Sunday 17 July 2016

Report by Penny Purchase, photos courtesy of Ansie Cronje. Hike Leaser: Iain Hulley

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17 hikers met at Piggly Wiggly car park on a cold wintry Sunday at 8.30 a.m. In the group were : Julia Preece, Julia Lloyd, Ansie Cronje, Joan Templeton, Linds Bruss, Eric , Daryll and Stan Jacobs , Debbie and Sven Jager, Libby Deysel, Cynthia Elliot, Jill Plummer, Kevin Knox-Davies, Anita Cohen and myself, Penny Purchase.

We arrived at Iain and Kate Hulley’s farm in the Nottingham Rd district at about 9.15 a.m. to a warm welcome from the dogs. On the road to the farm we spotted 2 shy oribi in the veld, gazing at us curiously. In the paddock next to the farmhouse, we were enchanted to see a flock of ewes with their little white lambs with black noses, huddling up next to their mothers. Kate and Iain Hulley were there to welcome us and soon we were off down the track and around the dam, pitifully low – 8% empty, Iain told us. As we walked over the dam wall it was very evident. A few blue cranes were sighted. We scrambled up a small slope to get to a rise where we aimed for a grove of wattles. We had lovely clear vistas over the dam towards the farmhouse. Soon we were on Willie Messenger’s farm. We looked across to the green roofs of the charming cottages and long low building that is the wedding venue of Bellwood.

The sun was out, the sky was blue and the early grey clouds disappeared . We started shedding our jackets. Perfect weather for hiking. We saw several large antbear holes, large and deep. Porcupine quills were also evident. On and beyond and we stopped for our tea snack with seating on a high pile of big logs. This was the half way mark. We heard the cry of the fish eagle and Iain pointed out its big nest in a gum tree. He’s marked the tree so that it won’t be felled. We were fascinated to see a light-footed reedbuck fly effortlessly over a fence close by. Grace and speed combined. Debbie, a cancer survivor, decided to take the short cut back to the farmhouse and Kate Hulley kindly escorted her back. The 2 St Anne’s girls had lots on which to catch up!

Refreshed, Iain then led us down the homeward path. When we looked back up the hill, there were a herd of blesbok, silhouetted against the skyline, like soldiers about to invade. We stopped to investigate an old grave cross, the grave of a soldier in the South Africa Corps, possibly from the Anglo-Boer War. The grave itself had been dug up, possibly by looters. We walked back at a leisurely pace, in fact the whole hike was leisurely. The hills were not steep but we were elevated enough to appreciate the stunning views across the farmlands and to Nhlasane. The last part of the hike was along the gravel road leading to the farmhouse. We were quite strung out as a group but all made it successfully.

On the lawn at the back of the Hulley’s house, we sat in a large circle and all enjoyed cups of steaming tea and Kate’s delicious chocolate cake. This is how Sundays should be spent – in the outdoors, being energetic and then relaxing, enjoying the company of like-minded people and replenishing our bodies and minds. As the organiser, it was such a pleasure to be the manager of this hike – Iain did the leading and Kate the cooking! We collected R20 from each person and I gave it to the Hulleys as a donation towards the Lions River Conservancy. Thanks so much to the Hulleys for sharing their beautiful environment, their stories of farm life and their hospitality to Midlands Hiking Club once again.

Photo 11 - Nest in the tree is an Fisheagle's nest
Photo 14 - Iron cross marks the grave of a soldier in the war