Community enjoys picnic at Silverglen Nature Reserve dam

Residents who had a memorable time at the picnic.

Residents from Croftdene, Silverglen, Merebank and Hillary enjoyed an open day visit to the Silverglen Nature Reserve dam, last week.

The picnic site, which was closed in the 90’s due to violent crime, was opened for the day by the Silverglen Selfhelp Committee’s Shaun Hammomd. “The visitors were shocked to find that this beautiful reserve was closed to the public all these years. I promise to organise many safer open day picnics at this site once the toilets are repaired as this source of beautiful nature should be available to everyone in the community,” said Hammond.

The new conservation manager, Slindile Hlengwa, was surprised to find that so many residents were unaware of this beauty behind their homes all because of crime.

“Unfortunately, the picnic site will only be opened by arrangement for safety reasons and random access to the site is prohibited,” he said.

Speaking about the dam’s heritage, Hammond added, “Previous to 1890, Durban and its citizens used municipal water pumped only from the Umbilo River water scheme.  During the 1890’s, the population of Durban increased dramatically with the influx of refugees from the Boer War in the Transvaal and also experienced drought years in 1890 and 1891.  It became apparent that a supplementary water scheme had become necessary. John Fletcher, the Borough Engineer at the time, recommended the building of a water scheme using the Umlaas river water.”

According to Hammond, this was built in stages from 1891 to 1903.  In 1905, an exceptional storm damaged the Umbilo Scheme beyond repair and the Umlaas Scheme became Durban’s prime water source, which met the city’s needs for some 45 years.

The scheme comprises an Intake Waterworks just south of the Mariannhill Monastery.  The water from the intake pond passes into a pipeline to a chemical house where alum and lime are added.

“Then it flows into the Umlaas filter beds that employ sand filters.  Any excess not pumped to Umlazi or Durban passes into the Clearwater Dam.  Up until 1976, water from the dam was filtered and sterilised at Coedmore Filters. The Umlaas Filters or Seven Tanks works was decommissioned in about 1993. The Clearwater Dam was designed to store 116 million gallons of clarified water.  It is 70 feet in depth at its deepest part.  A feature of its design is the provision of flood diversion arrangements.  The refugees from the Boer War were employed during the building of the dam,” he added.

The dam and surrounds became a popular picnic spot for the people of Durban who came on horseback or animal-drawn vehicles.  These visitors made use of a stone-built shelter near the dam, which has been renovated and can be seen today.

This picnic spot is still popular today and has been left in the natural style of area rather than a place that is highly manicured and not quite in keeping with a nature reserve.

The scenic nature reserve.

The scenic nature reserve.

“The reserve boasts the highest number of tree and bird species in any of the local Durban municipal reserves. Amongst the birds, Silverglen is one of the few places where the Narina Trogon is resident.  In the nursery, one is able to see a whole range of quite difficult to spot species.  The Green Malkoha is on top of the list.  Others include the Violet-backed Starling, Lesser Honeyguide an individual has been calling from the same branch in a splendid thorn (Acacia robusta) since I first visited the nursery in 1976,” he said.

nature 2 (Small)

In the early morning and late evenings when all the staff have left and activity has dropped to a minimum, a group of banded mongoose visit the nursery to feed between the plants.  Then as the sun goes down, the Fiery-necked Nightjars begin their evening chorus mixed with the last calls of the Red-capped Robin-chat as they churn themselves into their roosting places.

“Plantwise we have a few unnamed species a redhot poker (Kniphofia sp.nov.) and a wild myrtle(Eugenia sp. nov.). Another rare tree we have is the Natal hickory(Cavacoa aurea) and the false white stinkwood(Celtis gomphophylla). We are lucky that we are able to collect seed of these species from our plants and in the nursery we grow them on to make available to our visitors and other interested parties,” he said.




Yoshini Perumal

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