Experience nature differently

Tokai Forest.

Berta van Rooyen, Tokai

The letter “Forest a place of calm” (Bulletin, October 6) refers.

Individuals experience nature differently. Where personal experience is forced on others who differ, the line of cordiality is crossed.

When Tokai Estate was bought in 1883 with the purpose of relocating a rehabilitation centre for the mentally ill from Robben Island, medical staff had their doubts since the area was too far for families to visit.

It was, however, the establishment of plantations which put an end to the suitability of the site.

The official report by Dr N J Dodds, dated 6 November 1889, states that plantations add to the anxieties of the patients. Thus, for some people plantations are good, for others not so good. In literature shade is often seen as assimilation to the environment.

Characters are often called shady, or difficult to be understood by others.

For photographers plantation trees make excellent but difficult pictures and mushroom collectors love plantations, to name a few different experiences. In fact, by calling a commercial plantation a forest, is already suggesting a need to escape reality, to claim an area as a personal space, shared by similar minded people. Reality outside the uniform monoculture of a predictable life is often “bundu-bashing through scratchy, tick-ridden, puffadder infested fynbos in the full glare of a February afternoon”.

The scabs are reminders of difficult times and the wonder of life, the wonder to survive and the gratitude for the sun, the beauty of a flower in nature and walking in the rain. Regarding the “seasonal floral miracles in the form of patches of indigenous flowers”, I attach two pictures of damage done by dog walkers and their dogs.

Thanks to remaining tree stumps and dead branches on the floor of the plantation, some patches of flowers escaped miraculously.

The second picture deals with the depression in the floor of the plantation.

Overuse of the plantation is in fact killing the seed bed of fynbos and bulbs under the plantation floor. Who do not remember the beautiful pin cushion in the plantation? Why did it die if the plantation was so supportive to plant life as Gillian Russell is suggesting? It grew when the plantation was still young, but with increasing shade, it died off. Wise people don’t walk in the heat of summer between 10am and 4pm.

The Khoina people knew how to deal with summer heat and the first colonists built their houses taking into account the hot and dry summers. Nobody can change the weather of South Africa. But by keeping “artificial forests”, as plantations were called in the early 1880s, we demolish the indigenous vegetation of this land as is being done due to urban sprawl on the Cape Flats; or by not respecting closed foot paths in the fynbos section of Lower Tokai Park.

Not only is the Diastella patch exposed to possible damage, but soil erosion has increased at several places.

There was a wonderful opportunity on Heritage Day to attend a guided walk among the fynbos. The activity was led by an expert and was most rewarding. There are times, Gillian, to follow.

Follow the paths inside your forest, but allow us to follow and keep to the paths outside the plantation. Others and I realise how important this space, now covered by a plantation of alien trees, is for the natural and cultural heritage of this country and not my own inner needs.

For the sake of clarity, can you, Gillian Russell, once and for all settle the matter of the dog bitten by a pufadder? Give the name of the owner and date of the incident and set the record straight.