DLANGALE, 3rd December 2011 (this report is only for part of Day 1 of the weekend stay)
Leader: Bushy Kirby
Photos & Comments: Rod Hart


I was particularly interested in visiting the Monastery that was advertised as part of this weekend but could not commit to the whole weekend, so arranged to meet with Bushy and the others just before the Monastery outing. Now in all honesty I was under the impression that we were going to hike to the Monastery but as it turns out it was planned to drive to the venue which is outside of Ixopo some 25 km or so from the Dlangale camp - so just as well we were not to hike!

My arrival timing was good, as I arrived just as the team were setting off on a short hike into Dlangale so I was able to join in on this and get to see a bit of this wildlife sanctuary. Straight out the gate we go past a real "Loo-with-a-view" in this case though the view would be of "you"! From there on my photos show a "ragged" winged butterfly - I couldn't work out whether the ragged wings were part of its camouflage or if something had taken a chomp out of them, anyway it flew very well and skipped off from one white flower to the next at a higher speed than I could follow so I soon lost it. Then by the side of a dam I spotted a bush with some attractive looking red berries and Bushy pointed out a less attractive black locust. Further along and up a hill I spotted a snake skin lying across the thorny branch of a shrub, seems the crafty reptile had used the thorns to assist in the shedding process. A group of three mushrooms grew out of the broken up remains of an antheap which it seems an ant-eater had had some fun with. Apparently mushrooms and termites have a symbiotic relationship with termites breaking down wooden material that the mushrooms need to grow on and the termites in turn get to use the material decomposted by the mushroom. As Bushy pointed out anthills also make mighty fine cricket pitch material. Last photo in this set is of a vine weaving itself up to the sunlight above the surrounding shrubbery.

Next we came upon a commando course with Bushy sallying over the first obstuction in true commando fashion! I used the net-climbing obstruction as an opportunity for a group photo. Last pic in this set is just of a spikey pod on a weed looking plant - pic for my photographic amusement rather than anything else!

Then it was off to "Kings Grant" which is the Monastery I had come to see. To give some of the history as it was told to us by the current owners, Cheryl & David Biggs: Dick King in his time was highly regarded by the British Govenor of Natal not only due to his famous ride but because of various peace keeping initiatives he had undertaken, When he died in 1871, the Governor of Natal granted this piece of land near Ixopo to King's descendants. His son Francis King farmed here for 20 years.

In 1891 Francis King sold the farm to German Trappist Monks. They had a mission at Mariathal and wanted to use the farm for food supplies for the St Mary’s Seminary. They renamed the farm St Isidor, patron saint of farmers.

For a century priests were trained here. In 1996 the farm was sold by the Catholics to David and Cheryl Biggs who converted the dwellings into a guesthouse, as well as undertaking a lot of restoration in keeping with the character of the place.They renamed the farm "King's Grant".

The first of my set of photos taken at Kings Grant starts at the "Smoking Room" where the nuns used to cure the meat, as it was pointed out to us the farm was very much self sufficient and supplied food for up to 200 monks, nuns and other workers. The part Siamese cat up the tree, is on reflection quite interesting, cats are not encouraged on this farm because, I guess, it is marketed as a bird sanctuary, also it was later noted that the mill which has been restored and is capable of running is not used to grind meal, since the meal attracts rats, which is not good for a restaurant business anyway, but also the rats would in turn attract feral cats.

Our next stop was the St.Isidore Chapel, where we were given an enthusiastic peal of the single bell, my photos show just a little of the stained glass work in the chapel and a peek at an old laundry wrangler taken through a broken pane in the door panel.

The Mill is fascinating, it has been restored and is in running order, although, as I mentioned before, it is not used to grind meal. First photo in this set shows the belt drive going from the ground floor to the first floor, a crucifix on the wall attests to the religious heritage of this mill, as does the Old German wording on the barrel below the millstones which translated says:
"The mills of God grind slow, they grind exceedingly fine"

The mill with its system of line shafts, pulleys and driving belts (all moving components are driven by the same power source with the speed changed by different pulley sizing and direction by looping the driving belt in a figure "8"). The Lister engine which had replaced the original water turbine (photo shows the vaned water turbine) was started up for us and we watched in wonder as the mechanism thumped into life.

By this time our lunch, which we had ordered earlier was ready and we headed for the dining room, which was a converted stable, time for another group photo around the table, from where we sat we could look out to the old milking shed across the courtyard. Lunch was delicious, I had opted for a bacon and brie open sandwich followed by fudge icecream.

Following our leisurely lunch during which we had the pleasure of the company of the owner, David Biggs, we set off homewards, first though stopping off at the now derelict St. Mary's Seminary which was originally part of the Trapist Mission and was founded in 1928 with the purpose of training black priests. The seminary has subsequently been used for several other purposes, the last of these if I recall correctly being as an FET College, as my photos show it is now derelict, though so well constructed that one imagines it could be brought back to life. A single rose blooming outside the church which is integrally built into the seminary structure shows where a garden might have been in the past. Goats graze on the soccer field alongside the seminary, and a windvane the German Eagle retains the influence of its German background. The latin banner "Sedes Sapientiae" (Seat of Wisdom) above the buildings main entrance, refers, in Christian iconography, to the "Mother of God" to whom the seminary was dedicated.

A very interesting and most informative outing - thank you Bushy for organising this, and I hope you all enjoyed the rest of your stay camping and hiking at Dlangale.