The Hikers Network Hiking division completed the De Hoop Potberg Environmental weekend event 22, 23, 24 September 2017 where a group of 59 members spent the weekend at the Potberg Environmental Education Centre. People and Conservation was the area of focus and many of these 59 members are part of the Enviro hiking program over the Cape Peninsula and Cape Flats areas. Just as Fynbos is diverse, the Hikers Network thrives on this diversity in the leaders and members from all over the Peninsula.
Access to information as well as access to the Western Cape Natural Heritage and all of South Africa is what the Hikers Network Enviro division is currently building and this is within a safe environment bolstered by skilled hike leaders and backed by our mountain rescue and tracking divisions.
We all boarded a bus on Friday afternoon towards the De Hoop Nature Reserve, our base the Potberg centre. Shortly after our arrival a briefing was held and weekend program explained. Rupert Koopman, Cape Nature Botanist, joined us and the one thing that stood out about Rupert is the way he just melted into the group in his approach to education and conservation.
On Saturday morning, we started the hike up Potberg 622m to the top with Rupert heading out front whilst the group was managed by our hike leaders. Rupert shared his knowledge, bringing a practical and simple approach for the lay person, about the vegetation in the area as well as some geology, pointing out several interesting Fynbos species and habitats. The attentive way the group listened and interacted with questions and comments was heartwarming.
The hike was completed early afternoon and thereafter we had a rest period, starting the braai early evening. It was just wonderful how everyone assisted! Post supper, the group was divided into three in order to be accommodated in the small museum attached to the centre. Each group received a short briefing on the conservation history and importance of the Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra populations of De Hoop NR, as well as a quick run through on the archaeological importance of the Southern Coast, with emphasis on the role this unique landscape and it’s plants played in the evolution of modern humans.
On Sunday morning we boarded the bus and headed for Koppie Alleen. The group enjoyed a short beach hike and spotted some Whales too.To have experienced the diversity and natural beauty of this special place on a Heritage Weekend, I am sure we will all cherish these memories forever.
Rupert said ” It was a real pleasure to spend time with such a diverse group of Capetonians, of many ages and backgrounds. The group was attentive and receptive to the biodiversity information shared and I hope that more will be encouraged to get hands on involved in conservation actions, both at home and natural places inside/outside of protected areas. Look forward to our next engagement.”
Conclusion: The Enviro Hiking program is where we have expanded outreach to be sustainable in the form of planting Enviro Hiking clubs in areas such as Mitchells Plain, Bonteheuwel, Nursing Enviro Hiking Club and we are still expanding to other areas too. The idea is that the active club members are trained up, skilled and supported as leaders in enviro education and safety and this via the mother hiking group Hikers Network HC.
Conservation and access to these beautiful areas is for everyone and is vital for our future! For instance, we have had grandparents come along with their grandchildren, families young and old and from all walks of life who have the opportunity to get involved and be educated in conservation. This, in turn, will assist in the areas of people and conservation. Our goal is to strike the other end of conservation because the community is vital in the future of conservation.The same with the groups we train to lead hikes in these communities, we need the base to expand in order to make a difference – ears, hands and hearts on the ground for the future. We have seen the success in the sheer volume of our membership and while this weekend was happening, our leaders were busy on Table Mountain with 3 seperate day hikes bringing more people out safely, diversely, as all of our groups are open to all. We are here to keep a family unit and that is not just about a single family but that of a corporate community that together can only make this difference. The Enviro program is not just about Conservation and Hiking; its aim is to change and set the tone in the challenges we face as the family unit disappears with drugs, gangs and crime. If we can dent the statistics and lower it by creating alternatives but also keep the system going as a family unit we can create that change even if it takes years and a small percentage at a time
Special Thanks to Cape Nature – Rupert Koopman – Hikers Network Leaders – The Group
President Hikers Network