Splashing in Dargle on a Summer’s Day

Saturday 8th March dawned a glorious, sunny day as Penny Rees headed out to one of her  favourite places in the Dargle – the Dargle River on Howard Long’s farm Craigdarroch.

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This spot was chosen for the MCF/Dargle Conservancy Water Workshop because it is one of the few parts of the Dargle River which are in good condition.

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Penny reports: After tea and scones made by Howard’s wife Cheryl and daughter Jennifer, I showed everyone a slide show on the Dargle river walk which took place in January this year.  There was lots of discussion about how to clear invasive plants in the riparian zone and ideas and experiences were shared.

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We then headed out to the river, passing spectacularly large bulls, who gazed at us from a shady spot, and hearing about the history of the farm.

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The old stone storage shed that had been built by the original Scottish settlers (the Sinclairs) to double up as a fort if the need should arise.

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Above a cascade, Howard pointed out a large sheet of flat rock that was the ford (in the old days) – the only access to the farm! This must have been either terrifying or non-negotiable during heavy river flows!

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Howard told us how they drank the water from this Dargle stream until about 10 years ago. He has been clearing wattles and other invasive plants along the tributary gullies which feed into the stream for many years.

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“Once you take out the wattles, the indigenous vegetation comes back. It is a 100 times better than it was, but obviously, each year you have to keep going back and clearing.”

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“This river is only 18kms long,” he added “Surely, if we work together we can restore it to it’s natural state?”  Wyndham Robartes shared his experience of successfully clearing the riparian zones on his property using goats rather than chemicals.

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We crested a hill and there lay the Dargle River, clear bright water bubbling over rocks passing beautiful river banks with long waving veld grass that alternated with patches of forest.

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Penny explained how to do a miniSASS and armed with plastic containers, we were rearing to go.

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Getting our feet wet was an absolute pleasure as we hunted for the invertebrates in the river – we found stout crawlers, prongills and damselflies and plenty more.

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Once again (as during the River Walk in January) we hit the jackpot – Stonefly.

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The mini sass score for the days was 7.1  indicating that the river was in good condition.

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A lively discussion followed on the roles that the different invertebrates have in the river ecology – from the slow moving planaria that favour shaded quiet waters to the frenetic riffle beetles that rush around on the surface of the fast flowing water.

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Rose Downard found the morning  really interesting.  “Quite amazing what a difference it can make to the miniSASS score to find a Stone Fly, yet every insect has a part to play, including the humble snail. I think it would be wonderful if the whole of the Dargle River could be cleared of alien vegetation and restored to a healthy river again. It is an important part of the Dargle and should be treated as such.”

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