Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Clear water

The winter cold has produced clear pools and a shoreline of river stones under glittering water just before the junction of the Constantia spruit and the Moreleta.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earth Hour

Dear Friends,

Do you know about Earth Hour 2009?

On Saturday 28 March from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time right around the world a billion people will switch off their lights in a symbolic action to send a message to the leaders of the world in the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009 that we need a commitment to actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give us an effective global climate deal.

WWF is running the World’s First Global Election and the aim is to get a billion people to stand together against climate change. Vote by signing up and switching off your lights for Earth Hour.

This is a chance for the people of the Earth to make their voices heard as the results of the election will be presented at the conference.

Some of the world’s most recognisable landmarks will switch off their lights for an hour, including Table Mountain in Cape Town, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Melbourne’s Federation Square, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

Pledge your support and spread the message.

To sign up go to the website: www.earthhour.org

The South African website: www.earthhour.org.za

Also see the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d7OvnAbNIE


Carol Martin
Friends of Serene Valley

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bird Walk Nov 2008

The bird walk on 15 Nov 2008 was a great success and enjoyed by everyone even though our shoes got thoroughly soaked. Twenty people came and we identified 48 birds. We were supposed to walk for one hour but though many people had to leave after that, quite a few stayed on for another hour. (See which birds were seen and heard in the key on our web site Bird List.)

The first pic shows our bird expert, Phil Paige-Green, talking to some of the people, the second shows some of the people walking along and the third shows two guinea fowl.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Dear Members, Donors and neighbours,

I hope this year has started well and that it will be a very happy one for you all!

We had a good year in 2008 and received an award for our contribution to nature conservation.

We hope many more of you will join the Friends Group this year! The membership fees are now due and the 2009 membership cards will be valid until the end of February 2010. The fee is R200 per household per annum and this is a really good investment in your neighbourhood as not only will the money be used for projects to upgrade the nature conservation area but also the card will entitle 2 adults and 2 children to 2 free visits to each of Rietvlei, Groenkloof and Wonderboom Nature Reserves – worth much more than R200.

See the web site for details on joining.

Friends Groups are affiliated to the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and our aim is “to encourage public participation in caring for the Earth”. Never has this been more important, so please read on for some “encouragement”.

It was World Wetlands Day on 2 February and it will be National Water Week from 16 to 20 March and World Water Day on 22 March. The Wetlands theme for this year is “Catchment Management: We all live downstream”. Although it seems crazy after all the rain we’ve had this summer, South Africa is a water-scarce country and as water is absolutely essential to life, we must look after it.

We are not “separate” from the water system. What we do in our gardens affects the river near us, what we put in our dustbins will leach into the water near the land-fill and the chemicals from our household cleaners, bath products and the drugs we take will get into the sewerage system and eventually back into the water systems.

What can we do?

In the garden:

Chemical fertilizers certainly make plants grow beautifully but in the long term the soil becomes impoverished and the chemicals go through the ground water into rivers. Rather use compost, well-rotted manure, seaweed and other organic fertilizers. These feed the earth and water percolating through healthy, natural soil will be better quality water. If you don’t have a compost heap or worm farm, try this perma-culture tip: dig flower pot sized holes in your garden and put the day’s vegetable peels, over-ripe fruit, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, tea leaves (not the bag), etc, in and cover the hole again. These will break down and feed the soil.

Poisons may be a quick fix for unwanted pests and weeds but also poison the water and “good” insects and birds. Rather aim for a natural balance in your garden where predatory insects, toads, lizards and birds keep the unwanted insects in check. Learn about companion plants which protect each other. Marigolds, garlic, spring onions and some herbs deter insects. Remember caterpillars become butterflies!

If really necessary you can make environmentally friendly repellants (not killers) such as garlic spray: Chop a whole bulb of garlic. Add 2 tsps liquid paraffin (from pharmacy) and let stand for 24 hours. Add 2½ litres soapy water (made from sunlight bar soap NEVER dishwashing liquid or detergents). Mix well, strain into bottles and seal tightly. Spray or paint onto plants when needed, underneath leaves as well.


Recycle and dispose of dangerous items responsibly.

Local recycling drop-off points:

Paper and cardboard: Mondi collects every two weeks. Also there is a black dustbin inside Moreleta Superspar (cor Rubenstein and Garsfontein Roads).

Glass: Black dustbin inside Moreleta Superspar.

Plastic bottles, tubs etc: Moreleta Superspar (official PETCO drop-off).

Tins: Moreleta Superspar.

Batteries: Box inside Pick ‘n Pay, Menlyn Retail Park (and possibly other branches).

CFL lights (contain mercury): Box inside Pick ‘n Pay, Menlyn Retail Park.

Computers: Makro, Centurion, big green container marked “Fujitsu Siemens” near the liquor store. Metals such as cadmium and mercury will be separated out and plastics etc will be re-used.

Cell Phones: Nokia counter (take all makes) in Home Hyper City, 19 Pretorius St, city centre. These will be sent back to Finland for recycling. The long-range transport is not ideal but I don’t know of another recycling initiative locally.


Modern household cleaners and personal hygiene products are very convenient and easy to use but read the labels! Parabens (preservatives) and thalates are both hormone disruptors as is sodium laurel sulphate used as a foaming agent in toothpaste and shampoos. Aluminium is neurotoxic. There may be minute amounts used by each person, not immediately dangerous to life, but they build up in the water systems. Our sewage plants were not designed to remove medications like oestrogens and now cocaine is also showing up in water. Fish and animals have already been affected by hormone disruptors in some areas.

More and more organic and eco-friendly products are being manufactured so ask your favourite shop to stock them. Visit websites to find out more: try http://www.urbansprout.co.za/ and www.faithfultonature.co.za for an idea of what products are available and what chemicals to avoid. Plain water is sufficient for many household cleaning jobs and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and white vinegar are earth-friendly and good cleaners (always test first). Try 2 tsp vinegar in 500 ml water as a window cleaner. Google “baking soda” for masses of uses of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda to us).

On the subject of sewers: after heavy storms some of the municipal sewer inspection points overflowed along the river. Please check that there is a raised edge (at least 10 mm) around your drains to prevent storm water getting in. Our system is under severe pressure. An extra sewer pipe is being laid along the eastern side of the Moreleta Spruit but it will only get to our area in 2010.

If we all make a few changes it will make a difference.

Our Fencing:

A new fence was erected in Coley St at the bottom of Mias St. A start has been made with fencing the area between Godfrey and Hans Strijdom. We still need to collect money to complete that area which is now under pressure from taxi drivers washing their vehicles, vagrants camping and criminals using it as a getaway route. Recently trench-diggers damaged the fence along Velddrift St and a car hit the fence at the corner of Godfrey and Gilda Sts. These breaks will be repaired by the contractor and Nature Conservation respectively. Thank you to the members who keep their eyes open and let me know about damage to the fence.

Grass Cutting Policy:

Nature Conservation is cutting two tractor widths along the boundaries of properties and some paths and the rest is being left natural as a habitat for birds, insects, small mammals and so on (see previous newsletter on the importance of grasslands). We recently bought our own brush cutter and Ephraim is currently cutting the walking paths. Nature Conservation has offered to make fire breaks before the winter.


We had a very successful bird walk in November and identified 48 different birds. As this was so much enjoyed we will be having more walks this year. These will be free of charge and just aimed at appreciating nature.

The next one will be a tree walk on Saturday 14 March 2009. Meet at the Lola St gate at 6:30 am and we will walk for about 1 to 1½ hours.

Nature Lover’s Notebook:

A real treasure was given to one of our committee members in the form of a notebook compiled by a previous resident of Oostvallei, Hans Dannenfeldt, who roamed the Moreleta Spruit in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. He made notes on the plants, trees, birds, butterflies and rainfall. He had an interesting theory on the origin of the name “Moreleta”. It is a corruption of “Moretele” from the Tswana name – moreeko, morethlwa, moretlwa – for Grewia flava (brandy bush, raisin tree, brandewynbos), a shrub or small tree with yellow flowers and edible fruit which was made into a porridge. The stamped fruit mixed with locusts was a Tswana delicacy. Also a rather potent alcoholic brew was made from the berries – “hence the importance to base the name of a river on this shrub” he says.

The other story about the name is that a young man, who may or may not have been an Erasmus depending on which version is told, who fancied a beautiful young lady called Letta de Beer would ride past each morning as she sat by her window combing her hair and raise his hat and say “Môre, Letta”.

Which version is correct? I suspect the former, though the latter is very romantic – maybe a bit of both.

Vegetable Gardens:

One of our members asked how to start a vegetable garden. In case anyone else is interested, I will put some information on our website. In the meantime the original Food Gardens Method is as follows:

Choose a sunny spot. Dig a door-sized bed at least knee-depth. Put top soil on one side and sub-soil on the other. Half-fill with rubbish that will rot – grass cuttings, leaves, plant cuttings, vegetable peels, bones, egg shells, old fruit and vegetables, shredded newspaper. Wet the rubbish and cover first with sub-soil then the top soil. The bed will be higher than the surrounding soil but will sink as the rubbish rots. You can do it exactly this way or a variation, filling the hole with rubbish at the bottom and then layers of compost, well-rotted manure, soil, ash from wood, bonemeal and so on. Cover with mulch. Plant the vegetables in rows.
For March you can plant: broad beans, beetroot, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, leaf mustard, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, swiss chard, spinach, turnips.
Useful websites: http://www.janesdeliciousgarden.com/; http://www.nda.agric.sa/; http://www.702.co.za/ – click on Jenny Crwys-Williams and go to “Athol’s vegetable gardening page”.

Please become members of the Friends. You do not have to attend meetings. You can be as committed as you wish. Join us for walks, tree planting and so on. Walk your dog and your family in our nature area and let us know what interests you and how you would like to see it managed. We need to raise money for our projects of fencing and bridge-building but donations of time and expertise are also welcome.

Carol Martin (Chairman)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Welcome to Friends of Serene Valley's blog

Greetings members and visitors!

We now have our own blog for all events, notifications and information pertaining to the welfare of the Serene Valley Reserve area.

Please visit the blog for regular updates and the web site for information on Serene Valley and membership and contact details, etc.