Splashes & Stoneflies in the Dargle River

We think our river is pretty special and hope to encourage everyone alongside it to take care of it.  Earlier this month, members of the Conservancy and friends gathered for a Water Workshop. It was a glorious, sunny summer day. Penny Rees was delighted to be back one of her favourite places – the Dargle River on Howard Long’s farm Craigdarroch.

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This spot was chosen because it is one of the few parts of the Dargle River that is in good condition.

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After tea and scones made by Cheryl and Jennifer, I showed everyone a slide show on the Dargle river walk which took place in January this year. There was lots of discussion about how to clear invasive plants in the riparian zone and ideas and experiences were shared.

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We then headed out to the river, passing large bulls getting ready to be shown at the Royal Show and hearing about the history of the farm.

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We loved the old stone storage shed that had been built by the original Scottish settlers (the Sinclairs), apparently to double up as a fort if the need should arise.

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Above a cascade, Howard pointed out a large sheet of flat rock that was the ford (in the old days) – the only access to the farm! This must have been either terrifying or non-negotiable during heavy river flows!

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Howard told us how they drank the water from this Dargle stream until about 10 years ago. He has been clearing wattles and other invasive plants along the tributary gullies which feed into the stream for many years.

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“Once you take out the wattles, the indigenous vegetation comes back. It is a 100 times better than it was, but obviously, each year you have to keep going back and clearing.”

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“This river is only 18kms long,” he added “Surely, if we work together we can restore it to it’s natural state?”  Wyndham Robartes shared his experience of successfully clearing the river banks on his property using goats rather than herbicide.

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We crested a hill and there lay the Dargle River, clear bright water bubbling over rocks passing beautiful river banks with long waving veld grass that alternated with patches of forest.

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Penny explained how to do a miniSASS and armed with plastic containers, we were rearing to go.

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Getting our feet wet was great fun as we hunted for the invertebrates in the river – we found stout crawlers, prongills, damselflies and plenty more.

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Once again (as during the River Walk in January) we hit the jackpot – and found a Stonefly.

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The mini sass score was 7.1 indicating that the river was in good condition.

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A lively discussion followed on the roles that the different invertebrates have in the river ecology – from the slow moving planaria that favour shaded quiet waters to the frenetic riffle beetles that rush around on the surface of the fast flowing water.

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Rose Downard found the morning really interesting. “Quite amazing what a difference it can make to the score to find a Stone Fly, yet every insect has a part to play, including the humble snail. I think it would be wonderful if the whole of the Dargle River could be cleared of alien vegetation and restored to a healthy river again. It is an important part of the Dargle and should be treated as such.”

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Everyone had fun splashing in the river and learning about all the interesting creatures which inhabit it. The dogs had a ball! Thanks to Midlands Conservancies For

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