– Merrilee Berrisford, Chairman.

People are at the core, the heart of any organisation. Today we honour the memory of one of the very foundation bricks of Kogelberg Branch, Jill Attwell. Jill, in her nineties, died peacefully earlier this month. We knew her as a writer, hacker, fynbos gardener and visionary. She was our first Honorary Life Member of BotSoc. Jill and her husband, conservationist the late Bo (Roelf) Attwell together made a huge contribution to promoting the natural environment. It just happens that we are about to publish as an e-book, Jill’s history of the Betty’s Bay Wildflower Society, forerunner of this branch.

The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve lies in the area covered by this branch; so it is no wonder that in we aim to influence the communities to reflect this. We hope that the passer-by will notice a connection between the villages and the mountains above. We are a botanical society so that means the vegetation. We hope to be part of the means of achieving this.

There is no doubt  that fifty-four years of hacking by the Betty’s Bay Hack Group has meant that the landscape around Betty’s Bay is free of the large stands of invasive aliens seen elsewhere. Fires would be even more damaging if it were not for these years of hard work by the band of hackers. Our branch’s origins go back to the early days of the Betty’s Bay Hack; today we are extremely proud of this group and also are pleased to be able to give support to the Pringle Bay Hack and those indomitable weekly hackers, the Wednesday Hack. The branch has paid for two new chain saws for the Betty’s Bay Hack while BotSoc Head Office bought one for the Pringle Bay Hack. We are grateful to the Betty’s Bay Ratepayers Association for also buying a chain saw for Betty’s Bay Hack.

“SANBI has secured funding for 480-person days for the year ending March 2017; herbicide companies are testing the efficacy of products against NZXT; in spring, the testing of different treatments will begin on the eastern side of Betty’s Bay where the trees are spreading. We have to rejoice that one of our biggest problems is being tackled by a government institution and on this scale.” This was in last year’s Annual Report and we are extremely sad that nothing at all has materialised.

Removal of the invasives is one way of altering the landscape to match the mountains and lowlands; the other is the planting of suitable trees, shrubs and flowering plants that are compatible with the natural vegetation. The Kogelberg area comprises seven different vegetation types but the task of finding the right plants is not as daunting as it might have been. The branch’s initiative in publishing Tim Attwell’s Your Place in the Kogelberg clearly deals with them all from the Kogelberg Sandstone Fynbos to the Cape Seashore Vegetation.

For the community to perpetuate these twin actions to keep residential areas in harmony with the natural, we need to have a strong programme of environmental education. In February we arranged and funded a well attended educational and entertaining presentation on snakes in the environment for the Pikkewyntjies Pre-Primary School in Mooiuitsig. Pringle Bay zoologist, Francois van Zyl again did a splendid job of alerting the children and parents to the important role snakes play in the fynbos.  We are fortunate in having Whale Coast Conservation operating in out of Vermont. This organisation has the infrastructure to run activities with local children so your branch was able to fund a Fynbos Biodiversity Expo held in Kleinmond last August. We look forward to the completion of the Environmental Education Centre at Harold Porter NBG.

To fund educational projects we have used profits from the sale of Your Place in the Kogelberg as 75% of publication costs came from the Botanical Society of SA’s Education Fund. Also in the past year we still had the proceeds of Judy New’s November 2015 fundraiser. Books were bought for the library of Harold Porter NBG and also the library of the Hantam NBG. We support the latter in a small way as there is no branch of BotSoc there, it is basically a research garden so needs a reference library and also, the Curator, Eugene Marinus is a Kleinmond man whose first job was in Harold Porter.

As for our own book, Your Place in the Kogelberg, we have sold the first printing of 1000 copies and will now print in smaller batches to suit the demand. The Afrikaans version translated by Louise du Toit has been edited by Christine Dreyer. There is still work to be done on it but we hope to have both Afrikaans and English versions available as e-books before too long. There will be a charge for downloading these books; however The History of the Betty’s Bay Wildflower Society by the late Jill Attwell will be available free; we thank Natalie van Wulven for typing the book to get it ready for production.

SucceedGroup, our sponsor, now operating out of Somerset West, is going to produce these e-books for us. This is in addition to the monthly assembling and sending out of our newsletter and designing posters. We are very grateful for everything SucceedGroup is doing to bring Kogelberg Branch into the digital age. Not only can we learn how many of our electronic newsletters are opened (far more than the Group’s regular clients’ newsletters) but also we can find out how many times specific articles have been opened Fire in the Fynbos by Rea Borcherds holds the record.

The electronic newsletter is sent to over four hundred addresses. This means we only have to spend money on posting about forty copies each month. We are very grateful to the branch newsletter team Jeannie Harning sees to all the practical matters and liaises with SucceedGroup while Barbara Attwell still edits the submitted material. Merran Silberbauer has the hard copies printed at Harold Porter while Di Knott addresses the envelopes.

The two members who joined the committee a year ago, Jeannie Harning and Natalie van Wulven are wizards on computers. Thanks to them the branch is now on Facebook, is active on social media which means we are exposed to a wider spectrum of the community; their skills also mean that we can take advantage of more ways in which SucceedGroup can contribute. Material for a website is being gathered

The programme of monthly talks is varied as always. There is a noticeable increase in the number attending the talks. We are always pleased that we can tap the local supply of knowledgeable speakers, for this past year we welcomed Allan Heydorn, John Rourke, Brian Huntley and Cuan McGeorge. For the record:

July: David Davidson on the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show featuring the Kogelberg
August: Dr Chris Whitehouse on Kniphofia or pokers.
September: Dr Peter Ryan on Oceans of Plastic
October: Dr John Rourke on A Sweet Opiate ¨C Botany in the Life of Jan Christian Smuts
November: Dr Candice-Lee Lyons Weed Biocontrol in the Western Cape
December: Dr George and Margo Branch Creatures in the Fynbos 2017
January: Cuan McGeorge on the penguin colonies of Namibia and South Africa
February: Brian Huntley on his experiences working on Marion Island as a young scientist
March: Dr Gary Stafford on the use of plants in African traditional medicine
April: Ryan Heydenrych and Dean Harrison on Co-existing with Wildfire
May: Dr Allan Heydorn on his discovery of crayfish on Vema Seamount and implications
June: Dr John Rogers on his book, Geological Outings in the Fairest Cape

After Allan Heydorn’s talk we were able to honour one of the outstanding couples in our branch ¨C Helene and Allan Heydorn were presented with a Botanical Society of SA Certificate of Appreciation which described them as “legendary champions of the natural environment”.

At the end of  2016 Certificates of Appreciation were handed to three members: Edward Silberbauer (in lieu of a bar to his BotSoc Denys Heesom Gold Medal for Conservation 2004) which he earned with a further 11 years of leading the Betty’s Bay Hack and the Wednesday Irregulars; Andrea Benn’s many years of active service as a committee member and hacker was recognised and Peter Berrisford’s certificate read “for being a steadfast treasurer”. We thank Mary Bossenger for being our resident scribe writing on the certificates.

Each third Saturday morning a good-sized group of walkers explores the area; Tim Attwell is the leader with Barbara Jenman and Rea Borcherds helping. Few botanical societies in the world would have so many choices of terrain, rare flowers and shrubs and stunning views.

Last year we promised that a new loudspeaker system would be installed. That this has not happened is owing to a series of bureaucratic delays concerning SANBI even though it is the Partnership Fund of the Botanical Society which will pay for it. The display stands for our Ethel May Dixie paintings share this frustrating process.

Plot-clearing or rather the official policy of having to radically cut down vegetation on a plot before it can be declared fit to be sold is one which has kept your committee in a prolonged state of distress, agitation and despair. We now trust the DEA will bring sanity and common sense to the situation. Barbara Jenman and Tim Attwell have had several meetings with this area’s DEA official, Tim Flack, which gives us hope.

On the brighter side, a three day stay in Agulhas National Park last August gave a party of members a splendid view of Agulhas Plain Vegetation. Emmerentia de Kock of SANParks was an excellent guide while our Allan Heydorn gave a presentation about many aspects of that area. Some of the party moved to Napier where Cameron McMaster took us to reserves with very special bulbs. Then a smaller group went on to Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve in the Bredasdorp area for two nights. Here Jannie Groenewald, resident manager, showed us an astonishing array of renosterveld treasures.

I started talking about people being at the heart of any organisation, and that is how I will end, these people being our busy committee members. All are involved in more than one aspect of the branch’s activities. You have heard of the varied programme of three monthly events plus extras; these are run by our team in alphabetic order: Barbara and Tim Attwell, Andrea Benn, Rea Borcherds, Gwen Coetzee, Jeannie Harning, Barbara Jenman, Jan Joubert, Natalie van Wulven and ex officio, Chris Geldenhuys with valued assistance from a number of members. I thank them all for all their efforts in diverse ways to ensure that Kogelberg Branch contributes to conservation in our area.