21 March 2018

Report and photos by Rod Hart

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

I accompanied Katy on a recce of the Bisley Valley Nature Reserve for a potential future hike. Our general finding was that there are some great hikes around th area, unfortunately though the paths are not altogether clear and frequently it is difficult to tell hike paths from animal tracks, we did manage to get around though and visited the Bird Hide at the dam, the Resource Centre, and appear to have traced most of the John Pringle trail. We had multiple sightings of giraffe, a wildebeest with calf, and in the distance some zebra. The Reserve is noted containing a veritable "who's who" of birdlife as well, and we did see plenty of birds but unfortunately their variety is lost on me. The reserve is 350 hectares in extent and runs alongside an increaisingly busy Gladys Manzi Road. Traffic can be heard occasionally, but mostly the area is sheltered from noise. An historical aspect of the reserve is that it holds the remnants of the original World War 2 Bisley shooting range, the long concrete range wall, armment building as well as the earth backing bunker remain in place and are of interest to visit.

Certainly an interesting reserve to visit and all only 6km from Pietermaritzburg city centre! Look out for this hike on the fixture list.

A prominent signboard along Gladys Manzi Road denotes the turning to Bisley Valley Nature Reserve, where we stop at the entrance with sliding gate. There is no charge to enter the reserve and no one is in attendance so we are required to open the gate and signage instructs us to ensure it is closed behind us. From here we turn right and travel down through a rather muddy access to a second gate, and then drive up to the parking area. Throughout the reserve there is signage pointing out the hikes but unfortunately not all of it is legible or clear. We did mangage to pick up the John Pringle trail.

The flower shown in the pic was a most stunning crimson red - photo really doesn't do it credit! We passed an interestingly bent thorn tree, such persistence in nature after some adverse incident. I loved the juxtaposition of the closeness of this reserve to Alexandra Road extension housing development apparent in the photo.It wasn't long before we spotted giraffe and observed there were in fact ten of them, each showing some interest in our direction but not bothering us at all, I did however make a note to Google "What to do if chased by a herd of giraffe"! Further down the path we had the option of going to the "Bird Hide" or continuing on the "John Pringle" route, we chose to continue on the John Pringle route and we noted to later return to the Bird Hide

The route we had chosen led us down to and around the dam - some spots a little muddy but very manageble. We were able to see along the dam, the bird hide that we would later return to.

After a short while we lost touch with the John Pringle trail and were, we found out in later, walking parallel to the Bisley Road. Along the way we saw a couple of my favourtie aloe "aloe pruinosa" (photo 16) which is endemic to this region. Being in flower it's long "powdery" stem with pink flowers makes it highly visable, but once the stem dries out and drops off the aloe is not all that visable in the grass. Eventually we came out onto Bisley Road - somewhat of a shoch to find we were so close to a tarred road, then for interest sake we travelled up the road a while then retraced our tracks back into the thorn bush.

Along our return route we almost (well not quite but it did seem close) bumped into another giraffe and spotted some zebra quite far off, we did locate a memorial stone detailing that "The John Pringle Trail was sponsored by the Wildllife Society (PMB) to honour the service to conservation in Natal Of Dr. John A. Pringle". In spite of finding the memorial stone we were unable to pick up the trail from here so continued retracing our route back and then branching off to the "Bird Hide".

While there were, no doubt, many species of bird at the dam I only managed to capture a couple of pics of what I know as "Red Bishops", we did enjoy our break in the cool of the bird hide watching the goings on of the birds. A very comfortable and solid construction was the bird hide.

We then picked up the route to the Resouce Centre and came across, presumeably some of the giraffe we had seen earlier, we skirted them only to find a Widebeest in our path but fortunately she removed herself together with her calf in a direction away from us. Crossing a small stream across a bound together pole bridge provided some interest and then the Resource Centre came into view.

The Resource Centre, essentially lecture rooms built high up with windows giving a view out over the thornveld are built around the historic area of the old World War 2 shooting range, it is hear that the armament building and the long concrete range wall, behind which the "markers" would sit to put up and pull down and mark the targets for the shottists. Fasinating walking in that very area. From here it was a short walk back to our car and return home. We had done approimately 6km walking and had been out for around 2hrs 45min. I look forward to a return visit.