Members of the Midlands Conservancies Forum met at Fort Nottingham yesterday. After exploring the museum and shop, Stephen Krog entertained us with some interesting history of the area, where in 1856, the 45th Nottinghamshire regiment set up the small fort to protect settlers from the bushmen. His colourful story included peach brandy, illegitimate children, disreputable soldiers, a telephone exchange operator no one really wanted to speak to, bushmen raids, travelling salesmen, fierce storms, a railway re-routed, hunting parties which decimated the wildlife and a post office which annoyed the authorities.
We then headed into the hills – the 1500ha Fort Nottingham Commonage to be exact. The views stretched forever over the village and east across the Midlands. The Lion’s Bush Conservancy are working hard to have this area with special forest, wetland and grassland protected under the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.
In the grassland, Roy pointed out old wagon trails and we discovered some interesting plants among the Themeda triandra and other grasses. Apparently, Oribi used to be abundant here, but numbers have reduced dramatically in the last few years.
Almost 300 bird species have been recorded in the area, there are abundant reed buck, bush buck and jackal as well as baboons, duiker, serval, mongoose and genet. There are occasional reports of leopard sightings too.
At a rocky outcrop, we found floral treasures tucked beside the rocks – Eucomis humilis, Geranium wakkerstroomium, Senecio. Gareth discovered an iridescent blue insect – a cockroach wasp.
At the highest point, we tried to work out where the rest of the Midlands, which we were familiar with, was – Kamberg (uNgeleni), uMngeni Poort, Inhlosane and various well known farms.
After exclaiming endlessly about the incredible views, finding lots of pretty flowers (Erica aestiva, Sophubia cana, Watsonia, Kniphofia laxiflora, Eriosema, Lobelia, Crassula) and chatting about conservancy issues, we headed back down the hill.
Tea and sandwiches were provided by members of the Lion’s Bush Conservancy on the verandah of Val and Roy Tabernor’s home and resturant (Els Amics) before we settled down for a meeting. As the sun set, everyone headed reluctantly home from this tranquil village.
On the third Thursday of every month, the Lion’s Bush Conservancy hosts a walk in the area. Contact Roy Tabernor to book 082 487 0922