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Newsletter of the Hillside Dams Conservancy
Issue No. 4 - August 2010

We have had a fairly busy time over the last few months and good progress has been made in making the Conservancy more user friendly for our many, and increasing number of supporters. It is indeed gratifying to see how the general Bulawayo public has taken to coming back to the Dams.

The opening up of additional areas and the provision of more braai sites has attracted many people. With the onset of summer we expect more visitors taking advantage of the later evenings.

The sunsets at the Dams can be amazing at this time of the year while the birdlife is particularly good. Have you seen our resident fish eagles?

Currently we are finishing off the opening-up of the east bank of the stream between the two dams as well as the east bank of the Upper Dam. In the latter section we hope to develop a series of exclusive sites for picnickers. Access to this section of the Conservancy will be restricted to the Moffat Road entrance once we have raised the necessary funds to complete fencing, toilets and manning of this section. The only other official public entrance to the Conservancy will be the current Banff Road access.

Security has remained a pressing issue. Any concentration of people obviously attracts the attention of less well-intended members of our society. We are working closely with Club 50 and the local ZRP Hillside to fight these criminals. To this end, we are endeavoring to fence the Conservancy and limit access points to select manned entrances. This is also a clause of our lease with Bulawayo City Council. Unfortunately it will cut easy access to the Conservancy for some members of the public. We must apologize and would like to make known that neighbours can always assist us in placing a locked pedestrian gate in those sections we have closed off. In each case where we have worked we have given notice but feedback has minimal and largely post-event. Should you require a personal key to existing or proposed gates please contact us and we can discuss.

In pursuit of improved security we have been raising funds to construct secure fencing to fill in certain sections of the boundary – luckily most of it is already fenced and secured by our neighbours. Visitors will have seen the palisade fencing along the front section as well as the Banff Road entrance gate. It really looks good and we are adding panels as we raise the necessary funds. If you are able to help with sponsoring a panel or two please email us. All donations will be acknowledged. It was with this project in mind that we held our first “Arts in the Park” in late July. It was a huge success with more than a thousand people coming through the front gate. Thanks for your support. Have to admit that we overwhelmed by the attendance and we leant many lessons for next time. Watch this space for future events. The fees paid by exhibitors for their stands raised enough money for an additional 25m of palisade fencing – there is still a LONG way to go!

Sadly the two Dams did not fill this last rainy season but we hope that what is there will last us through until the next season. Unfortunately, the Lower Dam continues to leak badly but then again it has ever since it was built. In 1902 it was described as a sieve! It was once topped up with recycled water but that is no longer available so we are dependent on the vagrancies of Mother Nature. Solutions are possible but costly.

We are delighted to join forces with a local resident in developing a secure “campsite” on a portion of the east bank of the Upper Dam. This will provide a much needed facility for both the Conservancy and Bulawayo at large. Unfortunately it will limit general access to a small portion of the estate. We hope that this inconvenience will be more than offset but the development of additional public open areas, exclusive braai sites and the road access to the southern portions of the Conservancy. This southern area is rarely visited by most of us but is the prettiest portion of the Conservancy. With improving security and access we are looking at possible facilities/attractions in that area. It was our initial attention that this could be a secured game area for small game. Visitors would be able to follow various walking and horse trails as if you were not even in the confines of the modern City, while it would be used as an educational area to expose our youth to wildlife, conservation and the environment.

To improve facilities at the Dams we have also built, through the kind assistance of MACO Builders, a small tuck-shop adjacent to the Lower Dam car park. We are currently looking at operations. We are also extending the number of children’s play facilities – although we often face a problem with “over-aged children” causing damage. Other plans for which we are working to fund include a small meeting room suitable for societies; an amphitheatre; restoration of the “Trim Track”; youth campsite; site museum and associated Hillside Dams booklet to cover the diverse and often unique natural and social histories of the Dams.

We hope in the next few months to launch a couple of regular events at the Dams. Through the kind assistance of the Purchase family we are developing map of the Conservancy. This will dovetail well with an initiative by Simon Spooner to create an organized walking group – the Hillside Dams Ramblers. The idea is to have groups of people walking regularly along a number of routes defined based on time, distance and how strenuous you want to go. We are still looking at how it will operate but let us know if you are interested in joining us.

Cannot say that we have discovered much of interest of late in our continuing tidying up. Yes, we keep coming across old pathways, waterpipes and lost infrastructure. Clearly a lot of work was once done in the place. It is good that it is being revived. The good news is that “dry” borehole has been tested and for now at least there is water. When we have funds we will resurrect this to water sections of the general public areas.

The Aloe Gardens were a great scene earlier this year and with the onset of summer we will be extending the area and developing new ones elsewhere – often using aloes now lost in the deep shade where they grow but do not flower. Our appreciation goes to the te Velde family for assisting us with this task, for recovering a number of aloes from new fields in the Nyaki area, as well as the continuing effort to remove that dreaded invasive pest LANTANA.

We are getting on top of it and our commendations to those neighbours who are working to the same end. Sadly, this does not apply to all neighbours and we face ever-present reinvasion. Of course it is illegal to allow it to grow on your property and we look forward to the day that the bylaws are fully applied.

This is all for now. Please be reassured that we will endeavor to develop the Dams to the benefit of all Bulawayo residents and visitors. The issue of increased entry cost has sparked off some comment but we have to be self-sustaining in everything that we do, in addition to paying lease fees etc to the Council. The Conservancy remains free early in the day and on some days of the working week. Membership cards can be purchased for those wanting to avoid the need to carry cash while people can make applications for a free card where necessary. We do not want to exclude deserving cases. It is desirable that all groups book ahead of time as it is not always possible to find space. In all these cases contact the office at the BOMA.

We hope to see you soon at the Dams.