Pandora writes today.
We walked the Dargle! It was fun!
Fun does not mean it was easy!
Fun does not mean it was not hard work!
Fun does not mean that what we accomplished was not serious stuff!
Fun means that it was a joyful, uplifting experience!
Our work here is not quite done. Today we are joined by Nikki Brighton of the Dargle Conservancy and we do our final Mini SASS tests near the confluence of the Dargle and the uMngeni before the process of collating and capturing the data collected begins, mapping it and evaluating the findings.
Methylene blue samples need to be analysed (bacterial count)
and the results recorded together with the Mini SASS
and Index of Habitat Integrity scores collated with GPS Weigh Points.
In this way we get to know the river and make recommendations as to improving its health.
But there is another way of knowing, another way of interpreting what it is we see, hear, feel and sense. This way of knowing is not, as some believe, directly connected to our emotional centre. This is not a knee jerk, thumb suck, irrational knowledge, it is not an ego-centric ‘not in my back yard’ , this is ‘my bunny’ knowledge. It is deeply territorial.
A knowledge of the interconnectedness of all life, of all matter, and all time. It is a deep way of experiencing the world around us as an integrated whole, somewhere between subjective and objective. It’s a way of being that recognises that we, as an integral part of nature’s instruments, can play in tune to the web of life.
In recognising the patterns of nature’s music, we learn to sense the motifs, ask the questions, and get the answers.
Here we get to understand nature as an all-encompassing orchestration, and ourselves, as an integral part of the harmony. Here we get to love .
It is out of this way of knowing that we, as humans, can truly express our emotional essence of life
and learn to live with deep respect for all.
Walking a river, with this analogy in mind, is a very enlightening experience. You realise that cosmically everything in the catchment adds to the symphony and that the river carries the melodic strands and we all play to its rhythm.
And now for the what, where, why, when and how?
What are the questions? What are the answers?
And so at the confluence of the two rivers, the Dargle and the uMngeni
we reach the end of this walk,
and chat a little to Nikki Brighton.
Pandora: “You have given us an amazing privilege to be able to walk down the Dargle River. How did this all come about?
Nikki: Well, obviously in Dargle we were completely inspired by you guys walking down the uMngeni river, because it came through Dargle and that was terribly exciting! Everybody wanted to know about it, lots of people started following your blog, and talked about it all the time. That year, most exciting of all for me was when we asked everyone to record One Day On The River at the end of the year – remember Pandora, that was your idea? Dargle really came to the party! Hardly anyone else along the uMngeni did a thing, but Dargle did and so since then we were hoping you’d come back to Dargle one day and now here you are!
Pandora: Nikki, how many landowners are there on the river and what is your ultimate goal for the conservancy work?
Nikki: There are eight landowners along the river right from the grassland at the top where the river seeps out of the hillside. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if everybody just looked after their own little bit of the river? I think a lot of people are hoping that the Conservancy will see to all of that work but, you know, it’s never going to happen. I don’t think it can work like that, people do need to take ownership. We were talking earlier about the problem with follow-up. You are never, as an organisation, are going to be able to do that! You’ve got to walk every day, every week, pull out the baby bug weeds, that’s actually the only way to do it.
Pandora: Would you say that the farmers, and I know this is a difficult question, because you have to put yourself into the shoes of the ethos here, but would you say they love the river?
Nikki: I haven’t a clue, Pandora!!! I really don’t know! With the uMngeni One Day project, it was interesting because people did take photos, showing off the river to their friends – they were canoeing or tubing or having a picnic or something. Using the river very much as a recreational thing often with a kikuyu lawn right down to the edge. I think people don’t always realise the value of it in ecological terms.
Pandora: What are some of the uses that the farmers are using the river for?
Nikki: I think most people get their water for all their agricultural activities from the rivers, so the cows get watered, the chicken sheds are washed out, there are a lot of weirs. I think very few people drink out of either the Dargle or the uMngeni – I’m trying to think who does? There are not many people who use the river water to drink.
Pandora: Nikki, if we were sitting here ten years from now what would you like to see?
Nikki: I’d like this to be sunny right where we are sitting, there wouldn’t be any willow trees at all. This would be a little like it must have been years ago – I imagine, lots of un-kept grasses. I’d like to see heaps of landowners realising that they are custodians of the water source of millions of downstream users and I’d like us to be able to drink from the Dargle River at any point – imagine that?
Pandora: From the DUCT Mayday for Rivers team we just want to thank the Dargle Conservancy and Midlands Conservancies Forum and yourself and all your helpers for making this possible. We are very, very grateful!
Nikki: Thank you so much for choosing the Dargle! I do believe that this could be the impetus to get some real action going. This is so doable!
Penny has the last word of the day. What’s harder to find, a four-leaved clover or a stonefly? Her blog post later this week will reveal all.