Dargle Primary School Grade 6 and 7 classes were very excited about their trip to the Dargle Nature Reserve last week, but first decided on a few rules.
- To be quiet in the forest
- To be kind and helpful to each other
- To respect the forest and its inhabitants.
Using Share-net booklets on forests and grasslands, Gugu Zuma and Eidin Griffin of the Midlands Meander Education Project helped them look at all the possible animals we might find in the forest. We also learnt a new word – ‘nocturnal’ – before Dennis Sokhela, of Old Kilgobbin Farm, arrived in the kombi to fetch us. We gathered up our water bottles and hats and set off for Kilgobbin forest.
Barend Booysen greeted us warmly as we sorted our picnic into different rucksacks and met his very excited dogs. The children were initially frightened by the enthusiastic canine welcome committee but the two new Labrador puppies soon had them giggling and playing happily. Leaving the dogs behind, we headed into the forest. Barend explained how he and Helen look after the forest and why we need to leave only footprints.
As we walked along the sun dappled paths, Barend pointed out interesting trees including wonderful yellowwoods in different stages of life from 20 years to 1000 years old and showed us how to differentiate between the various leaves. Everyone was thrilled to spot some Samango monkeys browsing on new leaves in the trees. We sat for some quiet time, breathing in the clean air and breathing out all our cares. Mlungisi was amazed at the old trees saying “Wow, you will never find a person that is 200 years old.”
Barend had the children really intrigued when he took out his cellphone, played bird sounds and then the birds came to visit! So exciting! The children recognised different bird sounds and were lucky enough to see two African Harrier Hawks skimming above the canopy. Finding porcupine scat and looking at where the bush buck and bushpig scratch themselves on trees was also a thrill. They got to swing on a liana and investigate mosses and lichens.
We headed up a steep hill to our picnic spot in the forest. After healthy sandwiches, oranges and a chocolate muffin the children carefully packed away their packaging and we climbed up and out into the grasslands.
Finding a comfortable shady spot under some flowering Ouhout trees we settled down again for a story. Eidin choose ‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss. It was a perfect story as we chatted about how we need to protect our indigenous forests and all their precious inhabitants.
Then we hopped and skipped across the hayfields and had a little playtime on the raft at the dam before arriving back at Kilgobbin where everyone hugged Barend and clambered into the kombi before Carl Bronner drove everyone back to school.
Eidin said “We had an utterly magic day. It could be described as the perfect day.” Gugu added enthusiastically “We had so much fun and learnt so much. What a wonderful place. I would like to bring the kids from my Zenzane and Nxamalala Enviro Clubs here too.”
The children LOVED their adventure in the forest with ‘Papa Ben’ and have started writing stories and drawing pictures about their experience. Thanks to Dargle Conservancy for giving these children such an incredible experience. Big hugs to Barend for his generosity of time and spirit – he children were especially impressed when he challenged them to catch him and raced off across the hayfields! It would not have been possible to get all the children back and forth without the help of Carl Bronner and Dennis Sokhela, so we are very thankful to them too. What a wonderful and inspiring day.