Back to the River

This weekend, Mike, Penz and Penny happily spent the day beside the uMngeni again.

The Dargle Conservancy invited Penny to repeat her presentation on the River Walk for members and riverside residents at Inversanda.  As always, the presentation was very well received with landowners surprised at how quickly the river quality deteriorates.  Many landowners in the the area do not observe the 30m riverine reserve boundaries, farming virtually right up to the edge, which has a big impact on the health of the river. Howard commented that it is sometimes difficult for farmers trying to do their best for the environment and make a living from the land. Penny and Mike offered to visit landowners and give advice.

The presentation and discussions were followed by a workshop beside the uMngeni river on Tom and Lucinda Bate’s farm. Penny briefed everyone on how to conduct the now famous mini-sass test.

Despite the chilly weather everyone got in enthusiastically, overturned rocks, disturbed muddy edges and scooped up all the creatures they could find.

Brandon was determined to find a crab as he had been bitten by one the week before.  Crabs, however, can live in quite polluted water so finding one wouldn’t have improved the score much. “They are good for otters to eat” quipped Tom.They were all collected in a big white bucket for identification.  Evert was excited to see small creatures that are sometimes found in great abundance in his stream further up – until Penny pointed out that they were indicators of poor river health!

evert mini sass.res crop

This was challenging for the novices, but Penny explained clearly  how to go about it. Fascinating.  Everyone was riveted.

We found Minnow Mayflies and Stout Crawlers, Plenaria (with arrow shaped heads) , water pennies, orange Caddisfly, scavenger water beetles and fly larvae .

Penz mini sass.RES

The final score was 5.8.  Penny thought it should have been higher and suggested that the Bates’ do another in a couple of weeks. Dieter pointed out that one’s neighbours actions upstream would have a big impact – Penz agreed “we all live downstream.”

Nikki suggested that everyone test regularly at the beginning and end of their properties to see if their practices (good or bad) were having an effect on water quality.Emily and Brandon dished out fresh asparagus tarts and river chilled drinks to all the amateur scientists! 

The Dargle Conservancy hopes to encourage residents along the river to do regular water tests to submit for the monthly Wildlife Sightings. In this way any major changes in scores can be reported and attended to before major damage occurs.  As custodians of one of the most important water catchment areas, we have a responsibility to care for the riverine environment. Our actions impact on over 5million people in KZN.

Penny mini-sass workshop RES

“It was an absolute pleasure having a delightful, enthusiastic crowd
of people visit our part of the river.” said Lucinda. Tom promised another picnic if we go back again and ensure that the score is MUCH higher!

Mngeni River at Inversanda. res

Non-indigenous vegetation on the banks of the river, impoverishes the eco-system and often causes blockages when felled.  Dargle Conservancy has organised a hands-on Invasive Alien Plant clearing workshop at Lane’s End Farm on 10 November.

The Dargle Conservancy has plans to host regular walks along the banks of the uMngeni.


About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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3 Responses to Back to the River

  1. Reblogged this on Midlands Conservancies Forum and commented:

    The Dargle Conservancy takes seriously its role as custodian of an important river catchment. Our actions impact on 5 million downsteam users. The Mngeni River will be the focus of many activites for the next year. Recently, the MayDay for Rivers team was invited to visit again.

  2. Pingback: MiniSASS Made Easy! | Midlands Conservancies Forum

  3. Pingback: Dargle Wildlife Sightings for August | Midlands Conservancies Forum

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