5 May 2018

Report and photos by Rod Hart, additional photos courtesy of Charlie Guiot

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

Hike Leader: Katy Hart, Hikers: Charles Guiot, Lynne Seager, Penny Purchase, Sue Rowley, Peter Comrie, Hettie Randall, Dave Sclanders, Jill Plummer, Eric Essenwein, and myself Rod Hart.

Eleven of us met at 8:30am at Bisley Valley Nature Reserve - note if you are coming on this hike to be sure of the directions, it is very easy to miss or be miss-directed. Also to note the sliding gate to the reserve is always closed and needs to be manually pushed open and closed after you. The second gate on this occasion was closed, this Katy and I thought necessitated climbing over the gate in an energetic start to our hike, however it was pointed out to us that within the overgrowth shielding the fence there was in fact a zig-zag pedestrian gap in the fence.

After pausing to take a 'Group Photo' we started down the 'John Pringle' path towards the dam and almost immediately spotted giraffe in the far distance on the opposite hill, then some of the more attentive hikers at the back spotted a small herd of wildebeest on top of what I believe would have been the raised 400m firing point of the shooting range, the wildebeest were well camouflaged among the thorn trees atop the small hill. Skirting around the dam we soon saw a giraffe looking inquisitively at us, and we stared just as inquisitively back, suspect he was making his way to the dam and our paths had crossed as for a moment we suspected he may be coming right at us. Moving on from that encounter we followed the path through the thornbush leading up to the Bisley Road where we took a short break, before retracing back to the dam. Along the way we spotted a small hear of zebra, not too close but within camera range.

1. Katy explaining the route and what to expect
2. Katy climbing over the gate...
3. While others take the easier route!
4. Group photo
5. Group photo at header of report
6. The start of the John Pringle trail - a brief stop to view the giraffes on the far hill
7. Giraffes in the distance
8. A herd of wildebeest

9. Negotiating a muddy patch going past the dam
10. Eric and Hettie viewing a giraffe that appeared to the side of our trail
11 - 13. The giraffe
14. Regrouping at a branch in the track
15. Flower
16. Charlie and Dave getting through another muddy spot
17. Very pleasant hiking conditions - walking in the semi-shade of the thorn veld.
18. Dave posing next to a giant anthill built around a thorn tree
19. We reach our turnaround point - the Bisley Road

Major drinks and snack break at the well built 'hide' at the dam, interesting to note the water mark on the wall of the hide, well over the seats, indicative of the heavy rains we had over the preceding weeks. The dam is fed from two small streams running through the reserve. After our break at the hide we continued on another section of the 'John Pringle' trail which heads up towards the earth mound on which the Wildebeest had previously been spotted, climbing up onto the mound we were able to survey the area and some sharp eyes spotted the Wildebeest off in the distance, mostly hidden by grass and shrubs, we were however traveling in that direction and did indeed get close enough to see them better. We arrived at the resource centre where there are several 'hides' looking out over the reserve, though these 'hides' are closed and locked. For those in need we did find one of the toilet doors in the ablution block unlocked.

20. Very attractive little flowers seen all along our route
21. Knobwood tree possibly Zanthoxylum capense
22. Hairy and hairy, Dave looks on as I photograph some caterpillars on the end of a now bare twig
23. Another clump of caterpillars - which we had brushed past earlier!
24. A thistly thing!
25. Very spiky leaf
26. Attractive orange fungi
27. Zebra
28. Interesting plant with long leaves

29. The dam Bird Hide seen from across the dam
30. Entrance to the Bird Hide
31. Water mark showing the earlier flooding of the hide
32 - 33.Enjoying a tea-break in the comfort of the Bird Hide
34. Giraffe spotted on the opposite hill from the Bird Hide

35. And we are off again...
36 - 37. Walking up the mound where the wildebeest were spotted earlier
38. Dave showing how it is done...
39. Crossing the wooden pole 'bridge' across to the Resource Centre
40. View of the Resource Centre
41. Relaxing next to the armaments store section

The resource centre is built onto the original Bisley Shooting Range armament stores adjacent to the 'markers bunker wall' under which the markers, would shelter for protection. The markers were responsible for hoisting, pulling down and marking the targets, some of the pencilled scores are still visible on this bunker wall, as well as other pencilled graffiti mostly it appears dated from the years 1939 - 41.

42. At least he hit the target 23 out of 32 shots: 2 Bulls, 4 Inners, 5 Margins, 12 Outers and 9 misses
43. Lieutenant/Bombardier ND Gelderblom 4th Field SAA (South African Artilery) 30/10/1939 stationed at the Drill Hall Pietermaritzburg (opposite MediClinic)
44. P.O. Roberts of A Company, 2nd South African Police Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade based at the Durban Road Camp obviously enjoyed the 'Bren' Gun. This Brigade was operationally deployed on 2/12/1941 and fell at Tobruk on 20/6/1942
45. And the enemy was obviously 'Meinkamph'
46. Soldier under his 'tin hat'
47. Regrouping above the bunker
48. Eric photographing sketches on the wall of the bunker
49. Back to the cars
50. We all used the easy way through the fence this time, here Jill goes through the game proof access.

A short trip back to the cars completed our, close on 3hr grade 1 hike in almost perfect weather. A morning well spent, thank you leader Katy and fellow hikers.

Thank you to Charles Guiot for providing this additional set of pics (I get a show in some of them!) from a different perspective.