DARGLE CONSERVANCY - Day hike through indigenous forest on private land
Sunday 25th November 2012

Photos & comment by Rod Hart

Pic 1 - Barend Booysen introduces himself and explains some of the history of the area. For a drizzly wet day, a good turn out of 17 hikers.
Pic 2 - Barend's wife Helen is an accomplished horse & carriage driver and they have 9 horses which Helen has trained to work with their selection of carriages, Helen runs "Crab Apple Carriages" which hires out for weddings and functions see more at www.crabapple.co.za/carriage.php
Pic 3 - The original homestead, a 140 year old house, on a neighbouring property is seen here through a "hole in the hedge"
Pic 4 - The stables
Pic 5 - "Kilgobbin Cottage" a name that bears testimony to history of the farm. Old Kilgobbin being the original 132 year-old Irish settler farm, built by Meredith Fannin, whose family first arrived in the 1840s from Dublin. Kilgobbin is a 1200-year-old castle on the outskirts of Dublin.

Pic: 6-8 Keith Ashton's description of this hike in the MHC Fixture List states: "hike through indigenous forest on private land ... prolific bird life. We will be guided by owner Barend who is very knowledgeable about the local plants, trees, birds & animals - stunning location & not to be missed". Barend is not only knowledgeable about the environment but is passionate about it and its conservation, a privilege to be conducted through this amazing forest by him. The forest walk follows historic old trails through the forest, once out of the protected forest it was out onto a very muddy farm road leading up to the grasslands.

Pic: 9-11 "Elevenses" or otherwise a "Huddle of Hikers" stopping for tea under a boma. Our journey onward to the grasslands was delayed by a quick biology lesson on the mating habits of the locust...

Pic - 12 According to Barend the presence of this little cow-bell bearing grass is indicative of the health of the grassland. This particular section, not having been grazed for many years, is healthy.
Pics 13 & 14 A stone wall, interrupted with a modern gate, build by Italian POW's, to keep their hands busy.
Pics 15 & 16 A dam in the mist. Barend promised if we were to come back on a sunnier day we could swim in the dam. And boat as well it appears from pic 16.

Pic: 17-20 The plan to lunch at a high point on the grassland with a 360 degree view, was due to the 360 degree mist, amended to lunch in a convenient barn where seating of hay bales was quickly arranged and the serious business of lunching begun. After lunch Barend, trying out, very proudly, his recently acquired phone "app" which contains over 600 bird call, tested our knowledge of the birds that he had identified for us along our hike. Much to his disappointment we were only to successfully identify the sound of the "hadeda" which was in fact so realistic I really thought there were several flying past when he played the soundtrack. As for the other LBJ's (Little Brown Jobs) whose calls he played, I am afraid we were at at loss, and the one birder among us did not appear to want to show off, which I am sure he would have done quite easily.

Pic: 21-23 So then it was back down into the forest, and the treat for us here was a stopover at a Lemonwood tree estimated to be around 2000 years old, well that is to say that the core of the tree would have been 2000 years old, what has happened here is that the centre of the tree has rotted way and the same tree has effectively continued to grow outward in a process which I cannot remember what it is called, but it is impressive to think that essentially there has been a lemonwood continuously growing in that very spot for 2000 years.

CLOSING NOTE: Graded 2, the hike, even in the wet, met that grading. Because of the mist and wet, this time the hike was shortened to about 6 km from a planned 12km. A real privilege to have been conducted through the forest and grassland by Barend. Thanks Keith for organising and sharing.