Quiet Waters Update – Dec’2017
I am writing a short piece on the history of Quiet Waters for you for two reasons.
The first is to acknowledge the huge part played by my husband, Gordon Macdonald for over 30 years, in the creation of Quiet Waters and then in its management; first in its entirety and more latterly, in Pumula Camp and the picnic sites. He has resigned from his part in Quest and Quiet Waters, although I hope he will still be of some use sometimes in the future years.
The other reason is to record our thanks to the many Falconians, parents and friends of the College, who helped Gordon and his small committee, especially in the first couple of decades of the project. Without that help, which came in all sorts of forms, he would never have succeeded in creating the beautiful park which the College is so privileged to have. I will avoid naming people as there are so many who helped and so will write generally. However, I know you will know who you are, and thank you so very much!
When the College acquired the farm known as Quiet Waters in 1983, Neil Todd later asked Gordon if he had any ideas about how the land could be used. When Gordon suggested a Conservation area, so that Falcon would not to be outdone by Peterhouse’s Gosho Park, Neil thought that was a great idea, and asked Gordon to take on the task!
And thus began in 1985, a wonderful ride for us and those staff who were involved over the years. We all learned a great deal, met all sorts of interesting people, and soon came to appreciate the immense generosity of so many individuals over the years. Gordon learned how to design and oversee the building first of all the 4 picnic sites at the base of Usandisa (Black Kopje). A parent provided the frames for the Blair toilets which were constructed near the picnic sites. Gordon consulted one of our workers who had grown up on this piece of land, and he renamed various features with their Ndebele names; and the practice was followed throughout the park, using local names of trees, birds and mammals to name most constructions etc. Then he and others had to learn how to survey a fence line and then watch the fence’s construction, by a local parent, who did such a wonderful job that more than 30 years later the fence still stands, in most places, exactly as it was constructed. His services were paid for by a grant from the Netherlands Embassy. The poles and all the fencing for 7km of game fencing were provided by mostly farming parents, while the railing needed for the straining posts was sourced by the parent who had co-ordinated the acquisition of the materials needed. Later on a Falconian from New Zealand brought an energiser when on a visit to the College, so that the fence could be electrified.
Then there were roads to be attended to and there are many Falconians who will know about building bolsters. They were often cursed, but preserved the roads for over 20 years. Lantana had to be cleared, and it was such a tough job that Gordon eventually decided not to use school boys to help as he wanted them to love Quiet Waters, not hate it! But one area which was cleared of scrub still to this day bears the name of the George Grey prefect whose team cleared the stretch of land. Once the basics of picnic sites, roads and fence were in, they had to be maintained, but also the job of adding value to the park could begin. There were visits to other places, mostly National Parks, to get ideas, and then came the Study Centre, financed by Falconians, situated on top of a hill overlooking the Esigodini valley, and constructed so that it could be an outside classroom. A donation of funds meant a display case could be built. And it was at the Falconians Study Centre that President Mugabe officially opened the park in 1988.
And then the beginning of the camp site. Gordon and I designed the chalets, keeping them simple and cheap to build, and then he had to source the materials and find builders and thatchers.First there were 3 simple chalets, with separate ablutions, but they had hot water boilers. Falconians and parents helped finance these. Then as funds became available, Umnondo chalet was built with funds donated by a Falconian, and before that Chelicuti, which both have internal ablutions. Trees, donated by parents, were planted or existing ones cherished, and as the years went by many other features were created. Aloes, donated to us or found in the bush, were planted, and Gordon’s Gate, a present to Gordon from the parent who constructed the fence, is now used as a feature at the entrance to Pumula Camp. (Meaning a place of rest)
There was the beautiful Homann Hide, built with funds donated by the Homann family, overlooking Mbonisa Weir; and Fish Eagle Retreat, built with funds donated by the Stobart family, a hugely popular picnic site, so that at first we had to have a booking sheet to reserve time there. At each separate opening, flocks of birds flew over, like a blessing; nerve-tingling stuff. Umwane picnic site became the place of rest of a schoolboy tragically killed in his first year at Falcon, and an aloe garden created there makes the place special, the aloes coming from some farming parents. Another small hide was built overlooking Hamerkop vlei, and the enormous fig tree there is a wonder of its own.
Small dams and weirs were restored, not always successfully, but the reconstruction of Mbonisa Weir, by a Falconian, was spectacular, and the picnic site built next to the Weir is hugely popular. Several small pans were constructed or repaired; trails were mapped out and cleared so that most parts of the park could be reached by those who wished to walk, or ride horses or bikes. In latter years they have been given names and signs have been erected naming them, picnic sites and chalets. A small pan was even built on the floor of Longden’s Dam so that as the water level of the dam dropped during the dreadfully dry early nineties, our neighbour Mike Mylne had access to water sent to the pan from the Study Centre area for his cattle. Happily, in recent years the pan has remained covered by water.
In the late 1990’s Gordon surveyed and constructed a game fence to enclose the wild and beautiful wilderness area, another 7km, some of it going right over Inthulalagogo (Signal Hill), and to the Mulungwane Hills, but unfortunately it was erected just before the farm invasions, and with the loss of Essexvale Ranch, the fence and poles began to disappear at a great rate, so it was taken down. It was a devastating blow to Gordon who had long wished to enclose this piece of land. Later, Gordon did extend the fence to enclose the vlei below the mine dumps, and to abut the Falcon fence next to the retirement cottages, and also to enclose the camp site.
Running a small conservation area came with all sorts of environmental problems, and advice was sought from knowledgeable parents and friends of the college. As a result, in order to control ticks, reduce moribund grass, generate funds and educate interested schoolboys, a small herd of cattle was introduced, again the result of enormous generosity of two parents. Gradually the beautiful herd of pedigree Tuli grew, and was run by Mike Cumming and his Cattle Club. Sadly, we no longer have them. Also to help with tick control, Duncan applicators were set up in parts of the park.
While all the construction was on-going, animals were introduced into the park, and Gordon and his committee had to learn about boma construction, M99, the capture and transportation of animals – so often done by Falconians and parents. The farm had always had impala, duiker, reed buck, kudu, warthog, bush pig and others, but it was decided to add to the pool of animals. Some mistakes were made, but we now have zebra, giraffe, and wildebeest to add interest. There is also a leopard family in the vicinity, and we know from camera traps that we also have Brown Hyena. There are many other smaller mammals like the various mongooses, and there is also a wide variety of snakes and tortoises. Bass were introduced first to Longden’s and then to Mbonisa, and Mbonisa Weir has also been the home of a family of otters. Birding is always good, and Homann and Hamerkop Hides are good places to sit and enjoy bird life.
Early on Gordon used college vehicles, but too often our trusty Peugeot. And then a Falconian first loaned Quiet Waters his Land Rover for Gordon’s use, and after a while donated it to Quiet Waters. Not a lot of the last nearly two decades would have been managed comfortably without it. We will miss it dreadfully when it is no longer parked in our back yard, and our grateful thanks will always go to the Falconian concerned.
While funding and materials came from all sorts of people associated with the College, not a lot could have been achieved by Gordon without the help of his Quiet Waters workers. They have of course changed over the years, but first the five, and more recently two, have helped him enormously in so many ways that it would be impossible to record. But they have patrolled the fences, reported and often repaired broken pipes, problems with tanks; fought bush-fires; helped with building, painting, and cleaning; chopped and collected tonnes of firewood for chalets and picnic sites and boilers; looked after Pumula Camp and the picnic sites on a daily basis, reporting to Gordon every morning of the week, among many other duties. He quite simply would not have been able to do it without them, and we owe them a great deal.
What I have written is a bare record of what has happened over the time since 1985 till now. I have said ‘we’ because I have been involved in various activities too, and Quiet Waters has been a huge part of our lives. We will both miss it terribly, but at least we live right next door to the park, and Gordon will now have the time to enjoy some of his creations. And again, thank you all.