Winter 2016 Newsletter

dargle panorama

Photo: Louis Bolton

Frozen fingers are a small price to pay to marvel at the Milky Way on winter nights. At first light, grass shards scatter tiny rainbows, bushbuck breath fogs the forest edge and toes tingle on gumboot walks. We all adore winter around here – probably more so as real cold becomes a rarity on a heating planet.

Dargle Down Under

Thanks Eithne, Bongi, Aoife, Shine, Tina, Nikki and Eidin for brightening up the drab brown walls at Dargle Primary School on an autumn Friday. Trees and grassland wildflowers blossomed above, while roots, rocks, earthworms, aardvarks, snakes and other creatures snuggled into their burrows beneath the surface. The children LOVED making coloured handprints and playing with paints. Teachers Maureen Mabizela and Nonhlanhla Shange were so pleased with the cheerful result. Dargle Conservancy used donations received from the Mongol Derby talk that Carl Bronner and Karen Edley hosted and the art exhibition that Brandon Powell and Eidin Griffin held last year. Ntombenhle Mtambo of Mpophomeni Conservation Group donated trays of veggie seedlings for the garden which Shine Murphy of MMEP helped the learners to plant. Many thanks to you all for making this happiness happen.

Decorating dargle School

Delightful Dargle

Committee member Brandon Powell relocated to Cape Town this year. Before he left he compiled a list of his 10 Favourite Dargle Things. We'd love to hear what your 10 favourite Dargle things are, in order to compile a long, lovely list for the Dargle Local Living blog. Send your list to:

  • Driving over the railway bridge at Il Postino and suddenly having the valley and Inhlosane spread out before one like a perfect stage set.
  • The patchiness of the mist which means that sometimes, on a hill, one finds oneself above the clouds. It's like being on Mount Olympus.
  • The mysteriousness of the landscape - which changes vigorously with the seasons. Although the views are wide in places, mostly there is some half-discovered place hidden behind a hill or by mist or forest or cloud, which always sets the imagination going. The phenomenologist Norberg-Schulz called this the Romantic Landscape and believed that the people formed by it (in the Dargle but also in England, Germany, Papua New Guinea, Northern India) were more prone to being literary, spiritual and superstitious because so much of their subconscious was taken up with 'the unseen'!
  • Bobby's Grave. There's a tiny baby's grave in the St. Andrew's graveyard that the Bate girls and I adopted as a Family Duty. It's a way of putting down roots and puts one in mind of all the people in the Dargle who came before us and will come after.
  • The endless arguments about whether or not Dargle needs an article as in The Dargle. I'm a champion for the article but love to be challenged on that point! Privately I believe that articled places are always special.
  • Going hill-climbing straight after dances and parties to watch the sunrise from Inhlosane or the Inversanda Waterfall.
  • The genet at Bukamanzi Cottage. He's so wonderful-looking and I can't help but feel that it's always been his place rather than mine.
  • A glut of visiting friends. My record was a Saturday when I had lunch at Corrie Lynn, tea next door at Lochnagar, drinks with June Song and then supper at Inversanda at the end of the road.
  • The hill above Sarah March's place with its reedbuck and wide views of the valley. For obvious reasons I call it The Sound of Music and it lends itself hugely to nuns and dirndls.
  • The community. Doing research for my Masters I read that some sociologists believe that aside from close friends and family, a wide and stable circle of friends and acquaintances is what provides a sense of belonging to a place and casual emotional support, and that it generally increases the sum of human happiness. Having lived in the Dargle on and off for a decade I can vouch for that!
  darglr valley view

Dusty Dargle

Puffs of dust follow most vehicles during the dry months, however, it is possible to avoid smothering pedestrians, plants and animals if you are a little more cautious. Darglian Brian Lewis shares this fascinating information about the relationship between speed and dust.

There are two main aspects to the problem of dust on gravel roads. The first is the actual generation of the dust. In the 1970's, the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) did research into how much dust is generated on unpaved roads (1). They came up with an equation that looks like this:

E = k x 5.59 x (s/12) x (S/30) x (W/3)0.7 x (w/4)0.5 (where E is the weight of dust generated per vehicle km, k is a soil particle size factor, s = silt content of the road surface material [silt is material that is less than 75 microns, millionths of a meter, in size], W is the vehicle weight, w is the number of wheels per vehicle and S is the vehicle speed).

Despite all of the complicated factors in this relationship, what it tells us is that the amount of dust generated is related linearly to the vehicle speed and silt content, i.e. twice the speed, twice the dust, and also twice the silt, twice the dust. The vehicle weight and number of wheels has an effect but it is not proportional, i.e. if the vehicle is twice as heavy it generates 60% more dust, not double. Double the number if wheels and the amount of dust goes up by 40%. SO the real culprits are speed and soil particle size. Not much can be done about the latter, we are limited to what is available for our roads from the local quarries. Simply said, the faster you go, the more dust you make. Twice as fast = double the dust.

The second factor is how long it takes the dust to settle. This is controlled by another fancy equation, called Stokes' law. This is just as confusing as the previous equation. It says: The settling velocity of a particle in a viscous fluid is given by V =((rp-rf)/µ)gR2; where the r factors are the relative densities of the particle and fluid, R is the particle radius and µ is the dynamic viscosity.

What Stokes law says is that the smaller the particle diameter is, and the less dense the material, it takes longer to settle. For silty particles, earth settling velocity is around 30 mm per second. If you look at the typical dust cloud generated behind a vehicle travelling at around 60 km/h on the local roads, the dust rises to around 5 metres above the road surface. This means that it will take around 2.7 minutes for a typical silt particle to fall back to the ground after is flung into the air.

To add to the problem, if there is a 10km/h wind (a gentle breeze) the dust will travel more than 450 metres from the road before it returns to the ground. If the wind speed is 20 km/h, the dust can travel nearly 1 km from the road- ask anyone who lives near one of our local D roads! The local Ecca shale (yes, the infamous Ecca shale of Fracking Fame) used to surface our roads here is mainly silt, but has a small clay percentage. Typical 2 micron clay particles will fall at 1 mm/second, which means that they could take more than 80 minutes to settle. In a 10 km/h wind, they could travel 1.85km from the road before coming down to earth again. If there is a strong wind, they might not stop before the South Pole. By travelling slower, you generate a lot less dust and wind, so there is less dust and it settles more quickly.

There has to be a practical limit to how slow you can go. The various nature conservation organisations (SANPARKS, Ezemvelo) have found by trial and error that 40 km per hour is a practical speed that doesn't generate too much dust. It generates 2/3 of the dust than that resulting from travelling at 60km/h, or half of the dust generated by travelling at 80 km/h.

Unfortunately, in South Africa, there is no special speed limit for gravel roads, just the national speed limit applicable to all roads outside of urban areas other than Freeways, of 100 km/h. At this speed, you will drown half the countryside in dust.

It's simply a lack of consideration for the people who live along our beautiful byways.

Just think, by travelling at high speed along the pretty little road to the beautiful view site, you could be spreading a dust layer over someone who lives more than a mile from the road!

Dargle unpaved road

Photo: Eidin Griffin

Drag Racers and Design Divas

50 learners gathered for the Glam Green Occasion of the Season – the annual Dargle Trashion Show. There were coffee cup ball gowns and feed bag suits, plastic packet shorts, and dog food frocks. Girls and boys strutted their stuff down the ramp, created from farmyard fencing and bunting made from discarded magazines, on the lawn of Lion's River Club, with the Dargle Country Market as backdrop. Compere, Eidin Griffin drew attention the tiny details – the earrings, shoes, handbags and trims which may have gone unnoticed in the swirl of colour. The creativity was nothing short of astounding and everyone had a fabulous time.

Celebrity Judges Trayci Tompkins, Andrea Abbot and Caro Richter were entranced and created lots of categories to ensure that everyone was rewarded for their ingenuity - The Dapper Lads, The Beautiful Babes and Junior Trash, amongst others.

"What a wonderful event. I met wildly talented people and fell in love all over again with the creative and inventive creatures scattered around the Midlands," enthused Caro. Trayci added "The Trashion Show sure is bringing out the creativity in all! Loved seeing the different interpretations and use of recycled 'waste'."

Participants in the Dargle Trashion Show

The joint Best Outfits were worn by Ashley Nkosana (Grade 8) who had spent hours cutting old plastic bags into strips and weaving them into cloth, and Silindile Zigubu (Grade 11) who wore a tailored dress made of white sacks, decorated with fabric flowers retrieved from the rubbish bin, with bag and shoes to match. Mr Recycle, Spesihle Mchunu (Grade 10), was their choice for a special prize of a solar lantern for his exceptional costume.

Judges Barry Downard and Iain Meyer decided that Brandon Chatilsa's car was the most powerful 4×4. Jas and Lily Goodwin won the best economy class, Ayanda Mhlongo took the prize for the most technical and Lusanda Zuma got a special mention for his rear cooler box while Syamthanda Mkhize's car had the best details. The fastest wire car was steered by Kwandokuhle Ndlovu.

wire-car entrants

Thenjiwe Ngcobo, Principal of Corrie Lynn Primary loved the morning. "Sharing ideas and skills encourages us all because everyone does things differently." Principal of Misty Meadows, Cassie Janisch: "We had an absolute ball. I think the effort made by all the participants was fantastic! We are already looking forward to next year." Maureen Mabizela, Principal of Dargle Primary "There was such excitement at school on Monday with everyone sharing their stories. Thank you for inviting us to be part."

Prizes were sponsored by Eyakho Green – who give new life to waste, turning advertising banners into bags and shoes and satchels, Meriel Mitchell and Dargle Conservancy. Iona and Lucinda Bate provided popcorn and oranges and Louis Bolton and Lynne Garbutt took fabulous photos. Thanks everyone for your contribution.

"The children are wonderful; so confident and creative yet not for a moment holding high opinions of themselves. I wonder if they have any notion of how good they are? To see their designs and talents is to be inspired." concluded Andrea Abbott.

Trashion show entrant

These three photos are by Louis Bolton - see all the pictures on our Blog or Facebook Album

Frack Free Dargle and Beyond

Would you like to use this image in emails or social media? You are most welcome to. We have A4 size Correx signs available at R50 each to display on your gate or dining room wall. Order from .

Feel free to use this image in emails or on social media.

Frackfree dargle logo

As you probably know, the Scoping Report for the Rhino Oil & Gas exploration application was accepted by PASA and we now move to the EIR phase. This is actually the most important time to register as an Interested and Affected Party (IAP) and to make comments on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that SLR Consulting will produce.

If you haven't already, register as an IAP now for PASA ref 12/3/291 with Stella Moeketse While you are typing, ask to be registered in ALL applications SLR are dealing with in KZN, Eastern Cape, Free State and North West. We need to stand with our neighbours on this and the more IAPs they have to deal with, the better. The whole thing is pretty overwhelming, but we are all in this together and if you feel completely flummoxed ask the consultants – it is their job to answer our questions. The Frack Free SA Facebook page shares updates regularly and the Frack Free SA website has plenty of info which might help understand the process too.

Try to attend the FFSA workshop EIAs Made Easy on Tuesday 16th August at 5pm at old Main Road Brewery where the process will be explained in the simplest of terms, enabling you to understand your rights and responsibilities in terms of participating and contribute to protecting your family, livelihood and environment from inappropriate developments. This article explains the process.

SLR must submit their Environmental Impact Report to PASA by the end of August. How they can do a thorough job on 1 500 000 hectares in this time is a mystery. Clearly, they will be doing lots of desk top studies, which are completely insufficient given the potential impacts of extraction of Unconventional Gas. We need to demand that PASA insist on detailed, comprehensive and verifiable studies conducted by specialists to accurately assess the impacts. Write to PASA and SLR today and while you are about it, copy your local political representatives to ensure that they support this too.

Dargle By Numbers

The Annual Game Count was resurrected in our valleys and hills in late June this year. This time of year was recommended by Ezemvelo because much wildlife congregates on the pastures that farmers have planted (and perhaps irrigated) so they are easier to spot. We didn't realise that it would clash with a rugby match or that many people prefer to watch wild men on TV to wildlife on their farms!

Between 5pm and 7pm, Dargle, Lidgetton and Lion's River residents wrapped up warmly and headed onto their properties to see who shares it. Some sat quietly in the forest with a flask in hand, while others packed the kids in the car and drove along farm roads with eyes peeled. Afterwards, many people came down to the Lions River Club where EKZNW Honorary Officers, Alan Jack and Caroline Leslie were collating all the exciting sightings and Jeremy Barlow was serving scrummy soup and sherry. 23 properties participated. Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Oribi, Duiker were the main sightings, with most people concluding that numbers were lower than usual. Some lucky observers spotted a mongoose, samango monkeys, a serval and a genet. Only 5 jackal, 4 porcupine, 2 rabbits and 11 bushpig were seen – we hope there are many more out there.

Gerrit Byleveld hands his game data to Caroline Leslie

At a presentation on Saturday morning, Neville van Lelyveld pointed out the three types of poaching that occur in our area Subsistence, Commercial and Syndicate and explained the differences. Brian Jones of SA CAN updated us on their work with anti-poaching and gave everyone who attended a free three month trial of SA CAN services. Remember to call them with any incident of poaching – they cannot respond to all of them, however it is important to build up a record and if they observe a lot of activity in Dargle, they will focus their attention here. 083 799 1916. You do not have to give your name.

The Stock Theft Unit of SAPS is now dealing with poaching and wildlife crime, so a really good idea to report to them as well: Warrant Officer DN Kay 083 778 0864. Save these numbers in your phone now.

Later, on a chilly, moonless evening, Jenny Goddard was part of a small but intrepid group who joined Neville and Hayley van Leyleveld on a 2 hour guided game walk on the Sinclair farm. "Unfortunately the wildlife decided not to play ball, and other than hearing a group of reedbuck calling to each other in the dark, our only "sighting" was a stray cow that gave us a massive fright when she appeared in our midst from no-where! Neville's interesting anecdotes, the information he gave us on poaching, and his immense knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Dargle kept us intrigued during the walk. We certainly came away very much the wiser."

On Sunday morning, Katie Robinson hosted a Track, Scat and Snare walk on Lemonwood. Due to recent logging activity there was not much animal movement so the group proceeded through the boundary fence onto Iain Sinclair's property. First we came across Jackal scat that contained scrub hare and vlei rat fur enabling us to see clearly its natural diet. To everyone's excitement we found Large-Spotted Genet tracks and scat and later, a print in the mud from a Marsh Mongoose – two creatures not often observed. We also found Bushbuck, Reedbuck and Spurwing Goose tracks during our walk on a really lovely sunny day.

Participants at Dargle Game Count Track and Scat walk

Many thanks to Neville and Hayley van Lelyveld for their enthusiastic efforts to make our Game Count weekend a success.

Determined Volunteers

We have awarded Andrew Fowler of the Natal Fly Fishing Club, honorary membership of the Conservancy for the incredible job he has done to protect our water resources through his #BRU – Blue Ribbon uMngeni initiative. "As fly-fishermen, our interest in clearing is driven by a desire for a river which is less prone to siltation, more diverse in aquatic and terrestrial insect population, and is therefore more suited to healthy fish populations. We desire well grassed banks devoid of invasive species that shade and denude, and better water flows." Andrew told us, adding "We support 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."

#BRU - river clearing

Much of the work is done by volunteers and clearing days are great fun and very rewarding. In April they spent two days at the confluence of Furth Stream and the uMngeni, where a large team of contractors were joined by a DUCT team and Russell Watson's tractors and TLB. This was funded by the proceeds of Andrew's book 'Stippled Beauties', and a matching donation by Anton and Alison Smith. Over the two days both banks were completely cleared of wattle, and all trees were dragged out of the river channel, leaving a stretch of about a kilometre completely transformed. In May, a group of schoolboys from Michaelhouse and St Johns College (JHB) were hosted on Chris Howie's and William Griffin's farms where wattle regrowth and bug weed were cleared. Saws, pangas and gloves were sponsored by the NFFC and TWK in Howick, and DUCT supplied chemicals to stop regrowth.

See progress, or order your own copy of Stippled Beauties here.

Andrew hopes that the few remaining books will be sold soon so funds can be used to pay for at least two more days of contractor time to clear the remaining 1km on the south bank of Furth farm, and thereafter to fell and remove as much as possible on the North bank. A volunteer day to spray bramble is also planned for October.

Developing Creative Young Minds

As usual, we gave Midlands Meander Education Project a small grant toward their work at schools in our area. Lessons so far have included lots of Story Building and Water Explorer activities at Corrie Lynn, while at Dargle Primary they have done forest ecology, tree planting and library lessons. The Grade 7 class at both schools will enjoy trips to a real forest during August.

Dargle Conservancy forest excursion

This year, we have adopted the Impendle Sustainable Schools Project to support the work of Zandile Sikhakane at five schools in Impendle. This project is funded by N3TC. Dargle Conservancy provides administrative, report writing and networking support.

Despite the fact that there are many beautiful wetlands in Impendle, most households use municipal water. Recently, water delivery has been disrupted and for nearly a month, there has been no water at all in the taps. This is particularly difficult for schools. Zandile to the rescue! With the learners she built tippy taps at KwaNovuka and Hlelolushe Schools and revamped the one near the toilet block at KwaKhetha where a lot of students make use of it.

A Tippy Tap is an ingenious device for water saving, hygienic hand washing, made with a discarded plastic maas bottle, some string and a few pieces of invasive wattle. Small holes are made in the lid of the bottle with a nail and it is hung by the handle to a branch suspended between two v-shaped stakes. String is tied around the neck of the bottle and attached to a branch below. When someone puts their foot on the branch, it tips the bottle toward them and some water is released into their cupped hands. A simple clever idea that is ideal for gardens, farms and settlements without access to much water. The schools are delighted as they now only need to collect a small amount of water for washing and germs cannot be spread from one hand to the next as they can in a bucket. Some of the learners have reported making them for their families too, combining their new found technology skills with an environmental awareness.

Tippy tap demonstration

Dargle Details

We are delighted to welcome new members Pauline Holden and Ian King, Phil and Lyndsey Fannin, Camilla and Gary Barlow, Derek and Sue Millier, Gerhard le Roux.

At our AGM in May, the Conservancy committee was unanimously re-elected. Wondering who we are?

All minutes of our meetings are available on the Dargle Conservancy website if you are interested in the details.

Don't miss the absolutely enchanting compilation of Wildlife Sightings over the past year.

Photo: Louis Bolton

Enjoy these gentle afternoons basking beside warm haybales, watching sharp eyed jackal buzzards snatch early supper from the recently shorn fields.