Everything you need to know

Introduction.

This website wants to serve all visitors toit in finding relevant information about conservation in the Balgowan area. Our passionate drive is to ensure that future generations are at awe by the splendid beauty of the Balgowan valley in the KZN Midlands. We are guided by our mission  to support sustainable resource utilization and to conserve wildlife and their habitats in the Balgowan Conservancy for the benefit of present and future generations by stimulating interest and active participation among all residents of the community through communication and education.

Michaelhouse school is in the centre of our conservancy area. We focus our work on two aspects namely:

  • The education of the next generation from our community in embracing the value of conserving a sustainable environment and
  • The eradication of invasive alien plants in our land area.

 

“If you want one year of prosperity, plant corn, if you want ten years of prosperity, plant trees, if you want one hundred years of prosperity, educate people.” – Chinese proverb.

The Balgowan Conservancy.

The Balgowan Conservancy was established in 1978 by landowners in the area who were concerned about the reduction in the number of game and general degradation of the environment. With much help from the then Natal Parks Board, the conservancy was duly started and became the first of many conservancies with the same objectives which have spread across KwaZulu-Natal into neighbouring provinces and across borders into neighbouring states. There are now 387 conservancies in South Africa of which 220 are in KwaZulu-Natal.

The affairs of the conservancy movement in KZN are looked after by the KZN Conservancies Association to which organisation most conservancies in the province belong.

The accepted definition of a conservancy is:

“The voluntary co-operative environmental management of an area by its community and users and in respect of which registration has been granted by the relevant provincial nature conservation authority.”

Conservancies now operate in diverse environments (rural, urban, industrial and coastal), and their activities vary depending on their location. In our case because of changes in land use and demographics since its inception, the original scope has been widened to include not only environmental management but acting also on behalf of the Balgowan community on such matters as road maintenance, litter, labour relations, crime prevention and unauthorised development. Membership has been made more inclusive and all landowners and residents are urged to join the Balgowan Conservancy and to help enhance not only environment and the beauty of the countryside but the quality of life for all living in the area.

The District.

The Balgowan Conservancy covers between two and three thousand hectares and extends from Notting Hill Lodge in the north to Granny Mouse Hotel in the south and from Mondi plantations bordering the N3 highway in the east to Michaelhouse and Mooifontein in the west. Increased membership of the Conservancy extends these boundaries. The area is traversed by the R103 from Nottingham Road to Lidgetton and the Durban-Johannesburg railway line and is drained by the Lions and Mphofane rivers and their tributaries.

There are presently about eighty landowners in the area and individual holdings vary from several hundred hectares to as few as four hectares. Land use includes commercial farming, Michaelhouse, a private school, several state schools, flower nurseries, chicken farms, bed and breakfast enterprises, hotels, conference centres, craft shops, private residences and vacant ground. Several residential properties are not permanently occupied.

The original land area comprised mist belt forest and Natal mist belt sourveld grasslands, with numerous streams and associated wetlands. This has been extensively modified and degraded by the planting of exotic trees and pastures and by the invasion of alien vegetation. The residue of the original indigenous vegetation, especially the mist belt forest and wetlands, is under severe threat from further modification and is one the crucial factors in the Conservancy’s conservation efforts.

It can be seen that this combination of comparatively high population density, uncontrolled development, diverse land use and commercial activity and an already highly compromised ecology requires serious attention by the whole population if anything of the original beauty of the area is to be saved.

The motivation for doing this is not only solely aesthetic as the natural beauty of the district is one of its main commercial attractions and the reason that many people living here came here in the first place.

Trees.

The natural forest patches still contain more than 60 species of indigenous trees including sagewoods (Buddleja sp.), yellowwoods (Podocarpus latifolius, Podocarpus falcatus, Podocarpus henkelii), Cape Chestnut (Calodendrum capense), White Stinkwood (Celtis africanus), Sneezewood (Ptaeroxylon obliquum) and Wild Peach (Kiggelaria Africana).

To protect the remaining forest:

  • Use good grass burning practices and never allow the fire nearer than 20m from the verges – read this one pager by clicking here;
  • Do not allow cattle to enter the forest;
  • Do not disturb the forest margin which protects from wind and frost and
  • Discourage bark-stripping for “muti” purposes.

 

Indigenous forest and bush are controlled by strict legislation.

For further information contact the Department of Forestry on 033 342 8101.

Further reading:

  • The Complete guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei, Elsa Pooley, Natal Flora Publication Trust, 1993. ISBN 0 620 17612 1

  • Sappi Tree Spotting, Kwazulu-Natal Coast and Midlands, Jacana, 1998. ISBN 1 874955 51 4

  • Making the Most of Indigenous Trees, Fanie and Julie-Ann Venter, Briza Publications, 1996. ISBN 1 875093 05 2

 

 

 

The conservancy is rich in natural flora such as varieties of amaryllis, crinums, arums, haemanthus, brunsvigias and Natal scilla. Some of these larger, ever popular “muti” plants have been sadly denuded for medical use. Your gardens would be greatly enhanced by propagating them. Plants are often available from indigenous nurseries in our area and from the Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg. Again, good veld burning practices tend to preserve and enhance indigenous flora.

To identify wildflowers in our area – photos included, visit our neighbouring Dargle Conservancy on: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wildflowerarchive/wildflowers.php

Further reading:

  • A Field guide to Wild Flowers Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Region, Elsa Pooley, Natal Floral Publications Trust, 1998. ISBN 0 620 21500 3

  • Wild Flowers of South Africa, Struik, 1980. ISBN 0 86977 580 4

 

  • Gardening with Indigenous Trees and Shrubs, David and Sally Johnson, Southern, 1993. ISBN 1 86812 459 2

Mountain Flowers, A field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho, By Elsa Pooley.

http://www.floratrust.co.za/authors/elsa-pooley.html

 

Birds.

The conservancy has a diverse bird population because of its mixed habitat which includes forest, grasslands and wetland. A bird list of about 165 species is available from your committee.

The Nottingham Road Bird Club welcomes new members. There are no fees and bird walks are organised during the summer months. Rarities such as the Nerina Trogon, Knysna Lourie, Bush Blackcap, Cape Parrot and the endemic cranes may be seen.

More information is available from: http://www.birdlife.org.za/get-involved/join-birdlife-south-africa/item/436 or from The Nottingham Road Bird Club on tel. 033 234 4564.

Roy Trendler, in his book Attracting Birds to your Garden in Southern Africa, Struik, 1994. ISBN 1 86825 515 8, says: “Compost heaps are unsightly, smelly and mostly house a number of rodents. Grass cuttings and leaves can simply be emptied onto the garden beds and spread out to form a thick mulch layer. Even organic kitchen refuse can be placed between plants. Don’t be tempted to dig any this material into the soil as this will rob the ground of nitrogen and defeat the object. Surface material will be carried underground by nature’s ploughs, the earthworms. The worms aerate the soil and ensure that organic material is incorporated into it.”

Animals.

A list of animals present in the conservancy is available from the committee. The list includes common reedbuck, bushbuck, grey duiker, blue duiker, highly endangered oribi (the area is included in the National Oribi counts), serval, caracal, hares, porcupine, bush pig and various mongooses. Bonnox fencing is inimical to game movement and should have minimal use. The conservancy organises an annual game count in winter to monitor game populations and members are informed about the date and invited to participate. Sightings from our neighbouring Conservancy can be viewed on: http://www.dargleconservancy.org.za/wlsightings/wlsightings.php

Wetlands.

These are under threat all over South Africa and our area is no exception. Increasing awareness of the vital importance of wetlands is an incentive for our community to preserve and rehabilitate them.

Valuable information on wetlands is available on http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/freshwater/mwp/

 

Rules and regulations around conservation.

The major regulations applying to landowners are:

Fire regulations

These apply to all landowners and the rules are available from the

Their contact details are:

Telephone:         033 330 3702 or 082 901 8795 and the general manager is Bobby Hoole.

E-mail:                  bhoole@netfocus.co.za or fpo@lionsriverfpa.co.za

Address:              34 Currys Post road, Currys Post, KZN.

 

It is important to be aware of these regulations and to carry out one’s obligations with regard to burning as the possible consequences of fires getting out of control are very serious.

Landowners are liable for damage causedby a fire started on their land.

First category offences are:

  1. When the minister has published a warning of a high fire danger, any person who lights a fire in the open air.
  2. Any owner, occupier or person in control of land on which a fire occurs who fails to take responsible steps to extinguish the fire or to confine it to that land or to prevent it from causing damage to property or adjoining land.

A first category offence carries a sentence/fine or imprisonment of up to two years.

Second category offences:

  1. Leave a fire which he/she has lit unattended.
  2. Fails to prepare a firebreak, give notice of intention to burn a firebreak and fails to meet the standard of readiness for firefighting.

A second category offence carries a sentence/fine or imprisonment of up to one year.

Current prohibitions on burning can be obtained from The Lions River Fire Protection association or from the fire warden for your district.

Ian Cribbins                        033 234 4197 and 082 450 9634

RI Hulley                              033 266 6546

 

Apart from the legal aspects veld burning when properly carried outhas a beneficial effect on this endangered portion of the environment. Much useful information on veld management can be obtained from our Ezemvelo District Conservation Officer, Mr George Zoloumis (082 430 5290).

Specific attention must be given to possible damage by veld fires on our indigenous forests. Click here to be linked to the do’s and don’ts of burning next to indigenous forest areas.

  • Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act.

Many alien plants species have added value to our lives – food, fibre, beauty, windbreaks and more. But some have become invasive – spreading and growing out of control. Invasive alien plants destroy biodiversity and consume arable land. There are about 200 species that are listed as invasive, under different categories.

Category 1a:
Invasive species requiring compulsory control. Remove and destroy. Any specimens of Category 1a listed species need, by law, to be eradicated from the environment. No permits will be issued.

Category 1b:
Invasive species requiring compulsory control as part of an invasive species control programme. Remove and destroy. These plants are deemed to have such a high invasive potential that infestations can qualify to be placed under a government sponsored invasive species management programme. No permits will be issued.

Category 2:
Invasive species regulated by area. A demarcation permit is required to import, possess, grow, breed, move, sell, buy or accept as a gift any plants listed as Category 2 plants. No permits will be issued for Cat 2 plants to exist in riparian zones.

Category 3:
Invasive species regulated by activity. An individual plant permit is required to undertake any of the following restricted activities (import, possess, grow, breed, move, sell, buy or accept as a gift) involving a Category 3 species. No permits will be issued for Cat 3 plants to exist in riparian zones.

Listed below are six of the most invasive alien plants found in our conservancy.

Invasive plants are removed mechanically and/or with herbicides. The biggest challenge is to continue to fight the alien plants – they tend to come back. Visit this site for general information in eradicating invasive alien plants: http://www.invasives.org.za/resources/control-methods/item/392-how-to-remove-invasive-plants.html

Specific information in eradicating American bramble is available on:http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/documents/problemplants/control%20of%20bramble.pdf

  Name

 

Origin Category Pictures and more information on plant Indigenous alternatives
1 Acacia mearnsii – Black wattle South – east Australia

Tasmania

2 http://www.invasives.org.za/component/k2/item/205-black-wattle-acacia-mearnsii Acacia caffra – Common hook thorn

Acacia karroo – Sweet thorn

Acacia robusta – Black thorn

2 Rubus cuneifolius – American bramble North America 1/1b http://www.invasives.org.za/component/k2/item/337-american-bramble-rubus-cuneifolius Carissa macrocarpa – Num-num
3 Solanum mauritianum – Bugweed South America 1 http://www.invasives.org.za/component/k2/item/351-bugweed-solanum-mauritianum Buddleja saligna – False olive Buddleja salviifolia – Sagewood

Solanum giganteum – Healingleaf tree

4 Eucalyptus grandis – Saligna Gum

(Blue gum)

East and north Australia 2/1b http://www.invasives.org.za/component/k2/item/252-saligna-gum-eucalyptus-grandis Olea woodiana – Forest olive

Syzygium cordatum – Umdoni

Syzygium guineense – Water pear

5 Pinus patula –

Patula pine

Central America 2 http://www.invasives.org.za/component/k2/item/1166-patula-pine-pinus-patula Podocarpus falcatus – Common yellowwood

Podocarpus latifolius – Real yellowwood

6 Sesbania punicea – Red sesbania South America 1/1b http://www.invasives.org.za/component/k2/item/348-red-sesbania-sesbania-punicea Erythrina humeana – Dwarh coral tree

Mundulea sericea – Cork bush

Tephrosia grandiflora – Large pink tephrosia

 

Bugweed and American bramble are category 1 plants that must be controlled on land by all land users. Property may not be transferred, subdivided or changed in use, unless listed plants are controlled. “Controlled” generally means eradicated.

  • National Environmental Act 1998.

This is a wide-ranging Act, the preamble of which states:

“Everyone has the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that:

  • Prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
  • Promote conservation; and
  • Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development”.

A copy of this Act is available on: http://cer.org.za/virtual-library/legislation/national/environmental-framework/national-environmental-management-act-1998

  • Working for water.

Working for water currently runs over 300 projects in all nine of South Africa’s provinces. Scientists and field workers use a range of methods to control invasive alien plants. These include:

  • Mechanical methods – felling, removing or burning invading alien plants.
  • Chemical methods – using environmentally safe herbicides.
  • Biological control – using species-specific insects and diseases from the alien plant’s country of origin. To date 76 bio-control agents have been released in South Africa against 40 weed species.
  • Integrated control – combinations of the above three approaches. Often an integrated approach is required in order to prevent enormous impacts.

The programme is globally recognised as one of the most outstanding environmental conservation initiatives on the continent. It enjoys sustained political support for its job creation efforts and the fight against poverty.

WfW considers the development of people as an essential element of environmental conservation. Short-term contracts jobs created through the clearing activities are undertaken, with the emphasis on endeavouring to recruit women (the target is 60%), youth (20%) and disabled (5%). Creating an enabling environment for skills training, it is investing in the development of communities wherever it works. Implementing HIV and Aids projects and other socio- development initiatives are important objectives.

Keeping the stream courses free from invaders makes good ecological sense and the conservancy will monitor the situation and help where possible on request from residents. For more information go to: https://www.environment.gov.za/projectsprogrammes/wfw

Civic structures.

  • Nottingham Road Landowner’s Association.

 

Membership of this association has the benefit of representation on numerous civic bodies. It is the vehicle through which issues such as rates will be addressed. Membership fee structure is variable. Their contact details are: Nottingham Road, Tel: 033 266 6032

 

  • Police forum.

The conservancy is represented on a Police Forum. Its purpose is to liaise between the public and the SAPS and help to resolve any challenges and to be proactive in conservation matters and the law.

There are several schools in the area:

  • Michaelhouse school at Balgowan
  • Asithuthuka Combined School between Balgowan and Nottingham Road
  • Indezi Combined School on the N3
  • Jubula Combined School at Lidgetton
  • Crystal Springs Junior School at Lidgetton
  • On the borders of our area in Nottingham Road are Clifton and Kings junior private schools and the Midlands Training Centre.

 

  • Tourism

The conservancy is in the middle of the Midlands Meander and supports very many tourists orientated activities such as bed and breakfast establishments, hotels, fishing lodges, craft makers and others. For all enquiries regarding the Midlands Meander tourist routeand the Midlands Meander Association email the following address: info@midlandsmeander.co.za The telephone number is 033 330 8195

 

  • Waste management

Waste disposal is a universal problem which can be reduced by segregation and recycling. Accumulating and periodically burning rubbish is not good ecology and can be harmful when plastic is burned.

Waste for recycle can be deposited in Howick at the Umgeni municipal collection site (centre of town), at Pick and Pay in Howick and at the back end of The Quarry shopping centre in Hilton. The Curry’s Post land fill site is situated 1.5 kms. from Howick. on the Curry’s Post road. They accept garden and household waste and glass. It is open from 08:00 to 15:30 every day of the year.