Report and photos courtesy of KEITH ASHTON

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

As a dedicated conservationist Barend leads a two hour walk on the first Thursday of every month through his beloved Kilgobbin Forest from his & his wife Helen's lovely home in the Dargle, passing on his expert knowledge of the fauna & flora in such an entertaining & informative way. Barend does this to educate all & sundry to assist in the protection of our indigenous forests & the environment in general.

Having known Barend for over 35 years I generally arrange with him once a year to lead us on a full day hike of about 12 km through his beloved forest & onwards to include other areas of the beautiful Dargle which surround his property. It is a very popular hike & today was no exception with 23 participants.

We left our vehicles in the parking area of Crab Apple Chapel, Barend being instrumental in the building of the chapel. After being welcomed by many of Barend's dogs, chickens & Helen's horses etc we assembled on the veranda of Barend & Helen's beautiful home & then made our way into Kilgobbin Forest which is part of the Dargle Conservancy. Gently walking through this enchanting forest is like being in a fairy tale which enhances all our senses & Barend amazes us with his detailed knowledge of the fauna & flora as he imparts his knowledge in such a passionate & enthralling way. The photographs illustrate this better than more words).

1. Start of the hike from the veranda of Barend & Helen's beautiful home
2. Entering the lovely indigenous forest
3. Take note of how to treat a Nature Reserve & its inhabitants
4. Christa takes photos of plants near a saw pit
5. Deep in the beautiful forest
6. Barend, an expert on everything in their forest explains about the trees & plants etc
7. Barend in full flow about the wonders of the indigenous forest
8. Our hikers appreciating the wonders of nature
9. That's a great knobthorn tree trunk but not good as a fireman's pole
10. Our group at a lovely viewpoint as Barend raises his binocs to view a raptor overhead

Eventually we exit the forest & climb into the surrounding grasslands which Barend also knows so well. We then stride out across the grasslands taking in beautiful views all around us as we climb higher & just when we need it we reach a very small stream with crystal clear water to quench our thirst & re-fill our water bottles. At the top of our climb we reach the ruin of an old fisherman's retreat, but not a successful venture, which appears to be in the middle of nowhere.

From the ruin we made our way to a lovely spot to enjoy our lunch under the shade of a beautiful big tree.

11. Lovely country view after exiting the forest
12. Now assembled well above Barend's Kilgobbin Cottage
13. Our large group striding out towards the horizon
14. Our hikers still making good pace to the horizon
15. A convenient small stream to quench our thirst & re-fill water bottles
16. Passing an isolated windmill driven water pump
17. Heading towards the isolated old fisherman's retreat - now in ruins
18. Alistair & the secret hat man inside the ruin
19. Stark view of the old fisherman's retreat ruin
20. A Lovely spot for lunch in the shade of an old tree

After lunch it was gently downhill until we reached Old Kilgobbin & were welcomed by the impressive horses at "Horseplay". We inspected "The Old Cairn of Kilgobbin" & all the plaques celebrating the marriages of many couples at this venue before making our way back to our parked vehicles after a very enjoyable day.

A couple of extracts from the sign as you enter Kilgobbin Forest Walk read "You are now entering a wilderness area, home to a wonderfully diverse community of fauna & flora. Please tread lightly as you go & respect all life-forms who call this home" - "And remember - Take nothing from here except wonderful memories and leave nothing but your footprints. Enjoy the wonders of this place. Barend & Helen"

Thanks to all our participants & special thanks to Barend for sharing his precious time with us on this memorable day.


21. A welcoming horse as we start to approach Horseplay & Old Kilgobbin
22. More of the gentle horses at Horseplay
23. Old stables converted into a barn reception area for weddings at Old Kilgobbin
24. A close-up of the ever-changing sign on the barn
25. The Cairn of Old Kilgobbin with the wedding plaques
26. A close-up of a wedding plaque on the Cairn of Old Kilgobbin