One can dwell on all the damage that the fire has done, all the signs gone, the bird hide gone, our water supply gone, picnic tables gone, some of the planting burnt etc. but that is pretty self-defeating so we try to look for the positives and the opportunities this new situation brings.
For the past few month we have tried to trace the old Boulder Trail along the western boundary. Once it was one of the more spectacular trails in the Reserve but Wesley closed it down after some people got into difficulties. It was now very overgrown and we did not have the time and the resources to open it up again. Well, the fire did it for us and it was very exciting to figure out how it went amongst the still smouldering anthills and pine tree stumps.
The cycads along the way looked rather desolate but they will recover.
There are still quite a few burnt sticks to be negotiated so we turned out pretty black. Though the path is a little exposed in places it offers some spectacular views across the gorge and to the river below. It would be a great addition to the perimeter trail between the River Walk and the Link Trail and also provide better access to control the wattle, pines and hakea on these slopes.
We also had been looking for the trig beacon which is somewhere in the Reserve but due to dense, impenetrable bush have not been able to find it. Well, now it was a breeze,
The vane was lying next to it, so I fixed that and I think with a lick of paint it could be a nice landmark, These beacons are now obsolete but people are trying to preserve them so why not.
We are also looking forward to see the vegetation recover and following their progress just as we are doing with the Paranomus in the Arboretum. Just eight days after the fire we saw the first fire lilies and that with no rain at all.
I’m catching up with this blog because it has been quite hectic after the fire which was the most extensive fire in the reserve for years. It apparently started in Longmore forest and, due to very strong westerly winds, made its way to the Van Stadens gorge and burnt large areas around Thornhill, Lady Slipper and beyond.
We went to check up the day after to see what was left and it was very little. Thank goodness the nursery, most of the Arboretum and some sections which burnt last year were spared.
I think it is best said with some images:
Ellie looking at what’s left of the ‘Big Bang’, just the previous week we admired the Sterculia in full flower, now only a stump is left.
The remnants of the bird hide we were so proud of and, judging by all the comments in the now vanished visitors book, was popular with many. Not to mention the trees and various flowers we planted around it.
A blue haze still hung over the forest which was largely saved but some trees have fallen over and were still smouldering.
Electricity supply was interrupted and some poles had to be replaced.
Miraculously the wooden seat on Rob’s Roost was still intact though badly scorched, not sure if it will still be useable.
The very solid picnic table at the lookout which has been there for many years is damaged beyond repair and the plaque honouring Gwen Skinner has disappeared.
It has been a very hot fire judging by the extent to which the Proteas have burnt and, even though many seeds have spread, it remains to be seen how quickly everything will recover during this severe drought.
The fire also spread to the neighbouring farm with the result that a large section of our water supply pipe has burnt. This leaves the community vegetable garden run by ‘Farming God’s Way’ without water to irrigate.
The monthly meeting for a change was not about work but about enjoying ourselves and we were curious how the forest coped with the drought. It was remarkable how dry and sparse the vegetation on the forest floor had become and how many leaves the trees had shed.
A positive aspect of this was that we could see the lay of the land much better and we noticed rock formations we hadn’t seen before.
We took our time to inspect and discuss everything …
and had a lovely rest at the trickle which remains of the forest stream.
There were still a few plants in flower including this Heamanthus albiflos
Afterwards the two birthday boys, Rob and Keith, were treated to their own special individual birthday cakes lovingly baked by Ellie.
In our efforts to find out the names of some of the plants in the reserve we made these collages and sent them to the experts.
and we also wanted to find out the difference between the Widdringtonias.
Amazing how much scope there still is to discover plants.
We carried on with the irrigation pipes in the arboretum to make life a little easier when watering the trees, just trying to keep on top of things.
Later we worked in the nursery, mainly weeding and discovered these lovely Brunsvigias in one of the beds behind the misting house.
We will keep an eye on it to collect some seeds and try and grow it.
We fooled ourselves into thinking that today would be a relaxing day as there wasn’t much on our to-do list which had been in any case left at home. By now we should know better.
As Ellie had arranged for the ride-on mower to be fetched for service one of us had to stay behind at the nursery so I got cracking at dismantling the old picnic benches while Ellie braved the cold water of the Tilapia dam to do some “gardening” on the big island.
We have finally decided that the old wooden picnic benches are beyond repair so we have bought three plastic picnic benches to replace them. To rip them up and take them to the nursery was quickly done , we are afraid installing the new ones will take a bit longer as it involves concreting them in and buying a pocket of cement is a major undertaking.
The mower was duly fetched and we could go to the Arboretum where a major surprise awaited us. Skali and Patrick had taken it upon themselves to mow all the paths and what a fantastic job they had done.
Ellie and Cathy cleared one of the old flower beds and dug in a variety of new plants while I removed some more of the burnt branches and also planted some vygies along the entrance path.
The main picnic area has also been tidied up and it is good to see that most of the trees we planted last year are surviving quite well considering the fire and the drought.
In the meantime the nursery has become something of a stepchild as there is just no time to look after it properly. Thankfully the staff is doing some of the weeding but there is a lot more to be done.
We may be overdoing it with the work parties judging by the bad turnouts but there is just so much to do. There may be light at the end of the tunnel as the cases of corruption and self-enrichment have been discovered in the municipality and one of the outcomes is that Goodman now has another team of six staff available to him to work in the reserve at times.
Rob, Keith and Cathy were determined to tackle some Podalyrias, Ellie went with her team behind the arboretum to sort out the aliens there whilst myself and Neil dug in a piece of pipe to the Cycad patch and then finished cutting down the burnt trees.
It is not quite the ideal entrance lane yet but as the vegetation recovers and we plant some more things it should be ok. The hard cleaning up work is done and now we can concentrate more on beautifying the place.
Most of the resprouters are doing fine including this Erythrina so there is hope.
We couldn’t wait to attach the hose connection and test last week plumbing and we were pleased with the outcome.
For some reason the water pressure has been excellent lately and we had quite an impressive fountain. It took a bit of effort to collect some rocks to make it a bit more porcupine proof but at least now we have an accessible tap to water the newly planted trees in that corner.
We also planted some Dietes there for some added interest.
Later checked out the electricity problem in Tony’s house and found a faulty breaker and an issue with the prepaid meter so need to buy some stuff to sort it out another time.