FORT FREDERICK

The Internet is a potential maze that can lead one down alleyways that divert one from the initial track one set out upon. I was wondering who Fort Frederick in Port Elizabeth was named after and discovered it was Frederick, Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. The fort, overlooking the harbour, was built in 1799.

Duke of York – that rings a bell:

The Grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again.

When they were up, they were up

And when they were down, they were down

And when they were only halfway up

They were neither up nor down.

The maw of the maze opened wide and I got sucked into some sites claiming that the rhyme refers to Richard, Duke of York, claimant to the English throne and Protector of England and the Battle of Wakefield on 30th December 1460. Others are convinced that Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, is the one mocked in the nursery rhyme. When war broke out between Britain and France in 1793, he took control of the port of Dunkirk but was later pushed back in a battle at Hondschoote. Although his troops performed well, they were outnumbered three to one and lost their siege guns during the retreat. Given the date Fort Frederick was built, this one is the likely candidate.

Back to Fort Frederick.

This stone fort is reputed to be the oldest surviving British fortification in the Eastern Cape. It was built by the British Forces to defend the mouth of the Baakens River and contains a powder magazine

As well as a blockhouse, the upper storey of which no longer exists as it was built from timber.

The fort was originally defended by two 8-pounder guns and one 5.5 inch Howitzer, but now contains a selection of muzzle-loaders dating from the later part of the eighteenth century.

It is has been partially restored over the years and is a declared National Monument.

If you wish to read about the background to the nursery rhyme, here are two sites to start you off

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/the_grand_old_duke_of_york.htm

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/7-facts-grand-old-duke-york-british-military-reformer-x.html

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REMNANTS OF HOMES FROM THE PAST: HELL’S POORT

Consider this: nearly two centuries ago, after having travelled for several weeks by ox wagon, you arrive in an inhospitable, uninhabited place. There are no roads to speak of; no neighbours to welcome you and ease you into your new environment; the nearest town – if there is one – requires a journey of several days to reach; there are no shops or fresh produce markets – only the dry veld, the intense heat, and a river some distance away. This is where you are going to create a home for your wife and where you plan to bring up your family.

Everything has to be done by hand: hewing the local rocks into usable shapes; hoisting them into position to build walls; and making a weather-proof roof – not to mention having to provide food and water sans any of the conveniences we are used to.

South Africa is dotted about with the remnants of the labour of early inhabitants. This ruined homestead in the Hell’s Poort valley in the Eastern Cape is an example of where a variety of local rocks were shaped and fitted together to make the walls. On the left-hand side is what is left of a layer of plaster.

In this case patterns were made in the plaster to represent a more even appearance of stone work.

The rocks were, however, of different sizes.

The thick walls were held together with mud.

Sun-baked clay bricks lined what would have been an afdak or veranda.

We can still see remnants of how the people here lived and worked once they had settled in:

They had horses.

Used glassware.

Crockery.

They built a cooler for keeping their meat and other food as fresh as possible.

They used an ox wagon.

They even made a garden.

ALIEN AUDIT (4) STATICE

A single Statice (Limonium sinuatum), also known as Sea Lavender, has responded beautifully to the recent light rain. These long-lasting flowers are a welcome addition to the garden and seemingly last forever in flower arrangements – even when they are dry. My joy comes from having tried – unsuccessfully – for years to establish Statice in our garden. Other plants have shrivelled up in the drought, and an unfortunate few have been shaded out by lavender bushes.

Imagine my surprise to discover that Statice is a listed invasive alien in this country! It is classed as Category 1b (invasive species that may not be owned, imported into South Africa, grown, moved, sold, given as a gift or dumped in a waterway) in the Northern and Western Cape and is also considered a problem in Gauteng, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, and in the Eastern Cape. It is spread by seed and apparently invades roadsides, disturbed coastal sites, fynbos and vacant lots in the Karoo.

I purchased my plant from a nursery and it is a flower that is widely used in commercial flower arrangements. Dilemma: keep it or toss it? Never having seen it growing in the wild in the Eastern Cape, I think I will keep it – for now at least.

NAMAQUALAND DAISIES

These indigenous Namaqualand Daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) are grown in gardens all over South Africa, providing a riot of colour during the late winter months. All gardens except for mine that is! Somehow, neither the many packets of purchased seeds, nor handfuls of collected seed have ever found favour here – until the first sprinkling of rain at the end of September this year.

I see these flower seeds are now marketed under the umbrella name of African Daisies, which I think is a misnomer – there are so many ‘African’ daisies to choose from. Interestingly enough, the name ‘Daisy’ originates from the ancient Saxon term ‘Day’s eye’ referring to its habit of  opening during the day to show its ‘eye’ and then closing at night – or when the sun is not shining. As you can imagine, these Namaqualand Daisies look their best in the full sunshine.

STEPPE BUZZARD

The Steppe Buzzard (Buteo vulpinus) is the most common brown buzzard in South Africa, and as such, was one of the first raptors I learned to identify in the field – even though their  plumage can vary from pale brown to almost black. These migratory birds arrive in South Africa during Spring and stay until late Summer to early Autumn. They frequent habitats such as grasslands and open woodland and have the tendency to perch on poles. How convenient that this one in the Adelaide district did just that for me:

What separates the Steppe Buzzard from small eagles is its bare yellow legs, clearly visible in this picture:

The magnificent bird below was observed in the Addo Elephant National Park.

FARM GATE

I am fascinated by farm gates: what stories lie behind them – and what a variety of fastenings they have. This metal one is of a modern design and it is kept locked with a metal chain. I suspect the wooden fence posts have shifted with the seasons for there is not longer the ‘neat fit’ that would have been intended when the gate was hung.