Leader: Margaret Ashton
Photo report: Rod Hart (report and photos); additional pix courtesy Rose Dix

Margaret is the Organiser-in-Chief of the Amber Valley hikes and, as always, proved to be the competent and hospitable leader that she is known to be. Thank you Margaret for the opportunity to view Amber Valley I am sure to a greater extent than many of the residents have.

We met at the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve and set off promptly at 8:30am to meet others of our party at the round-a-bout within Amber Valley. Here there was a lot of milling around while people got ready and renewed old acquantances! I took the opportunity to get some scenic pics of the well laid out garden on the road verge and a close up of an attractive late bloom - apart from the aloes this was sort of a last flower standing. All then gathered together for a group photo and off we set.

First stop along the way was to listen to the local "water monster" gurgling in a pond - would definitely be eery on a night hike (not that I should be talking of night hikes...). As we moved behind the more recent developments we went past multiple stacks of bricks which hint at the scale of development still taking place at Amber Valley.

As we circled and climbed towards the perimeter fence I noted a burnt out tree standing rather stark on the hilltop which I guess is a reminder of the fire that swept through the area some time ago. Being at the back of the group (I was designated sweeper) I was able to stop every now and then to get, what I hoped would be "unusual" photos, with this purpose and the camera set to macro I captured a closeup of the Ubiquitous blackjack - this one shown with a delicate spider thread woven between the spines. A closeup look at the hooks on these pesky seeds shows how they attach so well to passing clothing - especially jerseys and socks (click on any pic to see an enlarged version of that pic).

Of course being an upmarket development "bathing" facilities are laid out along the hiking path (admitedly I did have to take a few steps off the track to find it - but then one would be desirous of some privacy) though from it's condition it looks like it had not been used in a while and the last person to bathe certainly left a serious soap scum ring round the bath.

Crossing a stream the developers have thoughtfully provided an attractive rustic bridge which fits in so well with the surroundings and adds to the experience of this hike.

Walking the perimeter shows how secure Amber Valley is, with, in this particular section, a double electric fence on the boundary. The second pic below shows Margaret leading from the front and ensuring that all the troops successfully get down the rather steep incline on this part of the circuit. There after a tea-break to take in sustanance. Just off the path I found this tree fern with its fronds waving a luminous brilliant green against the winter sun as the wind, which was picking up, swayed it from side to side.

Wide paths mark the bulk of the hike and one is able to pleasantly amble along, the occasional climbs take one up to a vantage point, where in this case we were able to spot Zebra and several species of buck grazing in the distance virtually at the lawn in front of some of the houses in the complex. While the animals were grazing the hikers were gazing... Soon off again to our own lunch spot alongside a small dam, under a not so shady tree with a rather icy wind now blowing.

After lunch we were off again on our scenic ramble, with a quick photo session with a Milkweed (GOMPHOCARPUS PHYSOCARPUS) seed pod, then onward to Margaret and Keith Ashton's home where Keith met us with tea, coffee and tasty treats all laid out. Whilst there may be competition for claim to be the oldest hiker completing the hike , there was no doubt as to the youngest, being Jessica, who managed the hike admirably.