Category Archives: Environmental Leaders

David Clulow – Inspirational Environmental Champion

David Clulow: 02.10.37 to 28.10.2015

By Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

“Where did you see that? What day was that, and what time? How many were there . . .?”

David clambering in the rocks on Sitamani

David clambering in the rocks on Sitamani

Over the years Boston residents have learned that it was not good enough simply to mention an interesting sighting in passing to David, especially when it came to all three crane species and Southern Ground-Hornbills.

During the 20 years or so that the Clulows lived in Boston they took an active part in community life and David was a leader in the Conservancy since its inception.

There has been a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes nesting in the pan adjacent to the Elands River on The Willows for many years. He began monitoring their breeding, which he recorded for the African Crane Conservation Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), as well as other crane sightings in the district. In 2011, his efforts were acknowledged when he was made a crane custodian.

2015 Grey Crowned Crane family hatched on The Willows

2015 Grey Crowned Crane family hatched on The Willows

In February 2012 David called to say their neighbour on the other side wanted him to come and look at a strange bird on her lawn. When we got there, we found a day-old crane chick, which had somehow made its way from the nesting site through thick vegetation into the garden. David took the chick home overnight, feeding it ProNutro (chocolate flavour!). Tanya Smith of the EWT collected the bird the next morning and “Bossy-Boston” is now living at the Hlatikulu Crane Centre.

Tanya Smith and Bossy

Tanya Smith and Bossy

It was David’s idea to extend the listing of sightings on a monthly basis to all fauna and flora– an idea that was later adopted by the Midlands Conservancies Forum. When the Boston Conservancy ceased to operate on a formal basis in about 2008, David began compiling a list of sightings which he distributed to the locals. He would keep an ear out at gatherings at the Country Club or elsewhere for any interesting snippets. We firmly believe that David’s gentle badgering of people for their observations had led to an increased interest in the environment and a greater awareness of the need for the conservation of special areas.

Twané Clarke of the Karkloof Conservancy said: “David was an inspiration to all who had the delight in meeting him. His Boston Sightings newsletter was a monthly highlight to our inbox, and his dedication certainly paid off by encouraging other Conservancies to start taking inventory of what they were seeing too. These monthly sighting contributions are now being enjoyed by thousands of people in over 136 different countries worldwide. He was a team player and embraced the concept of Conservancies working together and motivating each other. We will miss him and his cheerful encouragement, but his legacy will live on.”

CREW: Barbara, Christeen and David in Impendle

CREW: Barbara, Christeen and David in Impendle

After retiring for the second time (first as a professor of accountancy, and then from dairy farming) he and Barbara spent more time pursuing their interest in wildflowers, and many happy hours were spent in the veld looking at plants and recording them for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW).

Isabel Johnson of the Botanical Society of S.A. said: “He was a special person. I will always remember how much fun we had looking for special plants at Edgeware, Impendle, Mount Ashley and so many other places. His great patience and good humour when I dragged him off on immensely boring grassland surveys. He was a fantastic ecological spy and gave us many helpful early warnings of what was happening in the Boston community and district. His monthly species reports have been an inspiration to a number of conservancies. David’s contributions to conservation were of huge value and will always be valued. I will miss him.

David and Barbara on Mt Edgeware in Boston

David and Barbara on Mt Edgeware in Boston

He began accompanying me on outings to do atlasing for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) and soon became hooked on birding. The Clulows and I had several adventures while exploring the areas between Boston and Bulwer, one involving a flat tyre which might be better not to repeat here. There are still a few pentads with a lack of data that we were planning to tackle soon. I don’t relish the prospect of doing it on my own. We also took part in the annual Cape Parrot count in the Boston area for the University of KZN. Sadly, on the last two counts we did, there were no parrots to report.

Cape Parrot count Nhlosane Ridge 2013

Cape Parrot count iNhlosane Ridge 2013

On a personal level I treasure the friendship between the Clulow and Wilson families over many years as neighbours. We received support and encouragement in many ways. I admired David’s enthusiasm for life, strong belief in justice and sharp sense of humour. He will be sorely missed.

David Arthur Clulow, 2.10.37 to 28.10.2015. Husband of Barbara, father of Alistair and Megan, Suzie and Jared, much loved gramps of Noah, Fynn, Hannah and Nathan, brother of Jean and Sheila, passed away peacefully.
Memorial service at Gramarye, Farm 309 on the Everglades Rd, Boston, at 14h00 on Thursday 5 November. Open house at Clulow home in Amber Ridge on 11 November, 10h30 – 16h00.
In lieu of flowers suggest donations to the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Priscilla Francis 1922-2014

Priscilla grew up on the banks of the uMsunduzi. “I was a wild child,” she recalled happily, “We were given the free run of Pietermaritzburg. After school we’d hop on our bikes and roam for miles.” She was fortunate that the Montessori school she attended was just across the road and that her pals, Ansonia Broome, Basil Drysdale and a fox terrier named Rex, were always ready for an adventure! “Our home had huge sash windows upstairs, with no guards. No one fussed that we would fall out, we were simply told not to.” She remembers driving out into the countryside on weekends in her Grandad Fred Tatham’s Morris. “I was plonked into the outside seat with the instruction ‘Don’t fall out’.”  Five year olds have much less freedom nowadays. This made her a little sad and is one of the reasons she encouraged young people to visit and explore Milestone Forest.

r milestone sign

With her husband Peter, she built a home bedside the forest in Balgowan in 1975. She was passionate about the magnificent yellowwood trees found there from the start. It was at Milestone that the Conservancy movement in South Africa began. Tony Carr and Nick Steele helped get the ball rolling in 1978 and now there are many Conservancies in the KZN Midlands and around the country.

yellowwoos light

Priscilla’s other passion was horses – she would disappear for hours on horseback. Her friend and neighbour, Walter Addision, recalls that just a few years ago, aged 89, Priscilla fell from a horse and landed flat on the ground! Her son-in-law, Rick, remembers not long ago asking why she was limping  – “A horse kicked me” she replied. Not being able to ride across the hills, walk wherever she liked and get out and about was frustrating for Priscilla in her later years.

r priscilla paddock

She did have plenty of time to dream however. One thing that had been keeping her awake was the idea of creating one big biosphere in the Midlands, with a map of trails all across the hills and valleys. She was passionate about the natural treasures to be found in the Midlands. “We really should encourage people to explore more. With all the wonderful places to stay, the walks would not be too strenuous. Wouldn’t it be lovely?” she said.

r nat heritage

In 2007 Milestone forest received Natural Heritage Site Status. Her intention was to open the area to the public, so that everyone could enjoy the forest and learn to care for nature too. Priscilla was very supportive of the recently formed Midlands Conservancies Forum (MCF), excited by the work they are doing, giving new life to older Conservancies and spreading the conservation ethic. Milestone was one of the regular walks on the MCF calendar.

r milestone forest

She was wild about her garden and gardening. Right to the end, she used her garden fork rather than a stick to potter about in her garden – or hurtle along – as Walter puts it. Granddaughter Camilla laughs “We’ll always remember her bent double, bottom in the air, doing some weeding.” Camilla recalls a story about how Priscilla once put a fork right through her foot, but as there was no one around to help, drove herself to hospital!

r garden gate

Priscilla was outspoken and held strong, well thought out opinions. She believed that if one didn’t like what was happening, one should make a fuss. She was an important member of our community and made friends really easily, loving nothing more than a celebration at Milestone.

r priscilla memorial party

Her son, Simon Francis, said at her funeral “This is the end of a long and vibrant life. My mother lived at full tilt, with energy and enthusiasm. A remarkable woman.” Priscilla was honest and brave, determined, independent, gracious and generous, her legacy in the community will last for many years.

r Priscilla Francis 2014

On the morning she died, a couple of bushbuck wandered out of the forest, right up to her window, as if to invite her to join them. There is little doubt that Priscilla’s spirit has returned to the mist-belt forest that she loved so much. Her beloved companion, Mary, keeping watch.r maryRead more about Milestone Forest here:

Carolyn Goble

Carolyn Goble recently resigned as Chair of the Karkloof Conservancy after 16 years. She has played an enormous role in Conservation in the Midlands and is well respected in the region.Gartmore Pics 686

Ian and Ann Player are great admirers. “All of us who live in the valley are deeply indebted to Carolyn for the many years of hard work, innovation and inspiration she put into the Conservancy. The Karkloof Conservation Centre is a model of what can be done with the minimum of resources, but maximum amount of enthusiasm to honour the wildlife and the spirit of the land. Thank you Carolyn for your dedication, courage, your integrity, but particularly for your wonderful enthusiasm which infects everyone who comes into contact with you.”

Carolyn Goble chats to Ian Player.res

Carolyn tells her story “I have been a farmer’s wife for 42 years and my husband and I began farming in the Greytown district in 1968. We started dairy farming in 1975 and I managed our dairy herd for 30 years, whilst my husband did all the cropping. During our time in Greytown I was on the committee of the local branch of the Wildlife Society and also worked as a volunteer for the Umvoti Child Welfare Society for over 20 years. In 1995 we took the decision to leave Greytown and look for a farm with more water. We bought a beautiful dairy farm in the Karkloof and brought all our cows, machinery and farm family to an area with a higher rainfall and the most amazing biodiversity.

After 2 years I mentioned to my husband that I really missed not doing the annual game counts that we had always done with the Greytown Conservancy. He encouraged me to organise the first Game Count in the Karkloof in July 1997. This was very well received by the local farmers and their families and I was then encouraged by some really good people, who were involved in conservation, to re-establish the Karkloof Conservancy and in 1998 I was elected Chairperson.”


Over the years Karkloof Conservancy has tackled various conservation issues, organised interesting speakers, done annual game and bird counts, hosted frogging evenings and also created awareness about the endangered species which occur in the region e.g. the wattled cranes, the Cape parrots, the Southern Ground Hornbill, the Karkloof Blue butterfly, Oribi and the black stinkwood tree which is virtually extinct.

FROG Zoe Goble, John Robbins, Carolyn Goble res.

Anita Turvey is very appreciative of Carolyn’s efforts: “Thank you Carolyn for all that you do for the Conservancy – I know that no-one will ever be able to match what you have done – starting the Conservancy many, many years ago and building it up to the beautiful and informative centre that it now is!! You DO deserve your break and I really hope you find someone who is prepared to take over.”


Carolyn trained as a teacher, so it didn’t take much persuasion for her to start an environmental education programme at 6 local farm schools. “I must say that working with children has always been my big love and it is so rewarding to see the response that one gets from these children who are so keen and eager to learn. The farmers are very supportive, as they believe that it was an extremely good idea to introduce the children to conservation.”


Florence Buthelezi principal of Triandra school: “Carolyn is our Gogo. Triandra is in her heart. The staff and learners  are part of her family and her grandchildren visit our school and socialise with the learners.  We call her “our school engine” because she helps us so much. No one can take the love of nature from her and she has instilled a love of natue in both learners and educators.”

Thenjiwe Ngcobo, Carolyn Goble, Flo Buthelezi, Andrew Anderson res

Karkloof schools have all earned their Eco-Schools status, with Hawkstone Primary achieving International Green Flag status. Bheki Lipheyana, Principal of Hawkstone adds “Carolyn will be remembered for her organisational skills and love of children. When entering each classroom, she would greet the children in isiZulu and admire their artwork with appreciation. She wouldn’t leave without going into the garden and making comment or two. That made her very special to me.”


Every year a theme, relevant to the area, is chosen. This might be grasslands, water, cranes or mountains. Learners produce art which is displayed at the Conservancy AGM so members can vote for their favourite. The school with the best work is rewarded with an educational excursion and picnic.


The Karkloof Conservation Centre is the pride of Karkloof.  The Karkloof Conservancy, led by Carolyn, raised funding for this Conservation Centre and Bird Hides from the SAPPI Tree Routes Partnership, and the funding was administered by the Wildlands Conservation Trust.  Situated 15 kms outside Howick, the Centre consists of a Conservation and Tourism Office, The Nick Steele picnic site, as well as two  world class bird hides. This Centre was opened by Dr Ian Player in October 2007.  Since then many visitors have spent time admiring the amazing biodiversity of the area.


Carolyn has encouraged landowners to become involved in the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. The Mount Gilboa Nature Reserve in the Karkloof, which is approximately 725ha, has now been formally proclaimed and Mondi is the first forestry company to enter into a Biodiversity Agreement with KZN Wildlife. Dartmoor Farm, which adjoins the Karkloof Nature Reserve, has been purchased by Wildlands and will be managed by KZN Wildlife and the Mbona Private Nature Reserve has also been registered under the new Biodiversity Act. This brings a total of approximately 4000ha in the Karkloof already under formal conservation. Recently other farmers, who are all Conservancy members, have joined the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. If all these properties are successful in their proclamation, a further 1800 ha will be added to the 4000ha and conserved for future generations. Charlie MacGillivray comments “On behalf of the whole of the Karkloof Conservancy, our heartfelt gratitude for all your timeless efforts since you came to the Karkloof and breathed new, vibrant and enduring life into what we now are proud of as being a functional, happy, committed and enthusiastic membership and associate participants, working towards ensuring our beautiful area remains pristine and where possible, improves.”


Andrew Ferendinos (Chairman of the KZN Crane Foundation): “Sixteen years ago the Karkloof Conservancy was established by Carolyn Goble and others. Thanks to their efforts today the Karkloof remains a living jewel. A jewel the local community has industriously polished: with bird hides; thriving populations of wildlife; environmental education work in local schools; ecotourism businesses (from canopy tours to forest lodges) and pioneering work in no till farming and other environmentally friendly farming practices. Carolyn Goble has been part of the glue that has held all of this together. Carolyn Goble has also (somehow) found the time to extend support and encouragement to many younger conservationists, she will be missed and remembered with gratitude.”


Carolyn concludes: “This area of Mist Belt Mixed Podocarpus Forest and Mist Belt Grasslands, as well as the wetland at our Conservation Centre, are rare and threatened in South Africa and need to be protected at all costs. As I have a deep love of nature and greatly appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the Karkloof, I will continue to do all that I can to see that this protection is granted. Looking back, I can see that my experiences in Greytown with the Greytown Conservancy, the Wildlife Society and the Umvoti Child Welfare Society have stood me in good stead!”

Eidin Griffin, Carolyn Gobles, Jon Bates, Jenny Stipcich, Ann Burke