The RNC’s “Conservation Calendar” has been very popular, with local residents as well as the general public. Recent events:
The History Tour through Roodekrans was done in style, travelling in a luxury bus and being treated to a scrumptious lunch in a lovely garden. This contrasted nicely with the effort of exploring caves (the Silver Mine from the Anglo-Boer War days) and climbing Koppie-alleen, that strange little sentinel guarding Roodekrans and its history, stretching back millennia. The visit to the ruins of the notorious Daisy Farm, invisibly tucked in a valley between the hills, elicited much interest, as did the puzzling stone circles, dating back to the Late Iron Age.
Dalene van der Merwe of Doornrandje arranged the tour and did extensive research on the places visited. “Daisy Farm was used as an interrogation centre by Craig Williamson, the security forces agent known for his involvement in the murder of Joe Slovo’s wife, Ruth First, by letter bomb in 1982,” she says.
“During the TRC hearings in 1998 the farm was mentioned with regards to the planned imprisonment of Joe Slovo, the former SA Communist Party leader. Apparently the plan was to capture and imprison him in a basement at Daisy Farm and Williamson admitted that they referred to this basement as ‘Slovo’s Suite’. Williamson applied for amnesty for the murder of Ruth First, Jeanette Schoon and her six year- old daughter in 1984 and for his involvement in the ANC offices’ bombing in London in 1982.”
This tour will be repeated next year.
The Bird Walk was hosted on Bona Thaba, Richard and Stella Angus’s property, just off the Gemstones Road. About 20 members of the President Ridge Bird Club arrived with binoculars and bird lists plus picnic baskets and fold-up chairs for a leisurely session of comparing notes and relaxing under the Angus’s huge old Karee tree after the walk.
Bona Thaba is perfectly situated for views of the Schurveberg to the north and sweeping vistas to the south, with the Johburg skyline showing on a clear day. It also combines patches of dense Bushveld with grassland, attracting a variety of birds. The RNC boasts 300+ species of birds, including several Red Data birds.
The Geology Walk took place around Koppie-alleen, courtesy of Karin Hasseriis who owns the property. Twenty aspirant geologists (rockologists?) followed six visiting UNISA professors and lecturers around, peppering them with questions.
“I can identify two types of rocks,” joked Malcolm Lee of PPC: 1) Limestone and 2) NOT limestone!” Mark Smith of Hills and Dales agreed he and others had learnt a lot from amateur geologist, Nick May. “Boy, did we rock!" said Mark. "Nick knows the area inside out and is a rock fanatic! A very informative trip.”
“It was also a pleasure to have Prof Elna van Niekerk of UNISA on this walk-about,” says Sharon Bernhardt who arranged the tour. “She’s in her element when surrounded by rocks!” Prof van Niekerk wrote afterwards: “It was a fantastic day we spent with your group. We all had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed it!”
“My grandson (2½,) immediately spotted stunning samples of rocks with patches of azurite and malachite,” says Sharon with obvious delight in her budding little rock star. She is currently studying geology via UNISA. Her bumper stickers – “Geology Rocks!” were snapped up.
(To prevent Koppie-alleen being damaged by too many feet, the RNC only takes visitors to the koppie with the permission of owner Karin Hasseriis. During the World Environment Summit in 2002 overseas visitors were caught taking rock samples off the koppie! They were firmly persuaded to put it back.)
The NewFutures Forum has surfaced again. Created a couple of years ago, it aimed to promote “green living” within the greater community by sharing ideas and information on renewable energy systems and products, organic gardening, creating wetlands and more. The convenor, Alastair Armstrong, disappeared briefly from view as he created his “green” company, Insynch Technologies, but he is now ready to take it on again. “I see the Forum as a coming together of interested people, exchanging their ideas and passions in renewable energy and related technologies and learning from one another. In a nutshell, fun, information, practical ideas, community development and skills transfer!”
Having built cob houses in Johannesburg and experimenting with his own house, Alastair, an engineer, has gained considerable knowledge and expertise which he is willing to share. The first meeting will be at Waaigras in Hills and Dales on Sunday, 2 November at 3pm. Directions available.
Anxious Hennops River residents are trying to get information about a proposed dolomite quarry on the R511 more or less opposite the 4-star conferencing and wedding venue, Rhuslancea. No notice has been given, nor any public meetings held to date.
GDACE (Dept of Environment) has given a negative Record of Decision on a proposed upmarket development in Schurveberg, bordering the Vusalela Spa on the R511.
“We circulate VeldTalk to all Lammermoor Conservancy residents. Many of them became so inspired that it has spurred them on to do more in our community. Some of them have booked for the RNC outings and walks. It would one day be great to join Lindley and Elandsdrift to our Conservancy and linking it up with Rhenosterspruit, thereby forming one mega Conservancy! Thanks for all the hard work – the RNC is an inspiration to us all!”
Malcolm Sinclair, Chairman, Lammermoor Conservancy
“Amazing how bad times brings out the best in people and just shows how we can all stand together.”
Rose Johnson, Field & Study Centre (referring to the VeldTalk report on veld fires )
“Re the fires in the RNC - it brought out the best in people; but the main lesson for me is you are only as safe as your neighbour lets you be. Interdependence! VeldTalk is a good little sheet.”
Prof John Carlisle, Sheffield, UK
“Thanks for an informative and interesting publication!”
Tim de Jongh, Biodiversity Conservation, Eastern Cape
An ear-shattering noise interrrupted Gareth Muller of Hills and Dales' studies on Friday, 17 October. "I heard this horrible whirring sound," he says, "and rushed outside just in time to see a six-seater Bell Jetliner helicopter about to make an emergency landing about 70m from my cottage."
Gareth didn't hesitate. "I ran across to see if help was needed. The pilot was OK but he looked terrified and apologised for landing in one of our paddocks! It was the only place open enough, away from Eskom and Telkom lines, where he could make a safe landing."
The helicopter had just been serviced at Lanseria, a few kilometres away. The damage was extensive and mechanics worked on it for three days before giving up, taking off the rotors and having it trucked back to Lanseria. A rather ignominious trek over a bumpy dirt road, for a sleek machine.