The August newsletter of  Friends of  Silvermine Nature Area (FOSNA) includes news of latest improvements to Silvermine Reserve, news from the Riverine Roversreports on hiking the enticing Fynbos Trail near Stanford and Gansbaai and of caving in the Kalk Bay Mountains.

Editor’s Message

 

Winter is in full swing and while a few of the Thursday walks have been cancelled or shortened due to bad weather, when we do get out on a clear day it is absolutely beautiful. The other Thursday we did the river walk and although it was cold, and we had to negotiate some very slippery ice covered boardwalks, the reflections at the dam were absolutely fantastic and well worth the effort.

 

Silvermine Dam: reflections. Photo: M. Hutchison

Silvermine Dam: reflections. Photo: M. Hutchison

 

Since then we have offered to sponsor SANParks to put wire on the slippery parts of the boardwalk. They have agreed to try this. So let us hope this will be done soon.

 

Thanks to Gail Breslan’s efforts the information centre at gate 1 is looking great. The FDP ladies also display an arrangement of flowers that are currently blooming. If you have a few moments to spare it is well worth a visit.

 

The newsletter is only as interesting as the contributions received, so if you experience or see anything of interest you would like to share, please write a little something and send it to me for inclusion in the next newsletter. The details for your contributions are at the end of the newsletter.

Happy hacking and hiking.

Meryl Hutchison

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Chairman’s Report

 

Dear Members

It is time for the August newsletter and I am wondering what has happened to the past seven months.  It is such a common lament – I don’t know where the time has gone – and no one has come up with a reasonable answer.  So we will just have to persevere and make the most of our time as it slips through our fingers and becomes another part of history.

 

And on that merry note….

 

With our wonderful donations we were in a position to assist in the upgrade of the pedestrian path at Gate two at Silvermine.

 

The path was widened to make access to the toilet wheelchair-friendly. The rest of of the pedestrian path was upgraded and packed to ensure a good rain run-off and prevent erosion.

 

We will be supplying a dozen indigenous trees to be planted at the car park at the reservoir.  These will provide shade and will beautify the area.

 

It has been suggested that we provide the car guard at the reservoir parking with a little wooden hut.  This will provide protection when it rains and he will have a place to leave his personal possessions when on duty. We are awaiting Sanparks’ go ahead with this idea.

 

Arbor week 1st – 7th September 2014.07.22

The trees to be highlighted this year are:

The Lavender Tree (Heteropyxis natalensis) is the common tree.

The White ironwood (Vepris Lanceolata) is the rare tree.

 

The Lavender tree has its bark eaten by the black rhino and the leaves by kudu and grey duiker.  The masses of small flowers attract many insects and they, in turn, attract many insect-eating birds. So if you have the odd rhino or kudu wandering round your garden, you know what to plant!

 

These trees are available from the Kirstenbosch Gardens nursery.

 

According to “Making the Most of Indigenous Trees” Fanie and Julye-ann Venter, the White Ironwood (Witysterhout) makes a ‘good garden subject which can be pruned into any shape or it can be grown as a screen plant.  A must for the bird garden, with its bunches of black berries.  It makes a most successful container plant, flowering and fruiting without any problems. ”when its leaves are crushed it emits a lemon scent. I hope that I have whetted your appetite to investigate this tree further.

 

Arbor week promotes a better knowledge of trees, particularly indigenous trees.  It stresses the necessity for everyone to plant trees and care for them and it highlights the vital role trees play in our lives.

 

I have left this to the end. Not for any reason but that it is a tragedy and one cannot continue with everyday news once this has been digested.

 

We extend our sincere condolences to the daughters and friends of Henri La Cour, who was murdered on the Kalk Bay Mountain (Trappieskop) on Wednesday June the 25th. Trappieskop appears frequently on the Friends of Silvermine Nature Area Walks Programme.  It is so sad to associate this beautiful space with such a dreadful incident.  It is sometimes very difficult not to feel utter despair when faced with the bitter realities of our present society. We live in the most beautiful place in the world….. Let’s hold fast onto that.

Sue Frew

 

The Fynbos Trail

 

A few members of the hiking group, and friends, had the privilege of doing the Fynbos Trail in the Walker Bay area. I say privilege as the information we gleaned from this hike was more than one could ever retain in two days study!

 

We started our hike shortly after our arrival in Gansbaai on the Sunday afternoon. We were presented with a map and walked from the Gansbaai harbour area along the cliff for about 5 kilometres.  We were entertained endlessly with the antics of the whales.  They were very busy churning up the waters and blowing great gusts from their blowholes. Our first night was spent at Haus Giotto in Gansbaai, a delightful B&B.

 

The next morning our hike started for real.  We were met by Sean at 8.45 and started where we had left off the evening before.  Sean is a mine of information.  There is a buchu present on the cliffs of Gansbaai that is only found here and at Cape Point, suggesting that, at some stage many years ago, land and not sea stretched between Cape Point and Gansbaai. He led us along the beautiful Klipgat Trail on De Kelders coastline overlooking Walker Bay.  We had a cup of tea in Klipgat Cave which was home to folk dating back as far as 80 000 years.  It is a well preserved cave and exudes history.

 

We left the cave and walked along the pristine beach finally heading off inland through a dune field. Sean was able to introduce information and stories all along the way. The idea that dunes ‘move’ seems ridiculous but they do, leaving crusts of compressed sand in their wake and encroaching on the long ago planted dune stabilisers. We walked through a mass of flowering  Erica irregularis endemic to the Stanford and De Kelders area, before being collected for a scrumptious lunch at Growing the Future sustainable agriculture and life skills training college on Grootbos Nature Reserve. This is a wonderful project growing vegetables and harvesting honey used by the two lodges on Grootbos Nature Reserve. This project provides work and life skills for the local people.

 

Instead of having an afternoon nap in some gentle swaying hammocks attached to the shady trees, we embarked on our second leg of the day, The core Fynbos Trail.

 

Billy Robertson now became our guide. This was a 6.5 kilometres walk to our overnight accommodation. We were guided into and through an ancient Milkwood forest.  The Steynsbos Milkwood forest is one of the only eight Milkwood forests of its type in the world.  These Milkwood trees are old, gnarled and weather beaten. Billy too had so much information to share. After lunch the mist had come down so we were unable to see the views over Walker Bay.  However the mist made hiking pleasant and cool. We hiked through masses of pincushions all in flower.  The Cape sugarbird and orange breasted sunbirds, among many others, were busy flitting between the plants exhibiting their pollination methods so delightfully described by both Sean and Billy.

 

We arrived at our overnight accommodation exhausted but so content.  We were fed delicious pizzas and fell into bed.  We had covered some 17 kilometres.

 

The next day dawned cool and misty. We had a scrumptious breakfast, packed our bags to be transported to our final destination, and set out for another adventure. Our destination was Witkrans – the homestead of our host and hostess – Sean and Michelle Privett.

 

This day comprised of contrasts between forests, wetland Fynbos and limestone hills. We were served morning tea and coffee in a forest next to a waterfall before winding out and up the Grootberg.

 

We were surprised by a table – yes a table AND tablecloth – all laid out with our lunch in the middle of Stinkhoutsbos Forest! After lunch we had the opportunity of planting a tree alongside the river.  We planted Milkwood, wild peach and Boegenhout trees.  This is part of Flower Valley’s restoration of this beautiful forest partially destroyed by the fire of 2006.

 

Fire is essential to ‘motivate’ little seeds to grow.  It is the stimulus which causes seeds to germinate.  However when fires are too frequent or too hot (assisted by alien vegetation) they destroy rather than create.

 

Our final evening was spent in the company of our two guides and Michelle.  We were treated to a wine tasting of Lomond wines and a delicious dinner. The accommodation was in large wooden chalets (originally from those taken down by SANParks at Agulhas) consisting of three rooms each with two beds, two bathrooms, a lounge and well equipped kitchen.  The chalets were warm and very welcoming.

 

We slept with the call of the nightjar echoing in the dark, after having walked 12 kilometres.

 

Our final morning dawned with a lazy breakfast and a later start. This time we were guided by Sean. The trail ‘winds along the lower slopes of the Witkransberg’ , finally entering the 24 hectare Grootbos Milkwood forest.

 

After approximately 6 kilometres our hike ended with a lunch at Grootbos Garden Lodge. My goodness, we were offered a wonderful spread to end our hike. After lunch we were transported back to our cars. We were replete but all very sad that our hike had come to an end.

 

It is very difficult to put into words just how magnificent this hike was. Our two guides were so well informed and the many delightful stories related were all insightful.

 

We were left with a heightened awareness of the cycle of life and our unequivocal interdependence. The Fynbos Trail is not just a hike it is a life experience.

 

Sue Frew

 

Sheila’s Wetland Update

 

News from the Riverine Rovers.

“On a recent walk round the Wetlands, my husband and I came upon an Egyptian Goose and family walking along the path. We followed them slowly and watched while Dad at the back, fully aware of us, was keeping ten fluffy little goslings round Mum at the front. Mum and Dad were quietly muttering, and we could imagine them saying, “Now keep together children”! After a few minutes, the Goose family reached a spot where they could enter the water. Within the blink of an eye, they had all walked onto a gabion and plopped into the water. They all swam immediately towards some reeds.

 

The reeds are getting very overgrown at the moment, and we are not seeing so many water birds. However, a draft EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) has been passed and so it is possible we shall soon be able to request some dredging to be done. This cannot be done until early next year as the Leopard Toad season is upon us. By the time you read this, they will probably have been to the wetlands for mating and spawning, and gone back to the nearby gardens where they live most of the year. However, if you are out at night especially after rain, you might still see one or two on their way to or from the Wetlands, so do take care!”

Sheila Robinson

Thursday Walking Group’s  ” A Crawl in the Caves.”

(Not ‘’A Walk in the Park’’)

During one of her bowls events Edwina mentioned to Ron Zeeman that she regularly walked in Silvermine with our group. Ron’s eyes lit up as he offered to take the group to explore some of the caves in the area.

 

At the end of May Gail Breslan was to lead a hike from the S –bend on Boyes Drive, so it was decided to change this to a caving experience.

 

Our party of 8 ladies and Ron excitedly met in Godfrey road as this Thursday hike was to be one with a difference! We set off with great expectations!

 

‘’Boomslang’’ was the first cave Ron led us to. Donning our old clothes and head torches we leopard crawled into the flat entrance and slowly wiggled our way through to the large main chamber. The quiet darkness of the space was an incredible experience, which not all the party enjoyed. Some felt claustrophobic.

 

We explored the little passageways and dead ends shining our torches onto the sparkling crystals formed on the roof.

Slowly we progressed, through the narrow passageway, towards the exit, watching the myriads of bats hanging from the roof. We also studied the little crickets which seemed to have adapted to a sub-terrestrial life.    Although we were careful to avoid the puddles along the way not all of us were successful in this attested to by the occasional splash and cry of “Oh no! My feet are all wet!”

 

Although we were below the surface of the earth for a relatively short time it was an adjustment to be back in the fresh air and light of upper earth.

 

After a short tea break our next cave exploration was ‘’Devils Pit’’!

 

To enter this cave we had to pull in our tummies, twist and slide down the entrance with the help of a rope. We made our way to the main chamber, passing side passages with names like ‘’Creepy Corridor’’. This was a fairly small cave but I found getting back up to the surface to be quite challenging. A bit like being inelegantly squeezed from a geological birth canal!

 

Once back on the surface Ron showed us the other entrance to Devil Pit which has been fenced off as there is a long sheer drop down a shaft to the bottom.

 

After that we went to the entrance of Robin Hood cave. You need to jump from one rock across a gulf to another rock to enter this cave. None of us was brave enough for that!

 

Ron then took us to the entrance of another cave where you needed to climb up a rock face to get to the opening.

 

Ron certainly knows his way around the caves and is passionate about caving. Apparently there are about eighty caves with many kilometres of underground passages just in the Silvermine area. Many of these caves were discovered, documented and named by John Meyer from 1923-1950. He painted the names of the caves on the rocks at the cave entrance. Quite a few of these names are still visible. There are some really interesting names to the caves like Treasure Chest, Blackbeard’s cave, Egyptian cave and The Labyrinth.

 

All in all, it was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. Thank you Ron for exposing us to the underside of our mountain!

 

Information about the caves come from an article “Speleologist John Meyer and the Moles of Kalk Bay Caves” by Anthony Hitchcock

(See also http://scenicsouth.co.za/2011/07/spelaeologist-meyer-the-moles-of-kalkbay-caves/     Viv)

hikers

Meryl Hutchison

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Forthcoming Environmental Days

 

National Arbor Week               1-7 Sept

World Rhino Day                      22nd Sept

World Habitat Day                   6th Oct

International Mountains Day    11th Dec

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For the programme of  hikes, hacks and other outings see http://scenicsouth.co.za/event/friends-of-silvermine-nature-area-walks-programme-sept-to-dec-2014/

Newsletter Contributions & Useful Contacts

 

Our membership portfolio is run by Tammy Weinberg. For any membership related queries please contact her at: weinberg@discoverymail.co.za

Our chairman Sue Frew can be contacted at: suefrew@isat.co.za