Situated near the banks of the Fish River, Fort Brown (built in 1835) now forms a part of the police station. It was one of a chain of forts built during the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape.
ALIEN PEACH TREES
It is a boon to have a peach tree growing in one’s garden. If the climatic conditions are right then one can look forward to a delicious harvest every year. Our neighbour’s peach tree is a drawcard for Speckled Mousebirds, Redwinged Starlings, Black-collared Barbets and Cape White-eyes as the various owners or tenants have paid scant attention to the ripening fruit. So, why have I titled this post Alien Peach Trees?
They are ‘alien’ only in that they have not been planted in a garden. This fine specimen has been growing near the road on the edge of town for years.
The blossoms delight every spring and I have enjoyed seeing passers-by pick the fruit. Then ‘developers’ moved in with their bulldozers and wreaked havoc on all the natural vegetation by pushing over the trees and scraping the ground clean of any grass, flowers or bulbs … and left it for pioneer weeds to take it over, leaving no space for anything indigenous … those got scraped too … for what? Fence posts were erected a year later and nothing has happened since, but that beautiful peach tree is gone forever.
If one drives through parts of the Free State during spring, one is struck by the number of peach trees growing in the wild along the highway.
These must have had their origin in the pips thrown out by occupants of passing vehicles. There are dozens of these trees for kilometres at a time. Their blossoms surely provide a welcome source of nectar for bees and other pollinators.
In time, these trees too probably provide a welcome bite of fresh fruit for anyone who can draw off the road safely to pick them. I haven’t been there during the fruiting season. Aliens they might be in the sense of not being indigenous trees, but not unwelcome. There is no sign of them being invasive and they provide a quiet bounty for those in need.
SCENES FROM THE EASTERN CAPE …
… the part of the Eastern Cape where I live. Grahamstown is surrounded by farms, game reserves, hunting areas, and is close to the coast. We are not going to reach the sea on this virtual trip, but will stick closer to home. The first scene then is of an abandoned windmill. These wonderful wind-driven pumps were iconic structures of farming communities all over South Africa. Most have now been replaced by solar pumps and the old stalwarts have been left to rust … clanking uselessly in the wind.
Grass fires spell danger and destruction to anything and everyone who lives in their wake. Many fires are fanned by strong winds and recently our town was smothered in thick smoke coming from a bushfire on the side of the surrounding hills. In this view across the valley, you can see the brownish layers of smoke from grass fires somewhere in the region.
Now many of you are familiar with my tales of the Urban Herd: cattle that are left to wander around the suburbs to feed on the unmown grass verges, unkempt public parks – and to drink water from ditches and potholes. These two almost look as if they wish to pay the homeowner a visit!
The number of donkeys seen in town as well as in the suburbs has also increased over the years. These two are typical of many of them: finding grazing wherever they can in the suburbs:
From time to time some may be collected by their owners and in-spanned to pull a donkey cart. The latter are frequently used for collecting firewood, or wood from the wattle forests that are growing on the fringes of the town for building houses. In this case, these youngsters may have delivered something or are simply going on a ‘joy-ride’ through the suburbs at the end of the day:
We have become so used to seeing these domestic animals both in town and in the suburbs as well as along the road that skirts through what is euphemistically called the industrial area on the edge of town – there are no factories here – that we tend not to worry about them anymore. Yesterday evening a cow stood in the middle of a busy street while she suckled her calf: vehicles simply slowed down and moved past them without a fuss. A boon for the bird-watcher in me is that the presence of cattle in the area means that I occasionally see Red-billed Oxpeckers feasting on the ticks they carry:
OUR RICH WILDLIFE
Every time we visit one of our national parks I am reminded of how fortunate we are to enjoy seeing a wide variety of wildlife. The poaching of white rhino is an ongoing concern in South Africa – even in our protected areas – and so I always feel privileged to see one of these creatures in the wild.
We are used to seeing black wildebeest in the Mountain Zebra National Park and so it is fun to see blue wildebeest in places such as the Kruger National Park (where all of these photographs were taken).
Cape buffalo occur in the Addo Elephant National Park too, but this one is covered with Red-billed Oxpeckers.
Of course it is always a pleasure to see elegant giraffe.
Impala have been brought into several private game reserves all over the country.
No trip to the Kruger National Park feels complete unless one comes across a lion or two.
MORE EASTERN CAPE SCENERY
On this road trip we will stop along the Highlands road to look across the valley towards the Pumba Private Game Reserve.
Look at all that beautiful space covered with natural vegetation.
We stop further along the same road for a closer view of some of the indigenous forests which are, sadly, interspersed with pine trees and wattle.
Travelling south, towards the sea, it is always a pleasure to spend time driving through the Addo Elephant National Park. The natural vegetation was cleared many years ago for farms and has still not recovered, even though these farm lands have long since been incorporated into the park.
Should we decide to travel northwards, we might pass rocky outcrops such as these near Riebeeck East.
We might decide to stay over at the Mountain Zebra National Park so that we can enjoy the open vista of grassland interspersed with acacia trees.
As the day draws to a close we can appreciate the beauty of these mountains near Tarkastad.
Of course it would take more than a day to cover all of this ground, but it gives you an idea of the kind of scenery I call home.