Indigenous Open Gardens wrap-up

We had a wonderful IOG weekend. Pictures are worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, so visit our Facebook page to see photos of the event. There is an album each for Saturday and Sunday.

We would like to thank each person who was involved in this fantastic event: visitors, association representatives, volunteers, entertainers, servers, cake providers, Cotswold Downs Estate, and the IOG team. Thank you for your efforts, it was a great weekend!

10 things to do at Indigenous Open Gardens

Indigenous Open Gardens is almost upon us. Bring your family and friends and join us for a wonderful day out.

Date: 16-17 May 2015

Time: 09h00-16h00

Parking: Fig Tree Farm (adjacent to Cotswold Downs on the Hillcrest side)

Tickets: R60 per person at the entrance gate – Children under 12 Free

Kloof Conservancy Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

 10 things to do at IOG

1. Walk the visitor’s routes

With the help of Cotswold Downs Estate we have mapped out walking routes around one of the residential areas. This is where you can see the layout of the estate and look at the indigenous gardens, verges and communal areas as you walk past. There are also other routes to points of interest. We know you’re curious, but please stick to the marked routes.

Kloof Conservancy Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

2. Catch the bus to the Aloe Garden

Ben Botha will be giving talks and chatting to visitors here.

3. Catch a bus for a walk in the Old Forest and/or walk the Riverine Forest Trail

There are two forest walks on offer. One is a self-guided Riverine Forest walk, accessible from the Tea Garden. Estate Manager, Vic Bonsor, and his team have created a really lovely trail. Pat McKrill, the snake man, will be stationed along this route as will a number of plant specialists who are there to assist you with plant information.


The other is a walk through Cotswold Down’s Old Forest – you need to catch a bus to get to the Old Forest. This trail is either self-guided or  you can do a guided tree walk with Richard Boon (morning) or Wilf Sperring (afternoon).

4. Visit the Tea Garden for tea/coffee and cake.

Your first tea/coffee and piece of cake is included in your ticket price!

Kloof Conservancy Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

5. Tour the exhibition/association stands

There are lots of interesting people to meet and stands to visit, including:

  • BotSoc
  • Flora and Fauna Trust – authors Elsa Pooley, RIchard Boon, Geoff Nichols and Charles and Julia Botha
  • Lindsay Gray
  • Cotswold Downs Environmental Display
  • EWT – Endangered Amphibian Programme – Dr Jeanne Tarrant including a reptile display
  • Enviroserve Recycling Display

6. Go birding

Download the Kloof Conservancy birdlist and bring your binocs. Bird Life Port Natal is located across the dam from the Tea Garden with their telescope. Dereck Spencer will be doing bird walks and talks.

Cotswold Downs Red Bishop

7. Stop in at the butterfly garden

Steve Woodhall will be giving talks and leading guided walks around the butterfly garden area.

Butterflies at Kloof Conservancy Indigenous Open Gardens

8. Eat, drink and be merry

Purchase yourself a delicious takeaway lunch at the Tea Garden and eat it while you…

9. Enjoy the music

Listen to the KZN Youth Wind Band (Saturday) or the Thomas More Marimba Band (Sunday).

10. Shop

Shop for plants at the nurseries and crafts at the craft stalls.

You can find the full programme here

We look forward to seeing you on the weekend!

What’s the big deal about alien invasive plants?

There is an unidentified bird in my garden whose favourite snack is Bugweed. I know this because under my Toad tree is an ever-present, 5cm-high mini forest of baby Bugweeds along with a considerable dose of bird-manufactured fertiliser. I frequently, meticulously uproot a mass of Bugweed seedlings. What’s the problem with Bugweed? It’s one of the Highway’s most prolific invasive alien plants. Mieke van Tienhoven tells us more about alien invaders and how we can stop them.

Invasive alien plants pose a threat to our biodiversity, our agricultural productivity, our water resources and, even our health. Alien plants are plants that have been introduced to South Africa, and are not indigenous. Some alien plants have become invasive, as they are able to out-compete our natural vegetation. Without their natural pests and diseases to control them, invasive alien plants (IAPs) spread easily and rapidly and so take over.

Ginger Lily

Ginger Lily

One of the simplest ways of protecting our biodiversity is to remove these plants from gardens, roadsides and public areas so that they cannot spread into our natural areas. Many IAP’s were introduced as ornamental plants, such as ginger lilies (Hedychium sp.) and Yellow bells (Tecoma stans), and they now flourish in our gardens from where they spread, so it is important that they be recognized and removed.

The Kloof Conservancy offers an introductory course on invasive alien plants to the general public in order to raise awareness of this threat. Participants of the course gain an understanding of why IAPs are a problem and a threat to our biodiversity, learn to recognize some of the more common IAPs and some of the basic techniques to remove them. The course can be presented in either isiZulu or English, and 40 residents and gardeners have attended the three courses hosted this year. The most recent course was presented to the grounds staff of the Pietermaritzburg campus of UKZN. Alison Young, chief horticulturist and curator, was thrilled with the level of interaction, and the information that the participants gained. Now made aware of the consequences of IAPs, many undertook to remove IAPs from their own homesteads.

Invasive Alien Plant training

Invasive Alien Plant training

So make a small difference every day, and pull out at least one a day. To attend a course, or find out more, please contact Mieke van Tienhoven at

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, Mieke.

Mieke will be at Indigenous Open Gardens this year. You can find her to talk all things “IAP” in the large marquee at the Tea Garden.

There’s an adder in my woodpile: snakes of the Upper Highway

A few weeks ago a message came through on my community Whatsapp group: “Anyone know what snake this is?”

The photo showed a beautiful Spotted House Snake curled up in a nest of white sheets…sheets that were still on the bed.

If you’ve spent a significant period of time in coastal Natal you’ve probably had an unexpected meeting with a snake or two. They’re certainly in our gardens and every now and then they find their way into our homes and under our fridges. Occasionally, into our beds. Local snake-whisperer and author of Getting to know the Neighbours, Pat McKrill, shares a few thoughts on living with our resident snakes.

  1. How did you become interested in snakes?

I grew up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and my parents were never fussed about snakes (dad of Irish ancestry, so no problem there since St Patrick got rid of them all) and I’ve lived with them ever since. The snakes that is.

2. What are the most common snakes we’re likely to find in our gardens here in the Upper Highway?

In the snake season, September to early May, there will be a mix of the following, depending on the area (wooded, open, heavily populated) in which one lives. The most common home and garden visitors will be the gecko eaters – the non-venomous Spotted bush snakes and the Natal greens – the frog eaters – the venomous Night adders, Heralds and Mozambique spitters – and the rodent and bird eaters – the venomous Boomslang, Puff adders and the non-venomous House snakes.

Natal Green Snake

Natal Green Snake

3. What’s the best thing to do if we encounter a hostile snake in our garden?

The initial show of force by nearly all snakes in a sudden chance encounter, is just that. A show of force. They’re trying to frighten you away because they’re scared of you, and by standing still – no matter where you are in relation to the snake – you’ll reduce or eliminate the perceived threat and the snake will move on.

4. Who should we contact to relocate venomous snakes too close to home?

There are numerous snake catchers listed on the internet by area and my suggestion is that home owners do a search and get a couple of optional numbers onto speed dial on their phones.



5. What are some of our common misconceptions about snakes?

The most commonly believed perception is that they will attack or chase you as soon as they see you. The reality is that they won’t and once you’ve turned away and started sprinting in the opposite direction, your brain (?) takes over whilst the snake goes and hides somewhere, and you become a legend in your own mind. Quite simply, they’re there for the food that you provide at your bird feeding tables, compost heaps, and water features– frogs, geckoes, birds and rodents – so just be aware and don’t try to kill them or pick them up.

Spotted Bush Snake

Spotted Bush Snake

Pat, thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and experience with us. You can learn more about Pat at Snake Country.

Snake download

Kloof Conservancy Snake List

Pat McKrill at Indigenous Open Gardens

Pat is joining us at IOG to talk about all things snake-related. You can find him along the Riverine Forest Trail.

Kloof Conservancy Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

How (and why) to recycle at home

How much do you know about recycling?

More to the point, do you recycle? At home? At work? How about on holiday?

Mark Liptrot, Group Sustainability Manager at AfriPack and a Kloof Conservancy member shares some insights into recycling in the Highway and why it’s so important.

  1. What is recycling?

Recycling is using discarded materials to create new ones. In most cases when people say they recycle, they mean that they collect and separate waste materials in readiness for the next, generally high-tech stage, like producing plastic pellets, or paper pulp. There’s also upcycling, which is creating goods that often have a higher value than the raw materials that made the original items, eg. making artworks out of waste.

Upcycling waste

  1. Why should we recycle?

There’s a massive opportunity lost by not doing so! Only a small fraction of waste (about 10%) is diverted from landfill; almost all of the 90% has a solution, too. It’s estimated that 77 tonnes of waste recycled can create 1 job – in Durban alone, about 6 000 tonnes A DAY is landfilled. So the potential is there to create at least 20 000 jobs, and at the same time reduce landfill and save ratepayers R300 million per year, even if say, 70% is diverted from landfill.

  1. What materials are recyclable here in the Upper Highway?

All types of plastic are technically recyclable, with the main ones being polyethylene and polypropylene. Paper is also popular, as well as board. There are plenty of outlets for cans and other forms of scrap metal. The drop-off centre at Westville’s Pavilion takes e-waste (old TVs, cellphones etc). Glass and Tetrapak packaging is collected here, but is treated up in Gauteng.

Plastic waste

  1. How do we go about recycling?

Most households in Durban fall into the ‘orange bag’ system, where these bags are delivered to each household for residents to fill with their (clean, dry) paper and plastic waste (except polystyrene!). This is due to be extended to collecting cans and glass – watch the press for details for your area. Find out where your nearest recycling drop-off centre is – there is one in Hillcrest and Kloof – and pay them a visit to find out what they can and can’t take. They normally take all glass and plastic bottles, Tetrapaks, paper and cardboard too large to fit into the orange bag, cans and tins. They DON’T take old furniture, window glass and old light bulbs…

  1. Kloof Conservancy is running a recycling project at Indigenous Open Gardens this year. How will it work?

We have approached Enviroserv, a listed waste management company, to supply wheelie bins for glass, paper, plastic and general waste. They will also advise on what can and can’t be recycled. These will be collected at the end of the event and taken to their depot for recycling. Plus there will be demonstrations over the two days on how you can upcycle some common waste into practical goods.


Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with us, Mark.

15 bird species to look out for in your garden and your neighbourhood

Our friends at BirdLife Port Natal have made us a list of birds you may see in your garden and around the Upper Highway. Some of them are resident at Cotswold Downs Estate too, so keep an eye out for them at Indigenous Open Gardens.

1. Crowned Eagle

Carnivore, they help to control the monkey population, there’s a nest in the forest at Cotswold Downs.

2. Bronze mannikin

Granivore = seed-eater; like humans they prefer their food fresh so clumps of indigenous grasses will be a magnet; watch them sway on the grass stems or trying to pile yet another individual on an already over-full tree branch, not to mention the splashing that goes on during a communal bathing session.

3. Purple-crested Turaco

A forest bird and frugivore = loves smallish fruits (of course figs are a favourite of most birds – fruit-eaters for the fruits, insectivores for the insects attracted to the ripening figs); known for its loud kôk-kôk-kôk call; but a real skelm that watches and teases the bird watcher while making sure it remains out of sight.

Purple-crested Turaco Herman Bos

4. Green Wood-hoopoe

Insectivore, especially larvae; nests in cavities in dead branches; lives in groups; monogamous but the extended family and friends raise the young; and they can kick up a lot of noise, hence the Zulu name of iNhlekabafazi = “the cackle of old women” (very sexist and ageist).

5. Green Twin-spot

Granivore; must be one of the most lovely little birds in parts of KZN; male has a red face and female yellow; more common in Highway area than central or southern Durban.

6. Dark-capped Bulbul

Fruits and insects, common and thus often disregarded, but one of the first birds to rise and last to go to bed, and very alert – if you hear them giving a warning call you can check it out, there is a cat or other threat nearby – soon other birds will come to see and help raise the alarm – then all the bird watcher needs to do is list all the birds that have been called to action by the bulbul. Take care – SA has three species of bulbul, so if you travel to other parts of the country check the eye colour to ensure which species it is; Dark-capped Bulbul only occurs in the eastern and northern parts of SA.

7. Crested Barbet

Omnivorous; the explosion in the Plascon factory; known for its long krrrrrrr call; monogamous; nests in hole in tree, nest excavated by male and female, female incubates eggs at night but during the day male and female take turns in the nest.

Crested Barbet Anne Cousins

8. Black Crake

Earthworms, crustaceans, small fish, plant matter – anything wet and slippery really; black is the new black with some tasteful splashes of colour; habitat is the reeds and vegetation around dams and pans, ask the volunteers at the BLPN stand at CD to try and show one to you.

Black Crake Annelise Willis

9. Red-capped Robin-chat

Insectivore – beetles, ants, moths; always lower down in the vegetation or on forest floor scratching for insects; serenades his lady with an amazing variety of calls and songs – mimics other birds, the telephone, car alarm or your neighbour whistling.

10. African Paradise Flycatcher

Insectivore; during breeding season male has a long flashy tail while female always has short tail; forest birds; makes a beautiful, tiny, cup nest using cobweb to bind nest material and decorate / camouflage it with lichen; monogamous, share nest-building, incubation and chick-raising duties.

Paradise Flycatcher Anne Cousins

11. Spotted Eagle-owl

Carnivore, helps control rats and mice, but also insects and birds; roosts in big trees during the day until a bulbul finds it, calls all the other birds and they kick up such a fuss that it has to move elsewhere for some peace and quiet; gorgeous deep hooting call.

12. White-bellied Sunbird

Nectarivore; loves the sweet things in life and has the bill to get at it the right and proper way; pays back the plant through serving as pollinator – not like some birds one could mention that sneaks in by making a hole in the bottom of the flower to get at the nectar without paying – crime is everywhere.

13. Diderick’s Cuckoo

Insectivore, mainly caterpillars; comes to SA in summer to breed here; calls dee-dee-dee-diderick; they have their fun, then the lady dumps the result in some other bird’s nest and leaves this poor (usually smaller) bird to raise their big, fast-growing and forever hungry chick – injustice is also everywhere.

14. Village Weaver

Insects, seeds, and nectar (remember the sunbird?); most often seen fighting off other males for the prime real estate in a tree and building a nest to impress a female; amazing artistry in collecting long strings of leaves and weaving it expertly (take the time to watch them), from scratch, into a safe, dry and cozy nest, although the ladies are VERY particular; often the victim of the unscrupulous Diderick’s Cuckoo.

Village Weaver Sean Swarts

15. Woolly-necked Stork

Carnivore (frogs, lizards, large insects), a bird that is becoming more common in Durban gardens; but unknown to many it is a Red Data species (near-threatened status according to IUCN).

Thanks to BLPN for taking the time to put together this list for us.

Come birding at Indigenous Open Gardens

Did you know that our Kloof Conservancy Bird List features 253 species?

How many of those have you seen? If you’d like to add a few to your list, bring your binoculars to Cotswold Downs during Indigenous Open Gardens. We’re delighted to host BirdLife Port Natal, a fantastic birding community who will be available to share their knowledge and insight on birding in the Upper Highway.

Cotswold Downs Red Bishop

Red Bishop

 About BirdLife Port Natal

Established in 1949, BirdLife Port Natal is one of Africa’s oldest Birding Clubs and is part of BirdlifeSA. They encourage birding awareness, education and conservation. BLPN are long-time supporters of Indigenous Open Gardens and will have a stand across the dam from the Tea Garden this year.


Dereck Spencer and a team of birders will be leading bird walks and answering bird-related questions during the weekend. They will also have a telescope at their stand for visitors to get a closer look at the water-birds: African Jacanas, Spur-winged geese, White-faced whistling ducks etc.

Cotswold Downs Spur-winged Goose

Spur-winged Goose

Special birds to look for at Indigenous Open Gardens

  • Malachite Kingfisher
  • Greater Double-collared Sunbird
  • African Rail
  • Yellow-throated Longclaw
  • Rufous Naped Lark
  • African Jacana
Cotswold Downs African Jacana

African Jacana

How can we bring birds into our gardens?

BirdLife Port Natal shares some ideas with us.

Like humans birds need food, water, shelter, protection from predators and a safe place to raise a family.

What can I do?



  • indigenous grasses to provide seed for seed eaters
  • flowers for nectar
  • shrubs and trees for fruit and insects

By doing so you also help to preserve bio-diversity and to fight climate change (more trees use more carbon dioxide).

Indigenous plants use less water and, once established, can be left to supply their own water needs. This can also result in a lower water bill.

Cotswold Downs Blacksmith Lapwing

Blacksmith Lapwing


Put a shallow dish with water in an open spot but near enough to bushes so the birds can quickly scatter if they need to.

They can also sit on a nearby branch to dry-off and groom themselves.

Remember to put it where you can easily watch their antics without disturbing them (e.g. near the kitchen window or veranda).

Thick-billed weaver's nest

Thick-billed weaver’s nest

Shelter, protection and raising a family

Some birds like to scratch around in leaf litter; others prefer the tops of the highest trees. Scatter fallen leaves and grass cuttings in flower beds and under trees and bushes.

It also means less refuse to dispose of, you are putting nutrients back into the soil and provide a place for insects and earthworms to go about their business, providing farm-fresh food for many birds. What makes a beautiful garden? One with not a blade of grass out of place?

Thorny trees and bushes provide safe nesting spots for birds while making life difficult for predators and mischief-makers like cats and monkeys. If planted not too far from a window or on a boundary fence, it will even make life unpleasant for would-be burglars.

Please put a bell on your cat’s collar to warn birds of approaching danger.

If a dead branch does not pose a threat, leave it on the tree – it provides food and shelter for insects which make a tasty meal for many birds, and would be prime property for hole-nesting birds like woodpeckers and barbets.

Be careful when you use poisons and insecticides. Let the birds be your pest-controllers. Many small birds love aphids and caterpillars; others gorge themselves on beetles; hadedas snack on snails. Many a parent-bird has unwittingly fed poisoned insects to a hungry baby. Insecticides kill harmful insects but also good ones like butterflies, dragonflies and praying mantises, and indirectly, birds.

White-faced whistling ducks

White-faced whistling ducks

Thank you, BirdLife Port Natal, for sharing your wisdom. We look forward to seeing you at IOG.

You can find BLPN on their website, Facebook page and on Twitter.

useful bird downloads

Kloof Conservancy Bird List

Upper Highway bird photos

We’ll be publishing photos of our indigenous Upper Highway birds on our Instagram profile this week. Feel free to come have a look.

Meet a famous author at Indigenous Open Gardens

We are delighted to be hosting some wonderful, highly respected authors at Indigenous Open Gardens this year. Here’s the who’s who and where you can find them.


Elsa PooleyWho: Elsa Pooley is the “doyenne” of botanists in KZN. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by UKZN recently and has a very fascinating history. Elsa is a botanical artist, tour guide, author and landscaper. Her books include Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Region, Mountain Flowers and Forest Plants in the Forest and in the Garden.

Where: Along with other authors, Elsa will be at The Flora and Fauna Trust stand interacting with visitors.

Learn more about Elsa on her website.


Richard BoonWho: Richard Boon is a botanist with over 20 years of field experience. He is also the author of Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa. Richard enjoys photographing plants and is currently the Manager of the Biodiversity Planning Branch of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department of the eThekwini Municipality.

What: Richard will be leading a guided morning walk on both Saturday and Sunday through the Old Forest at Cotswold Downs.

Where: a shuttle will ferry visitors from the Tea Garden to the Old Forest walks.

You’ll find more on Richard Boon on the Flora Trust website.


Charles and Julie BothaWho: Charles Botha is past chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Region of the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA as well as a member of the Botanical Society of SA, the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa and BirdLifeSA. Along with his wife Julia he has authored Bring Nature Back to your Garden (Western Edition, Eastern & Northern Edition) and Bring Butterflies Back to your Garden.

Where: Charles will be stationed at the Flora and Fauna Trusts stand

Find more on Charles here.


Geoff NicholsWho: Geoff Nichols’ work focuses on promoting the conservation of medicinal plants and other rare and endangered species. His books include 112 Plants for You and your Bushbuck and A Guide to the Fauna of Zimbali.

Where: Geoff will be at The Flora and Fauna Trust stand.

For more on Geoff visit The Flora Trust.

Elsa, Richard, Charles and Geoff’s books are available through the Flora and Fauna Publications Trust. You can find their stand near the Tea Garden.


Steve WoodhallWho: Steve Woodhall is a published author and the president of the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa. His books include Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa and the highly popular What’s that Butterfly?

What: Steve will be doing guided butterfly walks during the weekend. You can access the walks from the Tea Garden.

More about Steve Woodhall.


Lindsay GrayWho: Lindsay Gray is a garden designer, owner and principal of The School of Garden Design, and author. Her books include Making Sense of Garden Design and A Sense of Space : The Gardens of Jan Blok. A collaboration between Lindsay and butterfly expert Steve Woodhall, titled Gardening for Butterflies and Moths is soon to be released.

What: Lindsay will be available to chat with visitors about landscaping and garden design.

Learn more about Lindsay on her website, Facebook page and for garden inspiration, her Pinterest profile.

Rare trees of the Upper Highway

Did you have a favourite tree as a child?

Perhaps it was a big Fig tree with easy climbing branches, or a Flat Crown that played host to your treehouse? I was one of those lucky kids who grew up in a large garden full of trees, complete with a river the bottom of our plot.

We had to pave around an established Umdoni tree when we built our driveway so as not to disturb the Paradise Flycatchers and their nest. A tall Leopard tree shaded our trampoline and got wet “feet” when Demoina came to town. A Red-lipped Herald lived in a hole in the trunk of our Jacaranda.  To this day I have a lasting affinity for trees.


At Indigenous Open Gardens this year we are celebrating trees with forest walks at Cotswold Downs Estate. Two of our walks will be guided by Richard Boon, author of Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa, manager of a Biodiversity Planning Branch at eThekwini Municipality and longstanding member of the Botanical Society of South Africa. We asked Richard a few questions about our trees in the Upper Highway.

Interview with Richard Boon

1. How did you first become interested in trees?

My interest in nature developed through an interest in birdlife. I had a couple of mentors and friends who steered my narrow interest in birds into a broader interest in nature.

2. What kind of forests and trees are indigenous to the Upper Highway?

The bulk of the forest in the Upper Highway is Scarp Forest. There is also some fringing forest found along rivers. In the Umgeni and Umlaas River valleys the trees are found in a vegetation type called Eastern Valley Bushveld.

Forest at Cotswold Downs Estate

3. Do we have any endemic or unusual species of trees?

Lots. Scarp Forest is an especially species-rich forest type. It is hypothesized that It formed a refuge for more temperate forest trees during glacial maxima when the climate was much colder and drier. We have been in a warm period in the last few thousand years and coastal forest trees have been able to find their way into Scarp Forest, thus increasing its richness.

Many rare and threatened woody plants occur and these include Natal Cycad Encephalartos natalensis (Critically Endangered), Terblanz Boekenhout Faurea macnaughtonii (Rare), Myrtle Wild-quince Cryptocarya myrtifolia (Vulnerable), Sandstone-quince Dahlgrenodendron natalense (Endangered), Tarwood Loxostylis alata (Declining), Cape Holly Ilex mitis (Declining), Forest Saffron Elaeodendron croceum (Declining), Pondo Silky-bark Maytenus abbottii (Endangered), Forest Krantz-ash Atalaya natalensis (Near Threatened), Albino-berry Aphloia theiformis (locally rare), Large-leaf Onionwood Cassipourea gummiflua var. verticillata (Vulnerable), Onionwood Cassipourea malosana (Declining) and Metarungia pubinervia, which in South Africa is confined to the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. The status of the trees listed comes from the Red List of South African Plants published by the South African Biodiversity Institute in 2009.


4. What types of trees and shrubs should we be planting in our gardens in Kloof and the Upper Highway area?

Ideally locally indigenous plants. There is so much to choose from. The Botanical Society of South Africa keeps a list of plants suitable for growing in the Kloof and Upper Highway area.

5. What can we look forward to on the forest walks at this year’s Indigenous Open Gardens?

I don’t like to predict walks. Nature is too variable. We will be walking in a patch of Scarp Forest that has been protected for a number of years. There should be some interesting trees and smaller plants.

6. Is there anything we should bring on the walks? For example camera, binoculars, tree book, etc.

All of the above, but most of all enthusiasm and a willingness to learn and share knowledge.


Richard, thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us.

Useful downloads

Kloof Conservancy Tree List

More on trees in the upper highway

Visit our website for more information on our local trees.

Tree photos

We are posting photos of Cotswold Downs’ forests and its inhabitants on our Instagram profile. Come and have a look for a preview of what you might see on the day.

For more on Kloof Conservancy’s Indigenous Open Gardens 2015, join us on:

Facebook: Kloof Conservancy
Twitter: @KloofConserve
Instagram: Kloof Conservancy
Website: Kloof Conservancy


What lives in the forests of Cotswold Downs?

Our programme at Indigenous Open Gardens this year features two different forest walks.

Self-guided Riverine Forest Walk

The first walk is a self-guided walk through one of Cotswold Downs’ Riverine Forests. This trail is accessible from the Tea Garden.

Guided or self-guided Old Forest Walk

The second walk is a path through Cotswold’s Old Forest. You can choose to walk on your own or join a guided tour with tree experts Richard Boon (author of Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa) and Wilf Sperring. A shuttle for the Old Forest Walk will depart from and return to the Tea Garden from 10h00-15h00.


What to bring on the forest walks

  • Binoculars, for birdwatching
  • Water
  • Wear sensible walking shoes as the trails are rough

About the Cotswold Downs forests

We asked Vic Bonsor, Estate Manager of Cotswold Downs to share some insights into the forests of Cotswold Downs ahead of IOG.

Forest walks, Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

  1. How many forested areas are there on Cotswold Downs Estate?

There are a number of smaller Riverine Forests along perennial stream leading to the Nkutu River that are being preserved – one of which is the Riverine Trail for Visitors to walk on the days of the event. Then there is what we term the “Old Forest” which runs along the steep ridge (roughly West to East) through the Estate. The forest was split into two by the original cane farming. The west portion is where the walk will be for the days of the event.

  1. What kinds of forests are they?

The Old Forest is a great example of Scarp Forest.

  1. Are the forests old and well-established or are some newly restored?

On the guided and self-guided walks in the Old Forest one can see a small portion which was replanted about 10 years ago. The rest of the Old Forest was never disturbed due to being extremely rocky and too steep, even for cane growing.

Old Forest walk, Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

  1. We are really looking forward to the forest walks during Indigenous Open Gardens in a few weeks’ time. Are there any unusual specimens of trees or plants we can look out for?

There is a great variety of Scarp Forest trees along the walks. The storm last week knocked down our “Big Tree” which some estimates put at about 180 years old. It was a Quinine Tree (Rauvolfia Caffra). There are some enormous Red Beech (Protorus longifolia).

Forest walks, Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

  1. Are there any special birds or creatures living in the Cotswold Downs forests?

The Crowned Eagle has a nest in the Old Forest near the Forest trail and the juvenile left the nest in March and is still often seen in the area, shouting for food. The forest has a huge number of Rock Hyrax (Dassie) and an undetermined number of the little Blue Duiker. There is a seldom seen Rock Python of about 4 to 5 meters somewhere in there also. Throughout the Estate and forest edges we also have the Slender, Egyptian and White Tailed Mongoose.  Also the Porcupine is often seen at night and then the real “rarity’ being the Aardvark.

Juvenile Crowned Eagle, Cotswold Downs Old Forest

  1. While few of us have the good fortune of owning a forest in our garden, many of us find Bugweed or Lantana growing amongst our trees. What is the best way to manage alien invaders like these?

Quite honestly it is just constant monitoring and removing the plants before they can seed and spread again.  Did you know that there is an indigenous Bugweed and it is very sought out by the Dark-capped Bulbuls? It is the as Solanum giganteum as different from the Solanum mauritianum (the bad invasive one).

Forest walks at Cotswold Downs, Indigenous Open Gardens 2015

Thank you, Vic, for sharing your knowledge and your photos.

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