Winter 2013 Newsletter

This season, Dargle has embraced the elements. Wind, rain, sun, fire and frost – all part of a Midlands winter. This year's 10th anniversary celebrations captured the spirit of Dargle and honoured the elements which are our home.

Firstly, a warm welcome to new members: Shaun and Sue Bazley, NCT Ingwe, Eidin Griffin and Malcolm Draper, Brandon Powell, Sandra and Pat Merrick, Mitch and Lyn Spall. If you haven't already, please collect your Member Sign at Dargle Store.



Our Celebration preparations got underway with thunder and then a downpour which lasted almost all day. The roads leading to the 100 year old Corrie Lynn Barn were very muddy. Some visitors to the area had to be helped up steep inclines, but 90 people agreed that the efforts and sodden boots were worth it once they arrived in the red barn where fires were lit and the welcome was warm. We feasted on all local deliciousness – with an array including handmade mozzarella, freshly baked bread, chicken liver pate, organic lettuce, stuffed duck eggs and homemade pickles.

Nikki Brighton, Chair of the Conservancy, welcomed everyone and in particular the six other Conservancies who had travelled across the hills in the mud to support us. "We are especially delighted to have Priscilla Francis with us as it was on her verandah in Balgowan in the 1970's that the Conservancy movement was born. The original Dargle Conservancy was formed soon afterwards by Iain Sinclair, Nick and Helen Methley. After some hitches and a period of dormancy, the current Conservancy was founded in 2003 by Barry Downard, Jennifer Willen and Andrew Nash. We are grateful for their vision and hard work as there is no doubt that the Conservancy has contributed significantly to building our community and protecting the precious eco-systems of which we are all privileged to be custodians."

Next up was David Johnson who was guest speaker at the very first Dargle Conservancy meeting 10 years ago – he needed no introduction. David gave a fascinating presentation including both the rare and quite common birds found in the Midlands. "I like the things one sees everyday as you can learn so much from observing them" he said. Tales about the Bald Ibis, Cape Parrot, Starred Robin and his personal favourite, Bush Black Cap, had everyone enthralled.

Freshly roasted baby chicken and oriental flavoured ducks competed with beetroot, pumpkin, carrots and coleslaw for space on everyone's plates. Il Postino delivered their famous Melanzane too. After a little dancing to work up an appetite, desert was served – delicious plum and berry coulis to accompany ice cream, velvety vegan chocolate cake, milk tarts and lemon curd. Many revellers only left around midnight and most declared this the "best Dargle celebration ever!"

Plenty of fresh cold Dargle water was drunk along with the wine – no question we have the best tasting water in the world! Want to see more? Our blog has the story or check out the photo album on facebook: dargle.kzn

"To all the wonderful Dargle folk, a ten star thank you for a fabulous celebration evening at Corrie Lynn on Friday. The food was absolutely superb, well done clever local cooks. We ate far too much and loved it. So much organization and hard work deserves accolades and big hugs. With much appreciation and may the Dargle Conservancy go from strength to strength." Rob Coulson and Vonnie Munk on behalf of Hastings Farms.


Photographing our river


During the winter holidays, on a perfect midlands afternoon, enthusiastic amateur photographers gathered at Corrie Lynn School to learn how to take photographs in the beautiful environment in which they live.

Eidin Griffin ran through the basics (don't shoot towards the sun!) and discussed the magic ingredients that make an interesting picture. Everyone was given a 'viewfinder' rectangle made from black cardboard and went outside to practice 'looking through a lens'. Tips on how to handle a camera followed with an explanation of what the buttons are for - how to zoom and focus.

Then it was off to the Mngeni river that runs past their school, to find some good shots. Each photographer got a turn and tore off their shoes, climbed trees and explored the river. Eidin said afterwards "Watching them skipping along the dirt roads homewards I could see the new photographers stopping to 'view-find' pictures with their newly developed skills and very large smiles. Thanks so much to the Dargle Conservancy for supporting this exciting afternoon."

Dargle Conservancy believes firmly in inspiring the next generation to value the biodiversity and natural beauty of our valley and has for many years supported the creative environmental work of the Midlands Meander Association Education Project (MMAEP) in Dargle schools. Have a look at out blogpost on the day's events:

Fracking the Midlands water catchment?


Francois du Toit, CEO of African Conservation Trust and Founding member of Sustainable Alternatives to Fracking and Exploration, delivered an inspiring presentation to Dargle Conservancy members and friends recently. Do you realise how close to us exploration might take place?

The fracking belt in KZN lies against the Drakesberg (amongst other areas) – the birthplace of our rivers. It crosses three major rivers – the Tugela, the uMngeni and the uMkomaas. The Greater uMngeni River Catchment is of strategic significance to South Africa as it supports the third largest economic hub in the country, namely the City of Durban, through the supply of water necessary to deliver water and sanitation services for social and economic needs. Can we risk these rivers becoming contaminated?

Read more at:

Since then we have screened a few environmental films relevant to this issue and Garyth Hofman is keeping tabs on developments. With Tanglewood Country House closing, we now split our Movie Nights between Everglades and Hebron Haven. Both have enthusiastically agreed to stick with our well-loved formula of a long table buffet supper afterwards. Thank you to the management of both.

Water lessons for Impendle schools


Water lessons for Impendle schools formed part of our environmental education programme for this year. We asked the MMAEP to do their usual magic and Nkanyiso Ndlela spent two days with the learners at Nhlambamkhosi and kwaNovuka schools. Being passionate about wetlands, Nkanyiso was really surprised when he asked the Grade 7 class what they knew about wetlands. The reply was a unanimous -"Wetlands are useless, they bring dangerous animals like snakes to the society and they smell bad."

Close to the school people were observed making blocks from the wetland soil.

After a lesson on the importance of wetlands and playing the 'WOW Wetland Picture Building Game', the learners explored a natural wetland near to the school - identifying plants and animals.

They found medicinal and other useful plants like incema grass and uxhapozi imiifino (wetland spinach) and a bird's nest which convinced them that wetlands are very important.

By the time Nkanyiso left they had all pledged to take care of the wetlands in their area and learn more about them.

"It was my lucky day" he said, "on the way to the wetland I saw three green snakes!"

Year of the Snake


2013 is a Water Snake year, according to the Chinese horoscope - the previous Snake year was sixty years ago, in 1953. So obviously, we have invited Pat McKrill 'the Snake Guy' to do presentations in Lion's River, Dargle and Impendle Schools. In the afternoon of 3 September at 2pm, he will be at Lion's River Club to talk to farm and homestead staff about snakes. Nkanyiso will do Zulu interpretation, so do bring your staff along. Last year this talk had a big impact - read about it at:



Inhlosane went up in flames this week due to a fire which got out of control. Fire season is scary enough for humans, but we wonder how the dassies, grasshoppers and other creatures we encountered on the hillsides last Saturday coped?

Dargle resident Shine Murphy writes: "Today I felt very anxious seeing fires all around the land where I live, wondering whether the fires were under control or not? I had not received any communication from the neighbours or the fire warden that there was planned burning so the dread grew as the smoke and fire drew nearer to my home. Why didn't the neighbor who set the fire contact me to let me know there would be controlled burns? What is the system and obligations of communication as regards block burning? I spent hours today driving around and making phone calls to figure out the situation and luckily, I was at home in case the fires got out of control. What about the huge loss of flowers, insects, snakes and small animals? Just so someone can make an extra buck through unholistic land management practices?"

The recent rains mean many landowners will start burning, so heed these comments from the Lion's River Fire Protection services:

With this rain, many of you will want to start your grass management burning – please ensure that you call the Control Room prior to any burning taking place. A few basic rules to follow are:

  • Call the Control room to advise of your intention to commence a burn;
  • Notify your neighbours of your intention to burn – if on a joint boundary, best have the neighbour on standby;
  • The area to be burnt MUST be SURROUNDED by fire breaks;
  • Please check your fire breaks at all times – a few early breaks may not hold the fire;
  • Do not allow the fire to burn off with the wind – allow a slow back burn from a break in a steady and controlled manner;

It is ADVISABLE NOT TO BURN between 11h30 and 15h00 – generally the FDI is at its highest and wind directions are often changing over this period of the day.

No block burns to be undertaken after 18h00 Mon – Fri and after 12h00 Fridays.

It is important to note that grazing of burnt grass should only take place once the stem length of the new shorts has exceeded 15cm in length, otherwise you will have a problem of overgrazing, especially along fire breaks when blocks are not burnt off on a rotational basis.

Take extreme care and consider others. Bobby Hoole: 082 901 8795

Have you paid your annual LRFPA subs? Non-payment unfortunately means you are not a "paid up member" in terms of the LRFPA Constitution and hence LRFPA will not be in a position to assist in the event of any assistance that may be required – whether it be suppression or legal.

See our website for more info and the CARA regulations regarding burning.

Playing with Fire - in a good way


Read about a local lass who plays with fire everyday – making pizza at il Postino - and why she loves living in Dargle.



Kim Goodwin's Earth Pod sculpture was created to celebrate the landscape of Dargle for our 10th Anniversary. The inaugural viewing was set for 11 August when we walked through the forest and grassland of the Dargle Nature Reserve.

Unfortunately, installation day was one of the coldest and wettest this winter and despite their best efforts, the team were unable to lift the Earth Pod onto its 5m tall legs. When the Nature Reserve explorers came across it nestled in the grass surrounded by forest it was impressive none the less. Kim was building an Earth Pod in Plettenberg Bay as part of a series which will criss-cross South Africa, so unable to join us, he sent this message: "Making land art in Nature is really a difficult thing for me because Nature has it all already - the beauty and perfection is there. To put something above the Lemonwood forest that enhances the area and gives the birds, animals and people something special to look at was a challenge." We spent some quiet time beside the sculpture before heading down through Lemonwood forest to end our three and a half hour walk.

We'd set out at 9.30 from Kilgobbin, along the old logging paths through the forest, climbed the stone steps through the forest on Carlisle to catch our breath at the top of the hill with views across the valley. Then we traversed the wide open, golden grasslands, pausing to drink from a spring (one of many along the ridge), admire Ursinia tenuiloba flowering in the firebreaks and stopping often to take in the views. Clambering over the stone wall, we crossed a stream and entered the 'amphitheatre' – grassland surrounded on three sides by towering forest. A perfect spot for Kim's art.

Everyone's favourite vet, Pete Johnson, commented afterwards "Awesome! Great weather, fantastic scenery and excellent company!" Bet you are sorry you missed it – read all about it and see the photos on our blog:



Robin Fowler builds great compost heaps and invited others to help him while they learnt. Sandile Zondi commented afterwards "This was fantastic, I learnt a lot. We are definitely going to make good compost at Misty Meadows."

A very rewarding morning which you can read about here:


How high is Inhlosane actually?


When you are up there, it feels like you are almost in the clouds. Raptors float by below. Various heights are suggested from 1947m to 2004m. Who knows? Does it really matter? Not to the 40 people who climbed this Dargle icon as part of our anniversary celebrations to drink gin cocktails, enjoy cracking views for miles around and listen to the Blue Cranes calling.

There are some utterly gorgeous photos on our blog – do have a look: and masses more in the photo albums on our facebook page: dargle.kzn

The Southern African Grey Crowned Crane is our logo.


As part of our celebrations we sponsored lessons at the local schools on Cranes - where they live, what they eat and how they mate for life. Éidín Griffin couldn't resist the opportunity to do something creative and encouraged the children to build giant crane puppets from waste, to fly in the school yard.

We have made our two local schools Corrie Lynn Primary and Dargle Primary honorary members of the Conservancy. Kids were thrilled to have a 'crane picture' to put at their gate. A story about the lessons we sponsored around water (mini-sass), heritage (Dargle Duckworth Delight trout fly and fly fishing) and of course, Cranes, will be on the Dargle Local Living blog soon.

Don't miss Tanya Smith's talk next week on Cranes in the Dargle and Beyond at Hebron Haven. 21 August, 18h00 for 18h30, R20 to the Conservancy and R100 for three course buffet supper – call 081 496 3434 to book for supper The final chapter of our 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Cape Parrots


Cape Parrots fly daily between our forest patches, but over the Annual Cape Parrot Counting weekend in May this year only three were spotted in Dargle. Prof Colleen Downs reports: This year at least 225 volunteers were posted at 84 localities in the three provinces. Despite the poor weather, at least 1182 parrots were seen during the afternoon count while 1317 were seen the following morning. As a consequence this should not be regarded as a total count as it is likely an underestimate. The maximum number of Cape Parrots seen in each of the areas covered suggests that there were at least 1402 parrots in the wild on the CPBBD in 2013. These results are similar to those of 2012. Interestingly the parrots are sometimes seen either on the Saturday or Sunday in a particular forest patch, further showing how unpredictable their presence is. This highlights the need to conserve a network of forest patches. On the Sunday the parrots were observed at 70% of the localities, while on the Saturday they were seen at 65% of localities.

Help save the Blue Swallow


Win a limited edition life-size Blue Swallow bronze sculpture created by Dargle sculptor, Bruce Clements, valued at R3000.00 To enter simpy SMS "BLUE" to 31913. SMS costs R50 with proceeds going directly to the Endangered Wildlife Trust towards the conservation of the Blue Swallow Competition closes on 31 December 2013.



So, we have the best Water in the world, Earth which produces amazing food and nurtures interesting people, fresh Air which draws our gaze upwards and Fire in our bellies. We can do another decade of committed conservation, can't we?

Comments from those who participated in all three Celebration events:

Marashene Lewis, a newish resident said "This weekend has been my rite of passage. Now I am truly entrenched in the Dargle."

Christie Exall: "I enjoyed every moment of the weekend, eating, dancing, climbing and walking and best of all - the friends."

David, Alana and Ashley Crookes: "The Crookes Clan enjoyed the weekend immensely. I guess we're also now official Dargle residents!"

Helen Booysen: A memorable celebration of our community around conservancy with beautiful folk - many of whom are my childhood friends! Such wonderful memories. My children and their littlies love to retell the stories and now I have some new ones to add. The iNhlosane walk and sharing the Earth-Pod the following day were stunning. You are all exquisitely unique. Thank you for times shared and new days to look forward to…

Greetings have even come from friends of Dargle, Andrew and Claire Gray far away in Wales:

"What a wonderful celebration - well done Dargle Conservancy! May you have many more constructive conservation years ahead of you - keep up the good work and the passion!"

We intend buying camera traps with the profits from our Celebrations to take photos of the more secretive creatures who share our valley.

For any additional information please click here to contact us.