There are several conservancies here in the Midlands (Curry’s Post, Lion’s Bush, Balgowan and Dargle) that, as well as concerning themselves with the preservation of natural resources, organise walks, talks and social events. Last weekend we joined a group from the Dargle Conservancy doing a miniSASS on a section of the Dargle River, a tributary of the Umngeni River which supplies Durban with its water. “MiniSASS is a simple tool which can be used by anyone to monitor the health of a river. You collect a sample of macro invertebrates (small animals) from the water, and depending on which groups are found, you have a measure of the general river health and water quality in that river” (sass.orasecom.org).
We arrived at a farm in the Dargle to be greeted with a cup of tea, melt-in-the-mouth homemade scones and friendly people. We were given an interesting presentation by Penny Rees from Duzi-uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) who had walked the length of the Dargle River to assess the water quality and establish contributing factors to poor water quality. The Dargle Conservancy encourages and assists landowners with river frontage to restore the health of the river by clearing invasives (mainly wattle and bugweed) and crops from the riparian zone (the interface between land and a river or stream), limiting cattle access to the water and not dumping rubbish in the water which restricts the flow of water. The farmer who was hosting the miniSASS had already cleared a lot of wattle away from the river banks (no mean feat as wattle is hard to eradicate) and his stretch of river turned out to be quite healthy. It was fun pottering about in the water collecting nunus and just enjoying the cool, flowing water.
I’ve always been seduced by rivers, just not however by KwaZulu-Natal’s big, sludgy waterways. I grew up in the Eastern Cape where the rivers of my childhood were clear and enticing. Sundays, Swartkops, Krom, Van Stadens and Nahoon – these are the rivers I can remember swimming in. You can keep your Mkomazi, Umngeni,Tugela and Pongola Rivers, thank you very much! Recently a friend posted some pictures on Facebook of the Baviaanskloof River and I could almost smell the water. For some reason my olfactory senses seem to be stronger in my memories. Many years ago, as we drove into my home town of Port Elizabeth en route to Cape Town I asked the kids to roll down their windows (before we got to the Carbon Black factory!) so that we could inhale the smell of the herbal fynbos because that is my recollection of the Eastern Cape.