A small river which is entirely ours
…and therefore entirely our responsibility
– By Adrian Flett of Rosetta/Nottingham Road Conservancy
A small but significant tributary of the Mooi River rises in the hills to the west of Nottingham Road, flows eastwards and under the R103 at the edge of the village. It feeds an extensive wetland and flows north towards Rosetta, where it again passes under the R103 and is the source of Rosetta Dam before it joins the Mooi River. This makes it a contributor to water in Midmar Dam through the Mearns Transfer pipeline and therefore a source of water for Durban and Pietermaritzburg as well as several other smaller centres.
We have been told that years ago the local children caught fish in this small river, which we have heard referred to as Springvale Stream and for want of another name right now, we will use that name here.
Springvale Stream faces so many challenges and impacts in its relatively short journey to the Mooi, that it is difficult to imagine a worse situation for a rural river. And although many of us pass the stream at least once a week, we are so used to what has been happening over the years that we simply accept what has and is being done. The whole catchment of the river is within the boundaries of the RNR Conservancy and offers a great opportunity – and a great challenge.
The less disturbed riparian areas along the river have so many flowers that it makes us wonder what the original little river with its wetlands must have been like: a real wild garden! There is not much we can do about some of the impacts but we can certainly take care of what we have left and it would be gross negligence not to do so. We hope to survey sections of the stream little by little to build up a picture of the biological diversity and we will be asking for specialist help for some of this work. But in the meantime we appeal to all the community to be aware of “Our River” and the activities along its course.
The main stream rises in hills partially covered in plantation forestry. When it reaches Nottingham Road and the R103 it has to contend with various industrial developments and we see that “platforms” are still being made for further development out into the wetland which has colonies of kniphofia and gladiolus (probably dalenii both bright orange and brown) . Have these developments all had the go-ahead from an Environmental Impact Assessment? Surely not! Has the stream reached the stage of being written off environmentally?
The R103 itself has had an impact on the water flow into the river but the good news is that Shea O’Connor School is a WESSA Eco School and have taken the small tributary on their school grounds seriously. The railway line of course has had a huge impact on Springvale Stream and its wetlands. We cannot change the road or the railway line but we can monitor pollution along these and remove alien invasive plants like bramble.
A new and very large impact on the Springvale Stream is the building of the Springrove Dam transfer pipeline. Again, this cannot be altered but some of the activities related to the pipeline require mitigation. An immediate example is the gravel platform at the entrance to Springvale Farm just off the R103 where this gravel is eroding into a wetland area filled with wild flowers and at least one “muti” plant, Gunnera perpensa.
Along the middle section of the stream, conservation-based farming attitudes have ensured that reedbuck may frequently be seen from the R103 in the early mornings and evenings, especially towards sundown on cool evenings. This is very satisfying and is an example of how wildlife can be encouraged even when there are adverse conditions, such as a busy road and a noisy railway line in close proximity. The little colony of rock hyrax mentioned in Newsletter One is also on an edge of this farm and is further referred to in this newsletter, where Jan was able to save the life of a member of the colony.
The presence of wildlife, birds and flowers are such positive factors that we are sure that great results can be won from the conservation of this stream system. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to boast of a botanical beauty spot on the Midlands Meander? We look forward to bringing you more news of and reports on Springvale Stream.