Finding solace in the forest

Gillian Russell, Tokai

In response to Berta van Rooyen’s puzzling “broken community” letter (“Help with
rehabilitation of greenbelt”, Bulletin, September 22), and criticism of Fiona Chisolm’s description of the way many of us in Tokai feel about the loss of “our” forest. Clearly she’s never had to seek solace or serenity among the trees, or walked a dog every day of the year.

Tokai Forest provides a place of calm, with the smell of pine needles on a hot summer’s day, or gentle dripping water from rain-weighted branches in winter, and seasonal floral miracles in the form of patches of indigenous flowers and enormous toadstools; shelter from the ravaging summer sun, the icy southeaster, and driving rain; and gentle companionship for humans and canines alike.

If Ms Van Rooyen’s idea of calm, shelter and companionship is represented by bundu-bashing through scratchy, tick-ridden, puffadder-infested fynbos in the full glare of a February afternoon, she already has an expanse of fynbos in which to do it alongside the forest (maybe she should arrange a fynbos-appreciation event for the fynbos-phobes to point out all the rare species growing there, and how to deal with a dog bitten by a snake).

But her patronising view of “ladies meeting to talk” at one end of the cycle track/vlei area, dogs sharing limited space with “walkers, runners, cyclists, horse riders, mothers with prams and children on baby bikes” shows no experience of the reality: walkers constantly stepping aside for cyclists and horses, and battling to prevent joyful dogs hurtling after them.

The space she believes is an adequate substitute for the forest, is simply not large enough, nor sheltered in any way and is already, pre-forest-removal, over-populated and the parking almost non-existent.