate perfect for climbing beans, an out of fashion armchair useful in a corner of someone’s guest cottage and waste plastic bottles ideal for growing seedlings. What have you got to share? Let us know by email:

Remember to click the FOLLOW button on the blog page to make sure you are up to date with what is hip and happening in our valley!

Our Members

Welcome to our newest members Darin and Paula Owen who have bought a cottage along the Impendle road.

The DC committee would like to welcome Robin Barnsley, who will be joining our very enjoyable monthly meetings soon. Robin was elected unopposed at our AGM. Robin joins Gill Addison, Andrew Anderson, Kate Robinson, Barry Downard, Clive Shippey and Nikki Brighton.

Thanks to all who completed our on line Survey in June.  Curious about the results?  Here are some of the stats:

  • Do we fulfil our mission?: 65.7% said yes, 11.4% said no and 22.9% weren’t sure.
  • 97% felt we added value to living in the Dargle and 97% thought the annual subscriptions of R250 were good value. 
  • Only 56% thought we adequately represent landowners on Development issues with 36% being unsure. 
  • Most people rated Biodiversity conservation as our main function, with Environmental Education and Social Events being highly ranked too.

The following comments were also made (we don’t know who made them):

  • Committee does a good job, not sure that we members do enough!
  • DC is one of the great things about living in Dargle.
  • Although I have not attended talks and functions, what I have received by email indicates that you are successfully addressing issues and creating awareness about conservation issues.
  • You do more for community spirit than anything else.
  • Certain landowners feel marginalised for a variety of reasons.
  • DC is strong, practical, effective organisation. I like the mix of stuff and would like to hear more about inappropriate development.
  • DC is essential to good quality of life in Dargle.
  • Small group of committed and involved individuals but wider community not aware of activities.
  • Unsure what representation DC has amongst landowners and therefore whether DC opinions represent majority of landowners.

We were delighted with all the offers of help too. However, because it was an anonymous survey, we don’t know who it was who offered to assist with Problem Plants- 6 offers;
Serve on the Committee- 3; Biodiversity monitoring- 7; Financial management- 3; Fundraising- 4; Organising Events- 7,  Education- 4; Strategic Planning- 4; Youth Programme- 5

Please would you reply to this newsletter and let us know if you are one of our 43 keen mystery volunteers!

If you are interested in receiving a complete copy of the survey results, please email and we’ll send you one.

Our Wildlife

Wildlife Sightings are growing in popularity.  They are such fun to gather and share, would anyone like to take over this very enjoyable monthly task?  Wonder who else can hear the fish eagle cry as this is typed?

SANBI have recently launched iSpot, an online space for sharing and identifying the biodiversity around us, to learn more about wildlife, share your interest with a friendly community and get help identifying what you have seen.

Ultimately SANBI hopes that this site will become the premier Citizen Science portal for southern Africa, providing photographic, distributional and biogeographic data on all taxa, with species lists, surveys and atlas opportunities: your one-stop-shop for recording and exchanging biodiversity information. It is so well designed and easy to use, we need to ensure there is good Dargle representation!  Have a look:

Southern African Bird Atlassing Project (SABAP) is also great fun if you are a keen(ish) birder. Regular recording of species where you live is of great help to scientists.  The atlas is intended for both the novice and skilled bird-watcher. However, for novice or inexperienced birders, it may be worthwhile considering going out with experienced observers for the first few surveys before deciding to tackle an atlas survey on your own or with other inexperienced birders. Why not give it a try?

The Virtual Museum provides the platform for citizen scientists to contribute to biodiversity projects. This innovative concept was developed by the Animal Demography Unit of UCT.   Butterfly virtual museum accepts photos of butterflies and moths. There are also other virtual museum projects -reptiles, frogs and mammals.  Fascinating, have a look

Our Map

Katie Robinson has been working on updating the big Dargle map displayed at il Postino. It is almost ready to print now, so keep a look out for it.  Please make sure that you have paid for your dot (so that we can pay the printer!).

Our River

We have been inspired by the uMngeni River Walk and plan to focus the conservancy’s attention and energy on the river this year. We are custodians of an important water catchment and some of the most vulnerable biodiversity in South Africa.  Our actions impact on a far wider community - 5 million people rely on the Mngeni for their daily water.

Penny Rees gave a great presentation on 4 July about the walk along the Mngeni during May. This is her wrap up of the event:

We walked from the pristine area at the source, and two and a half days later were shattered when, after wandering past beautiful indigenous forests, grasslands dotted with veld flowers and oozing wetlands, we hit the first area impacted with alien trees that choked out all the sunlight from the river, disallowed any other plant growth which changed the face of the river totally.

These first three days set the scene for the walk: the visual and emotional highs and lows we would experience all the way as we worked our way downstream. Howick was a nightmare of aliens, litter and overflowing sewers, the uMsunduzi confluence added to the horrific “soup” and then a week or so later we had a stretch of almost 30 kilometres of untouched, wild river and valleys. As the approach to Durban’s N2 highway bridge drew near, we hung back, walking slower and slower. The smell of the sea mixed with vehicle fumes and other city smells assaulted our noses and the noise! It was incredible after a month of peace and quiet of the country side. The last leg through Durban, past sand mining and past factories spewing waste via storm water drains, of illegal dumping and running sewers, of a river turned green with aquatic invader plants and turned murky with sewage, of a river that stank – it was very sad to see all this, and we arrived at the uMngeni Bird Park in very low spirits.

Then, after 313 kilometres of joy and sorrow, of camaraderie, laughter, sore muscles and life changing experiences we reached the point where the uMngeni river and the great ocean meet, and after saying a final water blessing, the water from the source which we had carried all the way with us, was poured into the sea.

We are completing a major mapping exercise of all the impacts we saw, and these will be made available to anyone who needs the information to assist in “cleaning up” our river. The walk itself was just the first chapter. To all those who helped to make this walk happen, to those who followed our progress and read our blog. A very big thank you for helping us to highlight this river that sustains all our lives.

In September, Penny will conduct a mini-sass water testing workshop for Dargle landowners. Watch your inbox for details.

Our Gatherings

Sam Rose and Shine Murphy hosted a fascinating morning tour of Rainbow Homestead and Zuvuya.  Read all about it here.

Eidin Griffin’s “How to Build a House” evening drew a colourful and enthusiastic crowd and was thoroughly entertaining.  “My first thought was where to build. I knew I wanted a home that was warm in winter, cool in summer and I had an big aversion to cement.” Later after enchanting descriptions of the very adept building team, Eidin admitted “I became a Wombler”.  Sorry you missed it, if you did.

Our AGM had a good turnout. Steve Worth reminded us all to engage in on-going meaningful conversations, which we hope to be better at this year.  Nelly Mwango shared some of her preliminary PhD research findings.  She will complete her study later in the year and make the results available to us.
Some of the comments people she interviewed made to her:

  • “the Dargle Conservancy has a very good reputation for watching out for development proposals, looking at EIAs, commenting - really it’s just inappropriate development”
  • “those newsletters, the Dargle sightings, it makes everybody like aware that when they see something it’s not just theirs, it’s everybody’s and makes you want to share it in a way.”
  • “opening boundaries and accepting that animals move, not fencing through old animal paths, things like that, because also the buck are not static, they will not only stay on your property, they will be migrating and moving around.”
  • “I get a lot of satisfaction from the fact that the effort that I put into conserving is evident and I think it’s important for people that don’t have access to it normally, to be able to come here and enjoy it.”
  • “I don’t have any problem with being collectively involved in any sort of cross boundary activities. But I don’t want to lose control of my own property.”
  • “The Conservancy is certainly a vehicle for learning and understanding what you’ve got within your community”

Clive Bromilow, Reshnee Lalla and Mike Farley’s Problem Plants presentation was very informative.  Clive and Derek will be hosting a hands-on Alien Clearing demonstration later in the year at Lane’s End Farm.

Our Store

Luckily for us all, Craig Cameron has taken over the Dargle Store and Post Office, filled it with all sorts of things and reinstated the petrol and diesel.  Eunice Tsikude is her usual charming self and is delighted to have Derek Dunn to help her now.

Craig would like to stock more local produce, so if you make biltong or bread, mayonnaise, chutney or jam, grow potatoes or beans or chickens, please to pop in and chat to him.   Craig says “I'm really enjoying spending more time in the Dargle and meeting lots of new people. It is also great fun packing the shelves with new products!”  Phone 082 4122883

Thank you to everyone who enthusiastically participated in discussions around ideas on how to “Save our Store” when we were unsure of it’s future.

Read a story about Eunice on our blog by clicking here.

Our Schools

Next term Corrie Lynn and Dargle Schools will enjoy outings to Kilgobbin and Lemonwood forests.  We need help with making sandwiches and transporting the 20 children.  Would you like to contribute to this important activity in inspiring our youngsters to value our precious biodiversity?  Please call Nikki 083 473 3074 or email with your offers.

Penz Malinga, who walked the Mngeni during May as part of the River Walk Team, will also be visiting the schools to talk about water and do water quality testing in the river.   The Dargle Conservancy supports environmental education activities in these schools.

Sharing Our Dargle

On 26 July, we will host the Midlands Conservancies Forum Meeting in the Dargle at Old Kilgobbin Farm.  This is an opportunity to share Dargle with other Midlands Conservancies and network with conservation organisations.  We invite all Dargle Conservancy members to join us on this occasion, for a walk in the forest, for tea or to listen to the presentations – it is an informal meeting, so you are welcome to arrive and leave as you please. 

The programme is:
1.30 meet at Old Kilgobbin Farm for walk in Kilgobbin forest lead by Barend Booysen
3pm tea and snacks (all local, of course) in the Cairn of Old Kilgobbin
4pm MCF meeting. There will be short presentations on: Paid Ecosystems Services by Kevan Zunckel, DAEA will talk about Development issues in relation to conservancies, Ian Little of EWT will talk about their Grasslands programme and we will screen the Dargle Local Living film clip.

This is a great opportunity to hear some very interesting speakers and it would be nice to have a warm Dargle welcome for our guests. Please let Nikki know if you are keen to join us. 083 473 3074

Our Marmalade

The inaugural marmalade making competition was a success, with Debbie Hayes and Gill Addison walking away with the top prizes.  Jane Harley, who made and sold thousands of bottles of marmalade when she lived at Alskeith in Lidgetton, was our judge.

Thank you to Corrie Lynn & Co, Sterlings Wrought Iron, The Lavender Co, Serendipi-T and Dargle Store for donating the lovely prizes.

Lucinda Bate sold “eskom free” marmalade and said: “It is always a pleasure to bring something to the market. We thoroughly enjoyed making the marmalade on Dennis our Dover stove!  He has taken over all the winter cooking – endless soups and stews and I have got a renewed interest in cooking.  It’s quite a challenge getting the oven temperature vaguely right but I am getting better at it as time goes by.  Our wattle destruction programme is now bearing fruit as we have lots of felled trees to fuel our stove.”

Read all about the Marmalade Market (and see pics) by clicking here

Next year we think we might invite a little competition and host the Midlands Marmalade Making Competition.

For any additional information please click here to contact us.