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Number 8 : October 2004


Agulhas unitiative on track

The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI), a comprehensive plan for the conservation and development of the Strandveld, is at the start of its first five-year cycle. At the end of this period, it is envisaged that the whole process will be in the hands of local people. And one day rhinoceros and hippopotami may again walk free in the region.


• We often have more material – especially photographs – than we can fit onto the available number of pages, and will in future publish some of this on our website. The popularity of the site is growing all the time, having attracted more than 6 000 visits in August. It also contains background information, summaries of our archives and many useful links. Visit us at


3. Are whales disturbed by watching boats?

By Rudy Hughes

I am often asked why it is necessary for people to go out to sea to see the whales when they can be seen from our shores without being disturbed by boats. Surely the boats will frighten the animals and chase them away from our coast forever?


4.Getting through at Swellendam

Apart from mountains, rivers posed the greatest obstacle to travellers of old. Simon Streicher of Swellendam has read every journal and visited every crossing in the Swellendam area to establish exactly where Het Oude Caepse Wagen-weg and other old routes ran, and where the rivers were crossed. At one time, three ferries operated on the Breede River simultaneously.


5. Fairtrade for Thandi

Thandi, the Xhosa for “with love we grow together”, is the name of South Africa’s first wine bearing the Fairtrade mark. It is a remarkable achievement for this unique wine-growing partnership in the Elgin Valley, an area better known for its fruit than its wine.


6.The Village Gardener, by Tracy Paton

A dry summer is not death to your garden


6 & 7. Nico Myburgh: Getting the perfect shot

Village Life has published articles on birding in each issue since its inception, and is fortunate to have as its contributor Nico Myburgh, doyen of South African bird photographers, who has recorded a total of 650 avian species. But that was not achieved by occasionally pointing his camera at a bird. It took dedication, a love for nature and vast knowledge of his subject – and sometimes risk of injury.


8 & 9. Grace and disgrace at early Ratelrivier

Walking around Ratelrivier, one of the oldest farms in the Overberg Strandveld, the limestone mansion and the luxurious stables tell a story of “gracious and extravagant living”. An inscription on a window pane casts a darker shadow. Accompanied by Overberg researcher Hercules Wessels, the story slowly emerges. A story that spans more than 240 years.


10. Saving the last bits of Overberg Renosterveld

By Domitilla Raimondo and Rosanne Stanway,

National Botanical Institute, Kirstenbosch

There is more to Renosterveld than meets the eye. But the little that is left, is highly threatened. The Custodians for Rare and Endangered Wildflowers Programme (CREW) is intent on saving that.


11. It's nature as usual on the Test Range

The largest “nature reserve” in the Overberg doesn’t belong to Western Cape Nature Conservation (WCNC), but to OTB, a division of defence contractor Denel, that operates a world-class missile test facility on the coast between Arniston/Waenhuiskrans and Cape Infanta.


12. Veggies from the sea

By Louie Lemmer

Seaweeds are not really weeds at all, except perhaps in the sense that they are “wild plants”. The more appropriate name would be “sea vegetables”, which is what they are called in many parts of the world, where they have been eaten for centuries.


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Verreauxs' Eagle in flight. © Nici Myburgh

Nature conservation, tourism and development in the Overberg are getting a boost with the launch of the Overberg Birding Route and the first phase of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI). As a welcome to visitors to the Stanford Birding Fair 8–10 October, we feature the work of veteran bird photographer Nico Myburgh, who took this stunning photograph of a Black Eagle (now renamed Verreauxs' Eagle), one of almost 350 bird species in the region. See pages 6 & 7.

Burnt-out farmhouse, Rietfontein, Agulhas Plain

The importance of conserving the cultural heritage on the Agulhas Plain along with its natural resources, was underlined on 10 September when the historic buldings on the farm Rietfontein burnt down after being set alight by juveniles

Workers pruning grape vines, Thandi near Grabouw

Shareholders at Thandi pruning vines

Jacoba Alida van Breda

The historic farm Ratelrivier saw a tragedy early in its history, with the violent death of Jacoba Alida van Breda

Control room at the OTB missile test range near Bredasdorp, South Africa

The control room at OTB

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