Friends of Van Stadens
Some of the public saw the state of the reserve in 2007 and formed a group called "The Friends of Van Stadens"
They started with meetings once a month to help the manager with control of aliens.
This was such a big task that two retired people in that small group started coming once a week.After some time another two joined.
The group decided they needed tools like chainsaw and brush cutter etc. as the reserve had none.
To be able to afford this the nursery got resurrected from scratch.
In the mean time they also did rescuing of plants as Wesley was very involved with seeing to that.
Also more emphasis was laid on the protecting of endemic plants in the reserve.
Mr Goodman Matsha employed in 1998 was following a course encouraged by Wesley to get his qualifications.
The older worker Patrick employed in 1984 and Tony Plaatjies employed in 1986 were very good with plants .
In 2011 they eventually got Mr. Speelman to help as well as there was so much work between the few of them as they had some other reserves to look after as well.
The friends were laying on a new trail “The Fynbos Trail”and doing a lot of hacking and maintaining some of the trails as well. There was no budget from the municipality anymore.
2008 there was another fire in front of the conference centre but they had no firefighting equipment. In October that year FOVS was having their first plant sale / Arbor day sale.
In mean time the group were weekly doing hacking of aliens in the reserve.
Wesley Berrington started up a project to protect the van stadens corridor to help protect the exceptional conservation value for special plants as there are 11 endemic plant species as well as for protecting the animals.
The project would be a 20km corridor between the Van Stadens Reserve and the Ladyslipper mountain.
Unfortunately the project never came to fruition.
In 2010 Wesley found the Erica sagitta again though no GPS point.
Then there was a drought in 2010 and the municipality did'n't want to give the Friends of Van Stadens water for their plants!
Eventually in 2011 the group had success with growing Proteas from seeds after we got advice from Mr. Adrian Odgers, a well-known horticulturist.
The group also heard about the old water pipe that used to supply the reserve with water which they went to look for in February 2011 and it was found. Immediately they started to try and restore this.
There were many hassles with the old pipe being ploughed into pieces and trees grown over it but they were stubborn. After half a year they got a plastic pipe through and during March they crossed the gullies, in May they went under the N2 and in June they opened the tap by the nursery!!
The Fynbos ramble that was started in 2010 was opened in August 2011 and signage is put up.
In this year FOVS also designed and made their first tree signs which were duly put up in the forest and on various other trees.
February 2012 saw the group undertaking the cutting down of four big stands of Strelitzia nicolai and various other things at the entrance circle and removing rocks etc.
After lots of asking the staff brought in lots of soil which made the "arm" of the circle and these were planted up with various plants they had grown.
In June 2012 FOVS put up display cabinets in the flower specimen house, one on each side to give the public more information.
A printer got bought by FOVS and flyers get designed and printed to give the visitors more info.
In July FOVS bought a brushcutter, this proved very useful with combatting the Podalyria calyptrata.
They started on opening up the Arboretum which by now was extremely overgrown and one could just walk a few steps in anymore.
Sadly in July 2012 Wesley Berrington suddenly passed away!
This made Mr. Goodman Matsha having to act as manager
The Link Trail that FOVS explored in 2011 got opened in April 2012 and signage was put up.
This trail linked the River Walk with the Forest Walk into a 9km circle which led under the Van Stadens gorge bridge
In August the start was made of removing an enormous Bauhinia galpinii, which took two months.
September saw the first stone bench erected in the Arboretum, while in October all 15 Cycads that the staff had grown after they went on a course, got planted in the Arboretum.
January 2013 the FOVS group built a stone bench by the Tilapia dam with a view of the mountain, in memory of Wesley Berrington (as Wesley loved the Lady Slipper mountain) with a plaque on it.
The growing of plants by the group got expanded and a shade house was built, it looked nice and spacious but soon proved to be a bit small!
In the meantime another stone bench got built in the Arboretum to which a water pipe got laid on and a tap got constructed into the bench. Also a pond was made (The Marsh) lined with plastic, so that water was supplied for the animals.
In February FOVS organised the first educational walk and talk for the Woodridge pupils. This got led by Mr. Adrian Odgers who told them very interesting stories about all the plants and trees.
Badges to go with the specimens in the Flower House got designed and printed but unfortunately school children often took them out or changed them around and the staff was not interested.
In April a small pond ("The Marsh") at the centre of the Arboretum got finished and May saw the opening up of the old fire breaks to be made into mountain bike tracks.
It was getting colder so to keep ourselves warm we started to scrub, sand and paint the picnic tables as they were not conducive to have a picnic on because of algae growing on them!
As the first part of the entrance circle looked really good FOVS asked for more soil on the other “arm” which they eventually got. Now was is moving of big rocks etc. then planting.
In mean the time hacking was an ongoing weekly process together with regularly having to fix water leaks and work in the nursery.
The new cycle tracks were looking good so FOVS put up route signs and as spring came we grew more plants from cuttings and seeds etc.
For Arbor day sale a new sign was made with photos of plants and their names,that grow in the reserve. After the sale this was hung in the flower specimen house. The plant sale was very well attended as it was well advertised.
In January 2014 some of the roofing of the greenhouse got replaced to let more light in. FOVS harvested some seeds of the Cyclopia pubescence and sowed the seeds on the bigger island in the Tilapia Dam.
The oldest worker Patrick was working hard to cut down the Keurbooms as they have become most invasive in sections of the reserve.
Rudi “discovered” the misting house and decided to restore it. The electronic controller needed to be sorted as well as the water supply.
Woodridge came again with the new ECO-group to be led by Adrian Odgers on a educational Walk and Talk.
In July there was a big leak near the beginning of the water pipe. This took quite a lot of work and time to get sorted.
FOVS visited the municipal nursery “Peter Gibbs” and got proper grit donated for the misting house.
Two picnic tables were so rotten that FOVS decided to take them apart and make one, this got placed in the braai area.
In August they went for a walk on the Lady Slipper mountain and found the Erica sagittata and recorded the gps coordinates.
Also a lot of Euryops ursinoides were found.
Later on after controlled burning by forestry the Aspalathus lanceicarpa was found.
The old aviary was converted into a braai area as lots of people had requested to be allowed to braai. Internal sections were taken away and Fovs installed shade cloth and seating.
In September FOVS was contacted by geocaching society to have an event in the reserve. Caches were hidden in specific places and they had a great event despite the rain!
Fovs found that a notice board was lacking in the Flower House so in September two were provided, one on each side.
The hacking keeps going on and now we also tackled a lot of the Strelitzia Nicolai as they had become quite dominant and don’t really belong in the reserve. Some were kept.
One of the workers was prepared to try and fix the Xhosa huts as they were showing a big decline but it came to an abrupt halt unfortunately.
In September FOVS opened the braai area and it got named “Rest-io”
In October it was the first open day/ wild flower wander that had a trail run, mountain bike cycle ride and plant sale. This all made it very festive and brought a whole lot of people to the reserve therefore promoting it!
Later in the month FOVS started with taking down the first number of blue gums down on the big picnic spot. In the empty spots new small indigenous trees were planted instead.
In November there were pipeline problems to be fixed again and we now starting with planting on the west bank of the entrance circle.
Also the, what now has its name , the "Aloe koppie" got sorted. This was completely overgrown with old Erica, small trees and lots of grass. When FOVS realised there were a lot of Aloes on it we gave it a name!
In December one of the FOVS members ( Rudi) recycled the blue gums trunks and made benches out of some of them.
FOVS also layed on water to the toilets on the big picnic site.
January 2015 saw FOVS members putting shade cloth above part of the braai area so it would be more pleasant to sit under.
Fovs members explored the possibility of making a new trail from the traffic circle towards the Forest Trail. It is an easy circular one. As it runs along two dams with water lilies (Nymphaea) in it got the name “Nymph ‘ trail.
There were still three pine trees by a picnic spot by the traffic circle so FOVS members started to take those down.
One of the members donated 23 trees of which a number of them got planted instead of the pine trees.
An NMMU student started his master project on sugar birds in the reserve. Also an alien invasive monthly plant control program was made. This ensures that the hacking group goes through the whole reserve once a year. They are constantly at it and it makes for an almost alien free reserve.
After a meeting with the van Stadens forum, Work For Water helped the FOVS members so that in February all the blue gums were cut down.
The tree booklet got revised and Proteaceae were added. It proved to be too expensive to print it. It all got added to the website.
In meantime FOVS members had cut the Nymph trail and found a nice amount of Aloe micrantha and a number of Dodder plants. To create a sign for the trail a member swam out to pick a Nymphaea capensis flower in the dam.
The next month, March, the first bird hide was put up by a FOVS member in the reserve in the Arboretum. Lots of new trees were planted to replace the alien Blue Gums.
While walking the river walk lots of Cyrtanthus staadensis were noticed.
In mean time a FOV member with some help of the others kept growing plants etc. to keep the nursery going
In April FOVS members started the big clean-up of all those enormous Blue Gums, this took them most of the year! This big task of clearing them all rested on the few Friends of Van Stadens. It was decided to first cut off all the branches. The last branches were removed by the end of June. Then the cutting of the trunks started though this could only partly be done as they were too heavy and too big!
Logs were placed along the path in the Arboretum to provide “hotels “for insects.
One of the FOVS members( Rudi) made three benches and a table out of the trunks of some of the blue gums.
An extension was made to the shade house as it proved to be too small.
Third Age University was given a walk and talk through the reserve.
As the braai proved popular it was decided to install a tap.
A walk was organized to the extended part of the forest that was donated many years ago. Many alien trees were seen and action should be taken.
In July a day was set apart to do work for 67 minutes for Mandela day with Woodridge school children coming to do work in the reserve.
As the vegetation was really getting old the staff decided to do some controlled burning. This was stopped by the fire brigade as they didn’t have a permit. Fovs enrolled them at the Fire protection association and applied for a permit which they got but no controlled burning was done again.
In August one of the members of FOVS, Rob Norton, was given a medal which was presented by the Botanical Society for his dedication of many decades of hacking of aliens.
Fovs also sign posted the 3 dam and Nymph trail.
September is the month for geocaching and a big event was held in the reserve which included doing hacking of aliens.
In the mean time the new extension of the shade house got finished.
A little protruding side, at the end of the tar road, in the reserve got cleared and a bench and sign got put up now fondly being called “Rob’s roost”
In the mean time Tony Dold , from Selmar Schonland Herbarium Rhodes University Botany Department, keeps a keen interest in the plants at the reserve.
In October Open Day was held and again a great success.
It was a great surprise to see in November the Brabejum stellatifolium(wild almond) blooming.
The year 2016 got started off with varnishing of the picnic furniture and of course hacking which is an ongoing project and with all the Blue Gums and other aliens around it will be an on-going battle. Now the Callistemon viminalis which was planted in the middle of the N2 years ago is also starting to come into the reserve and adjacent lands.
Even though FOVS has resurrected the misting house it is still old and now needed to get the plumbing sorted.
While a constant upkeep is done to keep down the re-sprouting of the blue gums and the Strelizia Nicolai.
The latter one is seeding itself so much in the reserve that an ongoing removing of lots of seedlings is done constantly.
To keep the nursery supplied the FOVS members keep on with collecting seeds, sowing and taking cuttings.
Fovs took,on one of the meetings, all the members to the southern slope to cut down lots of big Pine trees.
To Fovs' surprise a community garden was put in place by the windmill people. This is managed by “farming God’s way” providing the school and poor with fresh vegetables. They needed water so FOVS provided them with water from their water supply.
The school has a couple of broken benches which one member of FOVS fixes for them though the state of the school’s furniture etc. is very poor.
In March sparkes from the electricity poles caused a big fire in the reserve which burnt all in front of the conference centre and across the N2 beyond the Arboretum as well as from the traffic circle to Dodd’s dam. Birdhide and all signage was burnt. This caused the Cyrtanthus contractus to bloom and 3 weeks later some Proteas came up. There are a number of places where the water pipe got burned and needs to be fixed and parts of the bird hide that is still usable gets recovered. Unfortunately most of the Widdringtonias in the Arboretum got burned as well.
In the mean time an article about the reserve was published in “Veld and Flora” March 2016 written by FOVS members ( Ellie).
In April FOVS planted over 30 trees in the arboretum to replace the burned ones. Lots of trees starting to sprout and Widdringtonia seedlings are coming up as it is all open now. By now there are lots of blooming plants to be seen as well.
The municipality gave FOVS a discarded weather station. Though this has to be implemented through the internet first.
In May a start was made with cutting down the burnt trees in the arboretum. A birdbath was placed in the middle of the arboretum which is fondly appreciated by lots of birds.
One of the picnic benches at the lookout picnic site was stolen and FOVS asked the Botanical society for a donation. A new picnic bench was concreted in to replace the stolen one.
A donation of Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) was received which was released in the dam along the fynbos ramble. They have attracted a number of waterbirds and seemed to settle quickly and started to breed soon after that.
As the staff were mowing all the grass with push lawnmowers as the municipality did not provide funds, FOVS decided to have the ride-on lawnmower fixed. It used up a lot of their budget but at least the staff really appreciated it.
A start was made by one of the FOVS member on a new birdhide which will include the few leftovers that were rescued.
This was erected on the dam wall of the Lily pond/ Dodd’s dam in June.
While walking the van Stadensberg the group found lots of Leucadendron orientale.
As there were now quite a number of Protea plants in the nursery it was decided to erect a windshield on the platform so they go straight on to a place where they need to be for the plant sale. In the mean time the weather station got installed at the reserve though it is giving problems.
August proved to be rather hot, the porcupines got thirsty and bit holes in the water pipes therefore more fixing was required.
It was lovely that there was a geocaching event again as they did a lot of work with removing of some of the lots of aliens that had come up after the fire.
This month there were a lot of people who enjoy walking in the reserve. FOVS bought a big roll of weedguard to help control weeds in the reserve flower beds as well as in the nursery.
September was a month when all were kept busy with preparing for the reserve’s open day in October.
The deputy mayor Mr. Bongani gave a speech and planted a tree in front of the conference centre at the Open day. It was the first time in many years that the municipality showed up.. The open day was a great success. FOVS needed to put up a gate towards the nursery as the old one was broken and people were now stealing plants.
FOVS made a start with taking cuttings etc. again for next year’s sale and for plants to replace burned ones.
Though the burn has proven a great thing for the Paranomus reflexus as the parent plant died years ago, now after the fire at least 15 seedlings have come up. Also lots of Hyobanche sanguinea and Morea are blooming.
In November one of the FOVS members organised to get the concrete sides of a broken picnic bench at Riebeek college. Another member made wooden slats for it with money that got donated by the Wednesdays walkers group so now there is a nice bench on the parking place next to the flower house.
With all the taking of cuttings etc. extra space is added in the misting house.
2017 was started with sorting out a section of the link trail as trails do need a constant up keep to prevent over growing etc. Also the Arboretum and nursery needed attention. The state of the picnic benches was in such a way that one couldn't have a picnic anymore. Of course lots of alien seedlings still need to be hacked especially after the fire, which is an ongoing task. FOVS purchased three new picnic benches.
Rob's camera caught a Klipspringer photo. Ever so nice to see one in the reserve
In March they started at the neighbouring farm to take down Bluegum trees and put up a fence as they plan to get buffalo in . The manager gave permission to the loggers to go through the reserve. Horror as they bulldozered a big track through the vegetation and broke the water supply pipe. Again fixing needed.
Taking a walk up the lady slipper gave us a nice surprise with finding the Cyrtanthus staadensis and lots of Disa ferruginea. A helmeted turtle ( Pelomedusa subrufa) was found in the reserve’s dam.
New weeding bankies were made by one of the FOVS members as the old ones keep on disappearing.
As the staff has no more useable chainsaws and they don’t get replaced and FOVS one getting very old a new stronger chainsaw was bought by FOVS
Now more of the burnt trees could get cut down in the arboretum though still a number to go.
The far corner of the Arboretum also got cleared up of burnt bush so another 8 trees got planted. By now the drought has really taken a grip on everything. The old water pipe was discovered by these newly planted trees and a plastic pipe was taken through it so that these trees can get watered .
In the reserve itself the Proteas showed much less bloom in the drought as well as the seed setting was very poor probably as a result of the drought from last year. Even the Cyrtanthus staadensis have hardly bloomed, as well as the Pelargonium elegans.
FOVS had the ride-on mower serviced and now the staff has mown everything lovely, as well as they have cleared the road sides very well.
The Brunsvigia littoralis was blooming profusely in June and soon after that the Brunsvigia grandiflora so FOVS members kept an eye on them for seeds so more can be planted in years to come. The Osteospermum polygaloides is blooming profusely in the areas where it got burnt last year.
FOVS member also found out for sure now about the Widdringtonia schwarzi and Widdringtonia cedarbergensis that are both growing in the arboretum.
The staff removed three picnic benches out of the reserve as they were very rotten.
The Friends of van Stadens replaced a number of dirt drums as some were very rusty. Also signs to put dirt in the bins were erected.
A walk through the forest in early June really showed how the drought is affecting even the forest.
June 10th enormous fires all over Longmore forest, Lady slipper, Thornhill, Woodridge, the reserve etc.
The bird hide burnt again! As well as almost all the signage and 2km of water pipe.
Never before in the reserve’s history has the forest burned but this time it has taken big trees down as passages burned through the forest. The only parts not burnt were what burnt last year and all the buildings were saved. The roots of some trees in the forest and extended forest still smouldered for a week or more afterwards.
Though the burn has exposed the trig beacon, the old boulder trail and the borehole which could not be found before as the vegetation was too tall and impenetrable.
Unfortunately it did burn the Picnic bench that was erected in honour of Gwen Skinner
The week after the fire some Cyrtanthus contractus was blooming though not a lot as the fire had been extremely hot as winds up to 110km/hour were measured, therefore they really fanned the fire.
Let’s hope that the hot fire also burnt a lot of alien seeds as FOVS is still trying to eradicate the alien seedlings from last year’s fire.
Fortunately the fire has not burnt the Paranomus reflexus seedlings in the Arboretum nor the ones on the slope of the Fly-over of the N2 which are by now about 25cm tall.
As the fire burnt the water pipe, the community garden and nursery had no water which in this drought is rather drastic. The water pipe replacing would be really draining FOVS funds completely and the municipality is not interested but luckily three firms came forwards and donated the pipe and fittings. FOVS members and two people from the community garden temporarily fixed the water pipe. Two weeks later, beginning July, FOVS members attached the permanent water pipe half way up along the buffalo fence until the neighbouring farmer who can help digging it in where the buffalo will be roaming.
A schoolgirl needed to do her community project and she painted the trig beacon’s body. The vane was taken home with the Friends, it got dismantled, sanded, painted and put together. Then it was put back in place.
FOVS was again presented with a donation from the Wednesday Walkers with money towards new signage to replace the burnt once as municipality is not doing it.
Staff has started clearing up most of the burnt leftovers in front of the conference centre and has fixed one of the two burnt bridges.
FOVS members removed burnt sticks etc. on the Boulder Talkrail and did a GPS track. Already a group has enjoyed walking the trail.
Thanks to Mark Marshall and Sandula Conservation a group went up the lady slipper mountain and counted about 14 of these little chameleons on the 11th of August in the evening. Glad to see that the Endangered and endemic species, Elandsberg Dwarf Chameleon (formerly known as Smith's Dwarf Chameleon)~ Bradypodion taeniabronchum. made it after the devastating fires of June.
End of August the Cyrtanthus augustifolius was blooming after the fire as it was never noticed before.
An poster with photos of alien plants was put up in the flower house to educate people.A sign made from a tree trunk was put up at the entrance of the Arboretum to indicate where to start the Arboretum walks.
A FOVS member made lockable towel racks for in the toilets as the towels kept on being stolen.
When going up Ladyslipper on the 2nd of September the Afroaster laevigatus was seen growing in a great stand. The Harveya and the Anemone vesicatoria were also blooming everywhere
Doing a walk along the River Walk in the beginning of September the Dimorphotheca ecklonis was blooming and there were lots of plants where it had burnt the year before.
On a walk along the Van Stadens river a great number of Afroaster laevigatus were blooming there as well which were never seen there before, a plant was dug up to see the root system and to try and cultivate it in the reserve.
October the 7th Arbor day sale with trail running and mountain biking was a very successful event.
It was noticed that the Cyclopia pubescens was blooming in October even though they were small after the fire there are a good number of them. Also near the N2 a number of them have come up after the fire. Also a lonely Ursinia anethoides was blooming
After a few nice rains we noticed that by the big picnic spot it became a vlei. Thus the removing of the alien blue gums had made a big difference.
Last year’s Cussonia seeds from the Cussonia gamtooensis were grown successfully and the first one has been planted out in the Arboretum. For the first time seed pods are developing on the Sterculia alexandri.
Blooming of Watsonias and various other plants seem to have been delayed by a month. Is this because of the fire or the drought?
It was noticed that the Pelargonium elegans re-sprouts after a fire.
About 8 big Tilapia fish were noticed in the dam and breeding spots were noticed.
The historical society was contacted for photos of the building of the bridge which were available.
As the fences were burned a request was made to the municipality to replace that, though the N2 has replaced the one between the road and the reserve. The Friends are redoing a section of the fence at the arboretum.
The Paranomus reflexus is doing very well in the Arboretum and on the flyover by the N2.
Eventually the staff has concreted into place one of the three picnic benches that the Friends have bought.
The staff is removing all the burned sticks in the first section of the reserve which is a big improvement. The two little pedestrian bridges in front of the conference centre have burned and the staff has made one new one and put it in place.
The young rangers wanted to educate the visitors about Alien plants. FOVS made a poster about alien vegitation and put it up in the flower house. The young rangers who look well after the flower house are now also putting a few alien pieces on display.
The Friends are busy making new trail etc. signs and had the 3 dam trail and Nymph trail ones back by the end of October.
The staff have concreted in a new dirt bin next to the flower house.
The alien hacking has started up again as an enormous number of aliens are starting to appear now after there has been some rain! The Bryophyllum is an ongoing project as they keep growing!
Karl Edwards has planted 25 trees in the extra section of the reserve and is pulling out lots of aliens that are coming up after the fire there. He is also pulling out lots of Canna indica which are growing there as result of people dumping their garden refuse. Tradescantia fluminensis is also invading there as a result of dumping.
Roofing material is donated to the Friends and they replaced most of the old roofing of the misting house with that. This is much better as it provides much more light for the germinating seeds and cuttings
End of November the Friends have started hacking the alien seedlings that have come up in the thousands.
Again Paranomus reflexus seedlings are found by the Friends in another section of the reserve.
Mr. Matsha saw a Klipspringer in the reserve so they are definitely back!
For the first time since 1984 the mayor came out to have a look at the reserve, Mr. A. Trollip. What a lovely Christmas present for Mr. Matsha
The 10 years of FOVS was looked back on at the AGM on the 2nd of December with slected photos taken thoughout the ten years.