Waters & words

With the dew still on it.

Do you remember that scene from “a River runs through it” where the camera swoops across a  rocky ridge, and reveals the two boys running across the open grasslands?

Here in the KZN midlands, our landscape, notwithstanding its beauty, is lined and dotted with trees. Not only trees of course, there are fence-lines and farmhouses and roads too, but the trees are significant. Early writings by explorers in this area reveal the extent to which this place was a sea of grass.

ncibidwana (55 of 61)-2

A world with the dew still on it:  there are still patches to be cherished.

I read somewhere a report from a delegation who travelled from Maritzburg to Underberg to survey  that area’s  suitability for farming back in the 1800’s. Their most significant comments related to the lack of trees, and the endless expanses of grass. In the context of their report it was a complaint. “No firewood” they said, and they concluded that the area was without charm, and had a low potential for agriculture.

The lucky bastards!  I was born in the wrong era!  What I would not give to be one of them:  to venture out there and see this world with the dew still on it. Forget for a moment all the wildlife they must have encountered, and just imagine the grasslands. The dense grass cover would have stretched for as far as the eye could see. Successive ridges of just pure waving grass! There would probably have been no erosion. I assume that even the lowland rivers must have run clean most of the time.

So, OK, there were no Trout at that stage. (and an obscure group of pseudo environmentalists want us to believe that the Trout came along and ate entire populations of species which have never been recorded), but even without the Trout, what a place it must have been.

I confess, I dream about it sometimes. I lie awake at night like a little kid, and try to be that camera swooping like an eagle across vast expanses of grass….on and on, until I fall asleep.

I have seen a brochure somewhere for a lodge on the steppes of Mongolia, where one can travel to experience such vistas of nothingness. Nothingness as a tourist attraction!  I like it.

We can’t put the KZN midlands in a brochure advertising an escape to nothingness. We have lost that. We have lost it to overgrazing, dongas, wattle trees, groves of gums, roads and development. We have lost it to environmental degredation. We have replaced it with a tourist route boasting coffee shops, and jewelry. Rugs, art shops, and clothing outlets. We have rows of holiday homes, and tarred roads. We think pine plantations and encroaching alien trees are pretty. Most visitors don’t know the difference between a wattle plantation and a patch of indigenous bush.  Most don’t notice the bare earth drains running off the road into the now silted river. Most don’t know the difference between a kikuyu pasture, an eroded hillside of “mshiki” and “Ngongoni”, and a patch of decent “rooigras”.

We keep expanding too. Ploughing up remaining pieces of grassland, subdividing into smaller and smaller pieces of land, and approving more and more  developments after ever more rigorous “EIA’s” . We have wattle trees encroaching into the greater Drakensberg heritage site, and have built dams that wouldn’t be necessary if we fixed the leaking pipes and stopped having babies.

Wattle trees, unchecked,  encroaching a river  bank in the Drakensberg

And what are we doing to stop all this.

We are banning Trout. Banning Trout and angering one of the most conservation conscious groups in the country.

Forgive my depressing tirade. I am not normally given over to politics and lobbying:  Just common sense.

http://www.tomsutcliffe.co.za/fly-fishing/friend-s-articles/item/808-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-national-environmental-management-biodiversity-act-ian-cox-a-durban-based-lawyer-voices-concerns-about-the-future-of-trout-bass-and-carp-fishing-in-south-africa.html

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8 responses

  1. Lovely Andrew! I remember the scene from River Runs Through It very well. Watched it for the umpteenth time the other day in fact. Please don’t stop the tirade – after listening to the guys in Notties today, I feel the same. Let’s mobilise the troops. We can fight them on the beaches etc etc …….

    April 15, 2014 at 9:43 pm

  2. It’s not depressing, it addresses some poignant facts! Importantly we have to educate and inspire the next generations as well as our own about both the sensitivity and the resilience of Nature to imbalances. Imagine my delight when I caught and released a wild sea trout in the middle of London’s Thames River last May, in a stretch of water that was once notorious for being heavily polluted. Never give up and let’s all do everything we can to leave this world a better place than we found it… Best regards – metiefly

    April 15, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    • Thank you for that inspiration! With these wonderful fish returning to the Thames, which we all know was a veritable sespit at one time, there certainly is hope!

      April 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm

  3. Why the hell are they banning trout and not the more insidious of the “alien” species?

    April 16, 2014 at 2:34 am

    • Indeed! It all seems rather senseless doesn’t it. If you look to the right of this comment you will see how little of our country is inhabited by Trout anyway, and their need for cold clean water means that they are nit spreading anywhere fast. There is a link at the bottom of the story to the website of Tom Sutcliffe, in which the whole sorry state of affairs is explained. Our local newspaper today also carried a cover story on this: http://thewitness.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

      April 16, 2014 at 9:25 pm

  4. Very nice piece Andrew and it sums it a up perfectly.

    April 16, 2014 at 8:57 am

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