Newsletter of the Hillside Dams Conservancy
Issue No. 5 - October 2010

We are again at that time of year when all of us in Bulawayo inadvertently look up at the sky hoping for clouds bringing relief from the excessive heat of early summer. As I write we have had our first drops (13mm last Wednesday and a couple of drops yesterday). We look forward to further storms and we hope for a favourable season.

Understandably the Conservancy is fairly parched with the lawns a crisp beige wearing thin in places. But Mother Nature is resilient. Already a good number of the plants have sprung into growth.

Thankfully the two dams still hold water. The Lower Dam in particular has surprised us. Despite an unfavourable last season and its leaking like a sieve there is still a sheet of water with waterfowl and a good fish population. It remains a favourite recreational venue for residents across Bulawayo.

The last few months have been spent clearing additional areas for public space, the construction of further braai areas and parking facilities, and the reopening of old paths as well as creating additional ones. We would like to acknowledge the efforts of our ground staff. Despite being limited in number they have done excellent work under the capable supervision of Mr. Melusi Ncube.

With the onset of the rains our prime focus will shift back to weeding and mowing of existing areas to ensure that we stay ahead, maintaining the progress we have made so far.

However we hope, finances permitting, to extend work into new areas along the east bank of the Upper Dam and towards the Moffat Road entry point. Already we have started developing three exclusive braai areas as well as engaging various youth groups to try and revive the old “Cub Scout Campsite” with its two derelict blocks of toilets.

Our work on the security fence around the perimeter has been somewhat limited by finances. Besides the Hillside Dams fencing fund that is being coordinated for us by Club 50, a community security initiative, we are developing several additional income generating projects to enable us to achieve our aim. These will also provide much needed facilities that are currently absent at the “Dams”. They include a campsite, a wedding area and a tuck-shop.

We are pleased to report that where we have closed or restricted access (Avocet, Blue Jay, Sable and Impala Roads) security has improved significantly, not only for our clients but also that of adjacent neighhbours. We are working closely with the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Bulawayo City Council to see this project through.

Major events of the past few months include “Music by Moonlight” and “Pink in the Park”; joint events hosted by the Conservancy, the Bulawayo Mastectomy Support Group and the Cancer Association. They were very well attended financially assisting all three voluntary groups to continue with their work. Last Sunday the Muslim Community of Bulawayo organised a family fun day at the “Dams” to bring together young and old of the Community as well as raising funds to refurbish the Mosque. It was a resounding success. Christmas celebrations are currently being planned. Can anyone out there help us with some lights? Bulawayo today sadly lacks this wonderful institution.

Returning to nature, several trees and smaller plants are currently in bloom. Of note is the large ground orchid, Eulophia streptopetala, whose yellow and brown spikes of flowers are found scattered amongst the kopjes.

A sight throughout the Conservancy and Bulawayo in general are the white puffballs of the Albizia amara (umbola) whose flowers are shown here.

There are three beautiful violet trees (umfumfu) in the kopjes away from the public area; their distribution being limited to less accessible locations given the use of their fresh roots in traditional medicine. Come and gone are the purple pendants of the Tree Wisteria (impaca) and the red and subsequently white spikes of the Acacia galpinii (umdwadwa) that line the river below the Upper Dam.

As for wildlife a solitary bushpig took up residence for a couple of weeks, foraging in the reedbeds of the Lower Dam below the Boma restaurant. It has now moved on and two klipspringer have taken its place. Several early morning walkers have seen these small, graceful antelope in the kopjes to the south of the Upper Dam. The otter continues to put in an occasional appearance but is then gone again for a few weeks. The birdlife remains spectacular. Several summer migrants have returned and the Conservancy is alive with song and nesting.

We hope soon to launch the Hillside Dams Ramblers; a group of dedicated walkers, while our next event, a soft opening of the natural amphitheatre below the Upper Dam with some great Jazz is planned for the evening of the 21st November (weather permitting). Watch this space for further details. Is there any call for a booklet and map on the social and natural histories of the Conservancy?

For more regular updates and to see other photographs of the “Dams” and our events please see our official Facebook page:

We hope to see you soon at the Dams.