Tag Archives: fort nottingham

The Chairmans’ Walk

Adrian Wilson, Chairman of Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy and Roy Tabernor, Chairman of Lions Bush Conservancy, recently undertook an experimental cross country walk from Nottingham Road to Fort Nottingham. This was, of course, with the permission of the relevant land owners. Adrian took the pictures and wrote this account.

A large part of the route was along the impressive ridge that runs between the two villages and ends in the newly proclaimed nature reserve at Fort Nottingham commonage, before the steep descent to Fort Nottingham.

fort notts view

Long shadows in the early morning, along with impossibly blue sky, impossibly green grass and impossibly blue dam.

long shadows

The route involved a number of fairly stiff climbs but the views from on top of the ridge were spectacular.

intrepid Roy setting a stiff pace up a steep climb

Springrove Dam and the Loteni Road on one side

springgrove dam

and the Dargle Valley, looking towards uMngeni Vlei,  on the other.

looking over Dargle to uMngeni vlei

Also interesting is the fact that this ridge is located on the catchment boundary between the Mooi and Umgeni Rivers.  At the top of a steep climb, looking back towards Nottingham Road.

looking back towards Nottingham Road

We admired the profusion of stunning wild flowers along the route, including Watsonia,

profusion of wildflowers

Cyanotis speciosa

cyanotis speciosa

Jamebritennia breviflora

jamesbritennia breviflora

Scilla nervosa

scilla nervosa

and lots of bracken with yellow Helichrysum in flower.

yellow bracken like plant

Might this be a Magic Mushroom?

magic mushroom

We surprised a yellow billed duck, and came upon her nest half way up a hill.

Nest of a yellow billed duck

Indigenous bush just below the summit of the ridge.

Indigenous bush just below the summit of the ridge

Strange stone structures on the commonage reminiscent of primitive man.

Strange stone structures

The walk took roughly 5 to 6 hours. At the end, Roy and Adrian, overlooking Fort Nottingham village speculated on whether there would be a broader interest in such cross country walks in the beautiful Natal Midlands under the banner of ‘The Chairmans’ Walk’. There must be endless possibilities.

Bird’s eye view of Fort Nottingham


Fracking Issues – Right Here

Lions Bush Conservancy are justifiably concerned about fracking, as we all should be.  The LBC Committee put together the following information gleaned from an SABC2 program during March.

Hydraulic fracturing (termed fracking for short) to release gas from shale beds is a real possibility in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. All of Lions Bush Conservancy has underlying shale beds of the Karroo geological system. However, it is possible that fracking may not be viable in our area due to the presence of dolerite dykes that cross the area. The LBC committee is hoping in the near future to have some clarity on this by having a geologist give a presentation to members.

r Lake Lyndhurst 005

The SABC2’s program on the 3rd of March featured an interview with a journalist who has been investigating fracking overseas for a number of years. He stated that one of the consequences of fracking is the contamination of the ground water with gas and hazardous chemicals.  These pollutants can also enter the streams and rivers of the area and cause sickness. As most of the Conservancy’s members rely on either groundwater or the stream and rivers of the area, any contamination could have negative consequences.

r Lake Lyndhurst 149

As fracking is believed to create large number of jobs and the gas extracted could have enormous economic benefit for the country, the present government is more than likely to go ahead with fracking. With the mineral resources of the country in the hands of the government, landowners will have no say in the implementation of fracking. The journalist mentioned above recommends that a landowner should have his water source (if sourced from groundwater or streams) chemically tested before any exploration for fracking starts and obtain a certificate detailing the results.  Should fracking occur and the landowner’s water is contaminated, this certificate can be used to verify the fact that contamination has occurred and the extent thereof. Hopefully then damages can be claimed (see Insurance issues at end of article).

taking water sample res.

Judy Bell, Chair of MCF has put together a proposal to the Water Research Commission for a project to create a data base of freshwater sources in the area.  This would assist landowners with the costs associated with water testing as these can be quite high.  An extract from the proposal:

“The Midlands of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) is considered an area worthy of Hydraulic Fracturing for extraction of shale gas (Fracking) as shown in the following map. Prospecting licences have been issued and the Midlands landowners and other residents have requested an assessment is undertaken to understand the baseline of water quality, prior to any prospecting taking place.

fracking midlands map

The Midlands Conservancies Forum is located within the uMgungungdlovu District Municipality and within a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. Around 5 million people currently rely on this river and its tributaries for water. In order to determine the amount of shale gas present in the Midlands and its viability as an energy source, prospecting will need to take place. This activity has the potential to affect ground-water quality. For the decision to be taken to prospect, a baseline assessment of water resources, their quality and usage is required to understand the impact any change in water quality may have from prospecting.

Currently, this information is not comprehensive enough to inform decision-making. This project will help to determine how much non-municipal water is being used in the KZN Midlands, for what purpose and its quality over a dry and wet season.

This project’s work will build the capacity of the relevant regulators and inform decision-making relating to fracking and other potential developments in this National Freshwater Priority Area. The database of water resources (both ground- and surface water) currently used by those without access to a Municipal supply will be able to be maintained by the Department of Water Affairs after the completion of the project.

The database of water quality from the snapshot of analytical results of these resources during a wet and dry season, will enhance the knowledge of the status of the water in the area. The development of standards against which the analytical results can be assessed will assist regulators and users alike.”

Another fracking issue to consider is that of Insurance. 

Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and AfriForum have formally approached South African Insurers and the South African Insurance Association to clarify their policy on the unique risks presented by shale gas mining and ancillary activities.

With the advent of new technology and shale gas mining spreading at a rapid pace in the United States, insurance providers are scrambling to review their polices and adjust accordingly.  For many companies, such as Nationwide, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, a thorough review of the damages that can arise due to fracking and other drilling activities, has led to the conclusion that it is better for the company to refuse coverage altogether for any damages related to fracking.

According to an internal memo outlining the company’s policy, “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”  Unsurprisingly, this information has raised legal questions and valid concerns for many US home and property owners.

TKAG CEO, Jonathan Deal is of the opinion that the issue of liability for and indemnity from likely claims is something that communities, homeowners and farmers must be informed about. “The potential for loss here – as a result of an accident – or simply accumulated and unanticipated impacts over a period of time – is enormous, and anyone exposed to these risks – even road users, and people with occasional passing exposure to the activity has an undeniable right to be properly informed by their insurer ahead of time.”

Fracking debate on SAfm: Friday 30 May 2014

WWF and SAfm are hosting a debate and panel discussion on fracking on Friday morning, 30 May at 07:30 – 09:30. TKAG will be represented by Jonathan Deal. Other speakers will include Mariette Liefferink (Federation for a Sustainable Environment) , Dhesigen Naidoo (Water Research Commission) and several others.

Follow these easy steps: Vote in favour or against this motion: ‘fracking threatens our water resources’.

  1. Cast your vote online at www.wwf.org.za/?10963/dd-fracking or send an sms to 34701 (R2 per sms) on Friday morning 30 May 07:30 to 09:30
  2. Tune in or listen online at www.sabc.co.za/safm

fracking web

Far-Sighted Municipality Protects Biodiversity

Beacon Hill, the 40 hectare jewel of Moist Mist-belt grassland right in Howick is safe for the next 99 years.

20111220 - Beacon Hill - flora_06

Last week, the uMngeni Municipal Manager, Dr Ngubane, signed agreements with the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme to have Beacon Hill officially declared a Protected Area.  The Municipality must be congratulated for their forward thinking approach to serving the citizens of uMngeni.  Less than 2% of the original grassland in KZN is conserved. Grassland ecosystems provide society with essential goods and services including water storage, carbon sinks and habitats for many medicinal plants, birds and animals.

chlorophytum on Beacon Hill res.

Further exciting news is that the Fort Nottingham Commonage, another 1096 hectares of endangered grassland also owned by the Municipality, will be incorporated into the existing 131 hectare Fort Nottingham Nature Reserve owned and managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW). This is really important for the conservation of vulnerable Drakensberg Foothill Grasslands, Mistbelt Forest, Protea Savannah and Wetlands which provide the village with clean water and is a source tributary to the Lions River.

Scilla natalensisRs

Ross Haynes, Chair of Friends of Beacon Hill, comments “In 2011 we met with the Mayor, Councillor Mbali Myeni. She was very supportive of our plan to have the area conserved. Last year, the application for protective status was supported when it came to Council along with the Fort Nottingham project. I truly doubt that this would have happened so soon had it not been for the support, knowledge and hard work of Gareth Boothway, Biodiversity Stewardship Manager for the Midlands Conservancies Forum.”

cyrtanthus contractus

The process has taken nearly seven years in Fort Nottingham but Roy Tabernor, Chair of the Lion’s Bush Conservancy, thinks it was worth the effort.  “Villagers walk regularly on the commonage and value the wildlife found there, including Oribi, Samango monkeys and the Long Toed Tree Frog.  Our members see this as a great step forward in conservation and many are now also in consultation regarding portions of their land being under the stewardship programme.  Meeting the Mayor really was the turning point in the process which had dragged on for so long, we are really grateful to Gareth for setting this up.”

Roy Tabernor

Gareth Boothway is naturally delighted with the developments.  “This has been an incredible collaborative effort. The Department of Agriculture assisted with veld assessments and developing the rangeland management plan, EKZNW contributed technical advice, the Botanical Society gave specialist advice on the plants and the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme helped facilitate the process working towards proclamation. With this cooperation we can have a big impact on protecting the eco-systems which support our lives. The uMngeni Mayor must be commended for taking action towards conserve important biodiversity for the benefit of all who live here.”

b hill ngos.res. JPG