Skip to main content


The story of the leaking pipe continues.

After our heroic efforts to seal the leak in the cement pipe in the mud last time we went back last Wednesday to reconnect the join in the pipe. What an impossible job that turned out to be as we could not manage to bring the two ends of the pipe close enough together for the join to fit properly without some leakage. So we decided to return to the mud patch and were pleased to see that the soil had dried up considerably. Rob turned the water back on and all seemed reasonable though he heard a gurgling sound by the railway line and some seepage by our concrete. We closed the hole and the gully nonetheless. It took quite a while for the water to reach the arboretum but when it did we were pleased to find that the original pressure was back. So we declared it a success with some work still to be done.

We bought some plumbing parts during the week and were all ready to finish the job yesterday. Out of courtesy we phoned Thomas so he was aware what we were doing and he told us in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed on the property. This was a big problem because there was no water at all in the nursery so the pipe must have come apart. Off we went to the manhole to turn the stopcock off so we wouldn’t waste water just running out and took the opportunity to check the pipe up to the boundary of the Lottering property. More bad news as both by the railway line and our ‘fixed’ joint there is considerable seepage.

We are now at a loss what to do as without this water supply we cannot keep the nursery going and the pond with the fish will dry up.

For the rest of the day we kept ourselves busy in the nursery and did some weeding in the traffic circle.


Time to catch up as blogging hasn’t exactly been number one priority as far as Van Stadens is concerned, there was little positive to report.

Take last Wednesday, we removed the tree that had fallen on the overhead pipeline, in doing so I broke the support wire, managed to fix it, added a lot more cable ties for extra strength. We had also carried a long ladder down to sort out the sagging bit at the river crossing, it was just long enough and by balancing precariously against the pipe and violating all safety rules managed to sort that out too. It did not make one drop difference in water pressure and we found out why when Rob returned from his introductory visit to the new owners of the Gibson property. He had followed a stream which crossed the entrance road to the field where the source of this stream became evident. A sizeable wattle tree had grown over the pipe and its roots had obviously badly damaged the old cement pipe.

At last the reason for the drop in pressure I had noticed for a while was now evident, in fact it is quite amazing that we had any water at all in the Reserve.

It looked like quite a job to fix it and not one I was particularly keen to tackle but thankfully Rob and Neil were prepared to help so it was decided that Ellie and I would go to the start of the pipe, open the manhole and close the stopcock. This we did and, even though we did not have the right equipment, managed (or so we thought) to close it.

Back at the nursery checked on the misting house only to find that last week’s adjustment had been a bit too much, plants were rather dry and hadn’t developed much and then when I wanted to water the succulents in the greenhouse with our hosepipe and soft spray I found that the attachment on the tap had been stolen. At this stage the enthusiasm for Van Stadens was running at an all time low.

Fast forward to Sunday… The plan had been to tackle the repair on Saturday but the weather was just too bad so Sunday morning Rob, Neil, Ellie and I gathered at the entrance gate to Gibson’s property (we will have to find a new name) and met some of the staff there who were quite helpful and friendly. They told us the water had been running for more than a month and they had reported it.

We marched to the leak and found that the water was still streaming as fast as it had been, obviously we hadn’t managed to close the stopcock properly. Nevertheless we got cracking at digging the tree out, uncovering the pipe and digging a gully for the water to run away, quite a muddy experience! Off to the manhole again, this time with the correct spanner and managed to give it a few more turns. This slowed the flow considerably but not enough to be able to close the hole. Only when we disconnected the pipe closer to the reserve to release the back pressure did the flow stop and now we felt confident enough to carry our box, concrete, mixing drum the considerable distance from the car to the leak and proceed to do the repair. Fingers crossed for Wednesday when we will switch the water back on.

The whole process took quite a while, from 9:00 to 1:30 so the late lunch in the FOVS room was most welcome. Afterwards we went for a first gear only drive through the reserve to enjoy the fabulous fynbos and chat to some visitors who were doing the same thing but much more energetic on their bicycles so our enthusiasm for Van Stadens was restored.

A rainy day

We should have paid closer attention to the weather report, after all it warned us that it would rain today. We first fetched 11 bags of compost again and were delayed by Mr. Vermaak needing a chat.

It had rained in PE the two previous days so we decided to weed in the entrance circle because the soil would be soft. Turned out the rain had bypassed Van Stadens so the soil was actually quite hard. We were most surprised that the staff had planted some Hawortias and other plants on the east bank and had landscaped the west bank. They had even watered the new plantings. The weeding took longer than we anticipated and we only finished at teatime when we went to the nursery and first offloaded our compost and put it in the greenhouse.

Cathy, Ruth, Keith an Rob joined us from their hacking and I could show off our first rooted Pelargonium cutting from the misting house, not quite greeted with the enthusiasm I expected, ag, they are easy to grow was the comment.

While we were having coffee it started to rain and we had showers for the rest of the day. This curtailed our activities somewhat, I put up some shelves in the Fovs room, Rob went out in the rain anyway to pull out inkberries while the others potted and filled rooting trays in the greenhouse. The misting house is now full!

Lunchtime Keith and co left, Rob carried on with some more ringbarking and we chainsawed some branches off the cut down bluegum before proceeding to the nursery. There we were surprised again to find bundles of thatching grass in the rondavel. Could it be true that they at long last decided to fix the Xhosa huts?


It was drizzling steadily again so, apart from spreading some compost around the young trees we missed last time there wasn’t much else we could do so it was a good opportunity to inspect our water pipe for possible leaks as I have been worried about the pressure lately.

We followed the pipe down the slope through the wet vegetation and were very happy that the pipe is very well covered and only near the bottom were there a few places where more rocks need to be placed over the pipe. There is now also a new path to some logs across the stream which crosses the pipe and some rocks have been kicked off.

IMGP6971 We noticed that the erosion in the riverbed is getting worse and worse.

IMGP6972Here we found the first problem, the cable ties holding the pipe to the supporting wire have broken in places and the pipe sags considerably, we’ll need a ladder to sort that out.
IMGP6973On the other side of the stream we found the biggest issue, a young bluegum has fallen over on top of the pipe, again breaking cable ties and putting considerable tension on the pipe. A handsaw and some replacement ties will do the trick here.

We then crossed the fence to what we still call Gibson’s place, nowhere is the pipe exposed and the air valve looks in good shape so no problem there apart from the place being overrun with aliens, quite a dramatic sight.
So the conclusion is that the pipeline up to Gibson is in very good condition apart from the few issues highlighted above. There is no visible reason in this section why the pressure should have dropped so it is time to visit our new neigbour and inspect the pipe on his property all the way to the source.


Back at the nursery we made good use of a length of gutter Rob found in the bush to secure our pots which keep on blowing over.

We still tried our best to warm up with a cup of coffee but we were chilled to the bone and only a hot bath back at home sorted that out,

To the fort

The monthly meeting was on yesterday and a walk to the fort in Longmore Forest was the objective. The weather was quite unpredictable, it turned out quite fresh with a light breeze, ideal for walking. Unfortunately some people didn’t pitch so the cost of the permit that Ellie went to a lot of trouble for to organize wasn’t completely covered.

Nine of us set off from Van Stadens, met Rasheed on the way and a friendly attendant opened the gate just past Culturama for us and we proceeded to just beyond the Van Stadens River crossing and parked there.


The tracks in the forest look all alike and sometimes it can be quite a challenge not to get lost. Fortunately the forest around there is quite young so we spotted the old Boer War fort quite easily on top of the hill even though it did not quite match up to my map. Only later did it become clear that in fact there are two forts and we went to the ‘wrong’ one which turned out to be the right one.



We looked around, took photos, did some botanizing and retraced our steps to make it back to the Reserve in good time to enjoy our coffee and cake and a good old chinwag.


Everyone helped afterwards offloading the trailer with more repotted plants, admired the misting house, checked the nursery and such things. We also collected the bag with Bryophyllum delagoense that had been pulled out in the Arboretum the day before, thanks to the Woodridge students there are now a few less to worry about. The porcupines are still at it, bulbs we planted on Wednesday under the impression they don’t like those had all been munched and their diggings are evident all over the Arboretum. A bit discouraging actually.

Playing with sand

Thanks to the generosity of the people at the municipal nursery we got some surplus river sand from their newly installed misting house so today we removed all the old soil from the misting house and replaced it with the proper sand. Whilst doing so another weak spot in the heating wire broke, it looks like it is only a matter of time before we need to replace the wire, hopefully after our first successful rooting procedure.

I was more than pleasantly surprised how well last weeks Pelargonium cuttings looked and couldn’t resist to pull one out to check for roots. Of course after only one week nothing yet. They seemed a little wet though so I changed the timer settings to less water more often, we’ll see again on Sunday.


At teatime we checked the SD card from the wildlife camera and apart from some visiting people Rob also got some good porcupine pictures. Great to see it is working, not so great to see the damage they do, more Sterculia bark removed, Babania dug out and a big hole dug to get at the Sterculia roots near the Albizia. Thank goodness they don’t seem to like the Veltheimas in the forest glade which are budding nicely.

We thought it would be a good time to prune the young trees in the arboretum and use the cuttings for propagation, we are not experts but are convinced the trees are looking better for it. With Cathy and Ellie filling more trays with cuttings the misting house is now nearly full!

Even though Keith, our chief bluegum chainsaw massacre proponent, was not there some more trees were ringbarked. Judging by the number of seedlings in the vicinity it is a necessity and hopefully we can soon plant indigenous replacement trees.

The Protea compacta looked stunning on this winter’s day with Cathy and Rob in the background carrying their tools of alien extermination.


We finished off by collecting another trailer full of composted sawdust from the sawmill to be used for repotting in the nursery.