WE ARE ON THE MOVE
When the various townships comprising Gillitts were laid out, the town planners were fairly generous in providing small pieces of open spaces within an easy walking distance of every property. It is, however, a challenge to preserve them and one to which the recently revived Gillitts Conservancy has risen.
The area encompassed by the Conservancy includes Dovehouse, Chelmsfordville, Gillitts, Winston Park and St Hellier. Although keen to work together, the residents of each of these areas do still like to guard their own sense of place. In adjacent Everton, which has its own Conservancy, is the magnificent Molweni Gorge. To the south of Winston Park, the Cliffs and caves above the toll road, contain evidence of human habitation dating back 2000 years. Below St Hellier, to the west, there are well-managed forests and open spaces, which are mainly in private hands. Even the railway line reserve running through the area is a refuge for the movement of animals, insects, and reptiles.
We really do have the best of all worlds, with more species of trees in this little area than in the whole of the Kruger National Park.
Funnily enough, the landscape, at the time that Captain Allen Gardiner passed through the area 180 years ago, was mainly grassland and there are still a number of very small remnants, all in a very healthy, but threatened state. The one in Minerva Drive was initially designated as a school site, but, thanks to the tireless efforts of a few local residents, it is being kept reasonably alien-free, albeit hard work. It is home to a variety of birds and small animals.
Fishermen have a choice of five dams, all stocked with fish that will give a good fight. But it is the little bits of open space that makes Gillitts so unique. That, coupled with the fact that most of the private properties are relatively large, often with only the top half used up for the formal part of the gardens and the bottom half left alone, means that there are “green corridors” crisscrossing the whole village. It is not unusual to come across a duiker or bushbuck on the road or to see a spotted genet or mongoose disappearing into the bushes. With the renewed general interest in “going indigenous”, we are now seeing chameleons, fireflies and glow worms in the area again.
One of the area’s great success stories is the Iphithi Nature Reserve, 9.2 hectares in extent, but even bigger when the adjoining private land is taken into account. In 2000 it was a wasteland of gum, wattle, and camphor. Now, it is an idyllic spot, with forest, grass, flowers, stream, waterfalls, a small dam and all kinds of animals, birds and other living things. To read further about the Conservancy’s flagship area, click here
The Conservancy is embarking on a drive to raise awareness of what the area has to offer and, in so doing, raise much-needed funds. Many of our open spaces need constant attention, to keep them alien free. The Conservancy is to focus on getting together a number of “gatekeepers” for each of our designated green areas within Gillitts that are worth preserving, with each gatekeeper managing the piece of open space nearest to his or her property. This is already happening at the Minerva Drive Grassland, the Ashley Drive Dam, and the Winston Park cliffs.
It is up to us to make a difference in our own suburb. To join Gillitts Conservancy and assist in any way please make use of the contacts below.
Chairman: Martin Gardiner
Cell: 083 2355 431
Vice-chairman: Elaine Kool
Cell: 082 4929 451
Website: Anno Torr
Cell: 072 6025 610
Iphithi Nature Reserve: Donors have automatic access. All other visitors can phone the following numbers:
Martin: 083 235 5431
Glen: 084 600 0365