Wild trout are back in our river!

We are celebrating a huge success for trout farming after 350 wild trout fingerlings were released into a section of the Crocodile River running through Verlorenkloof.

We first noticed a decline in trout numbers after 2015 as the effect of the drought, low water flows and high ambient temperatures became evident. When the river recovered in 2017, we were incredibly surprised when we found that the surviving trout had produced a brood of wild fingerlings in the previous winter season. The optimal water temperature for trout is 15°C. Verlorenkloof measured water temperatures of up to 25 °C in extreme conditions. As temperature rises and dissolved oxygen decreases, fish begin to experience stress. A population of trout that have been selected to be more resistant to temperature stress will be more sustainable in a warming climate.

The Verlorenkloof Wild River Fish Project was the vision of Eric Johnson and started when 10 wild trout were caught in the river by a group of expert anglers, including Daniel Factor and Marius Grobler, in 2019 and entrusted to neighbouring Lunsklip Fisheries for breeding. Lunsklip Fisheries raised and took care of the brood stock, stripped, and fertilised the eggs and bred a batch of fingerlings in the winter of 2020. This meant we now essentially had new stock of wild trout! 

Early in May this year, with the assistance of Marius Grobler and Conrad Jacobs from North Gauteng Fly-fishing, the river was stocked with the wild fingerlings bred by Lunsklip Fisheries. Since the release of the fingerlings, the river fishing has recovered wonderfully. The new fish have adapted well to the natural wild environment and seem to have rejuvenated the wild trout that remained in the river.

We are getting regular reports from anglers of prolific fishing, with healthy vigorous trout caught with both nymphs and dry flies. The Crocodile River at Verlorenkloof is well on its way back to becoming one of the premier flyfishing rivers in South Africa once more!

South Africa risks losing rich insights into an ancient farming society

South Africa risks losing rich insights into an ancient farming society

South Africa risks losing rich insights into an ancient farming society

Bokoni terracing on Verlorenkloof farm on the Mpumalanga escarpment. The Heritage Portal
Peter Delius, University of the Witwatersrand

The remnants of a forgotten world can be found all along the Mpumalanga escarpment. You can see glimpses of it if you watch the passing countryside when driving through this area.

You will see sections of buildings in stone near the sides of the road, further away on the hills above you and the valley sides below.

An aerial view of the escarpment reveals clusters of stone walling and sprawling expanses of stone circles, mazes of stone ridging linked by long stone passages. These structures span 150 kilometres from Ohrigstad to Carolina and connect over 10,000 square kilometres of the Mpumalanga escarpment.

It’s a world of stone settlements and agricultural innovation that archaeologists have been aware of for many decades. But these structures have not received the attention they deserve from researchers, heritage agencies or tourist authorities.

Part of the reason for this historical neglect was a racist insistence that because these sites were built from stone they can’t have been the work of Africans. Various outsiders, including ancient Indians and visitors from outer space, have been credited with constructing them. One consequence of these risible assertions was to distract resources and attention from serious research and much needed preservation.

But in recent years interdisciplinary research has formed the core of new understandings of the stone-walled structures. These sites are the remnants of the Bokoni society which once dominated the escarpment.

The Bokoni developed an intricate circular stone system that protected cattle at night. The Heritage Portal

Ancient master farmers

The settlements emerged around 1500 and lasted until the 1820s. They were based on intensive farming techniques including massive investment in stone terracing and cattle paths which allowed for the cultivation of rich volcanic soils on the hillsides of the escarpment.

Crop cultivation was combined with closely managed livestock production. Cattle were kept at the heart of settlements at night and moved out during the day to feed on the diverse grasslands that existed on the higher lying slopes and in the valleys below.

This pattern ensured that highly nutritious milk could play a central part in the diet of these communities. And this probably contributed to an unusually large population developing in Bokoni by the standards of the time.

This system was unique in South Africa and was the largest intensive farming system in south or east Africa. It connected to systems of long distance trade which spanned the interior and linked to the east coast and the vast and ancient Indian Ocean trading system.

Trade pioneers

Visitors to Delagoa Bay made mention of a ‘Grain King’ living in the interior. The sorghum and millet produced on the escarpment were exchanged for copper and iron goods from Phalaborwa and Messina. This regional trade connected to an international network of exchange and currency which was based on the export of gold, ivory, cloth, glass beads and, increasingly, slaves.

This system of trade and production was the beating heart of a regional economic system that long preceded development of mining-based processes of development which are conventionally seen as the beginning of South African economic history.

A documentary called Forgotten Worlds captures the incredible structures on film.

The walls also stand in mute but eloquent reproach to the host of commentators who have suggested that prior to the arrival of settler farming, African agriculture was rudimentary, subsistence-oriented, transient and barely capitalised. The terraces mock the academics who have argued that production for markets only became prevalent amongst Africans in the last decades of the nineteenth century and were rooted in colonial pressure and opportunity. Bokoni provides ample evidence of high levels of innovation, skill and agrarian specialisation.

The end of an era

The way of life that had emerged in Bokoni was destroyed in the 1820s as a result of attacks by the armies of new, more militarised states such as the Ndwandwe, Swazi and Zulu kingdoms which intruded on this area. The Bokoni settlements – which were rich in people, cattle and grain and organised on the basis of production – were no match for armies skilled in warfare. The population was either taken captive, especially women and children, or fled to safer areas.

This sudden tragic ending helps to explain why the history of Bokoni has been undervalued. History has a tendency to focus on the winners and ignore the losers no matter how successful they might have been.

Given the rapidly expanding body of work on this lost world one would have expected state and provincial heritage agencies to be at the forefront of protecting and promoting them.

This, sadly, has not been the case.

The walls of the Bokoni farming structures dot the landscape, protected by many landowners but not by heritage structures. The Heritage Portal

A criminal neglect

A degree of disinterest was more understandable in the context of apartheid, which ignored forms of African heritage that could not be used to buttress ethnic divisions. But the neglect of Bokoni after 1994 is an indictment of the effectiveness of national and provincial heritage agencies. It is an expression of the blinkered and self-referential vision of the dominant political organisations in relation to history and heritage.

The Bokoni settlements have received no official recognition as a heritage site. Even more alarming is the fact that little in the way of protection has been extended to prevent the destruction of key sites and artefacts. Many of them are in a state of dereliction and decay, open to plunder and strewn with litter.

Walls that have stood for hundreds of years are in grave danger of finally being toppled by official indifference, vandalism and unregulated development.

Important preservation initiatives have been taken by local landowners and communities, but a huge amount more needs to be done to ensure that the marvels and puzzles provided by these myriad sites are available for future generations to visit, research and debate.The Conversation

Peter Delius, Professor emeritus, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hlokomela Creche

Hlokomela Creche

As a hospitality business Verlorenkloof employs a large number of female staff; in fact two generations from most households, grandmothers and moms, are working full time. This creates a need for baby and child minding, but also the wonderful opportunity for an early childhood development program, for a total in all of about 25 kiddies.

The staff had approached us last year and proposed that, if we could provide a venue at Matsepo, the staff village on the farm, the parents would be willing to contribute R200 per month per child towards paying a teacher, support staff, and covering other monthly costs.

As a trial we set up a small crèche with 7 kiddies at the farmhouse two years ago and the success was immediately apparent.

The proposal was taken to the Verlorenkloof board of directors last year who generously agreed to put the Community Social Investment spending for 2017 and 2018 towards the project. This enabled site preparation and laying the foundation slab for a well thought out functional architect designed 120 square meter building, now ready to be completed.

The building will fulfil a number of functions, namely:

  • A crèche on working days, and weekends where required;
  • A homework centre for primary and secondary school learners after hours;
  • A community hall, film centre over weekends, and a church venue on Sundays;
  • An appropriate clinic venue for monthly visits by the Department of Health.

The crèche presents an opportunity for Verlorenkloof owners to connect in a very real, tangible and ongoing way with the families and children of the mothers who provide service to them at Verlorenkloof, and for the company to share with the employee community in the care, well-being and education of their children. The name chosen for the crèche is Hlokomela, that is, to care.

The building will cost about another R250, 000 to complete. We have been incredibly fortunate to obtain the support of life-long friends and anchor sponsors, Bridget and Martin Heneck, who have committed to donate on a Rand for Rand basis with Verlorenkloof owners, while guaranteeing a substantial portion of the funds required. Our heartfelt thanks go to them for their generosity.

We want to make an appeal to Verlorenkloof owners for donations towards the balance of the construction cost. Please contact us if you would like to know more about the project or if you would like to be involved in any other way. A positive response will put us in a position to move on the project and make the crèche a reality. A care centre for the children of Verlorenkloof has long been a shared dream of everyone here. Now we hope that, with your help, we can make it happen.

Please use the following banking details and references:
Account name: Verlorenkloof Receipts
Account no. 1497 019 362
Reference – your name & Crèche Fund

Architectural services kindly donated by Verlorenkloof Lodge architect, Gavin Smitsdorp. Special thanks to Gavin too.

First Time Rugby at Verlorenkloof

First Time Rugby at Verlorenkloof

Being an avid sports enthusiast and participant, I fully grasp the importance of exposing the people around me, be it young or old, to the pleasures of exercise. My passion for rugby is the driving force why I want to expose others from a young age to this wonderful game, as opposed to it being forced upon them later in life. That is why I decided to organise an informal rugby clinic for the kids of the Verlorenkloof Village during the second week of December. The idea behind this initiative was to expose the kids in the Village to a sport that demands discipline, promotes an active lifestyle, emphasizes the importance of teamwork and hopefully ensures the kids leave the field with a positive mind and self-confidence.

Our sessions were basic and `non-contact’. It involved a few passing drills and afterwards a game of `touch-rugby’. Well-developed ball skills and an eye for the `gap’ of the kids at the Verlorenkloof Village were just two of the things that impressed me most, especially as this was the first time that most of them touched a rugby ball. Watching the kids play with so much vigor and enthusiasm, even though for some the ball was about half their body size, would put a smile on anyone’s face. I hope to continue these clinics in the future, even if it’s to improve the life of one child on the farm and hopefully inspire others to do the same. Who knows, maybe a future Springbok captain will be born and raised at Verlorenkloof. – Geor Schulze, Croft 23

“We should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it. As individuals, we can make a difference, whether it is to probe the secrets of Nature, to clean up the environment and work for peace and social justice, or to nurture the inquisitive, vibrant spirit of the young by being a mentor and a guide.”

– Michio Kaku
Kwena Basin Education Trust

Kwena Basin Education Trust

The Kwena Basin Schools Project, now in its 21st year, has developed through a partnership between the landowner members of the Kwena Basin Conservancy, the Wits School of Education and the local farm worker community.

Twice annually since 2002, teaching students from the Wits School of Education have been spending their prescribed 3-week school experience sessions in the Kwena Basin Schools under the leadership of lecturers Dr Jean Place and Grant Coltman.

The relationships and interaction between the learners, the students, their lecturers, the teachers at the schools and the supporting community have resulted in significant benefits to all concerned. Dr Place has been successful in obtaining and instituting a world acclaimed reading program called THRASS at the schools, which has resulted in vastly improved literacy skills.

There are three schools benefiting from the project, namely:

  • Klipspruit Combined School, a historical farm school
  • Umthombopholile, meaning “Fountain of healing or knowledge”
  • Phakama, a name derived from “Waking up,” or “Picking up”

The Kwena Basin Education Trust, registration number: IT579/2012 has been set up as a Public Benefit Organization (PBO) in terms of Section 18A(1)(1) of the Income Tax Act and has the following objectives:

  • To fund the placement of graduate teachers in Kwena Basin schools;
  • To host and fund the Wits School of Education student teaching practical;
  • To host and fund the Teacher Development Programme, aimed at upskilling local teachers;
  • To improve facilities at Kwena schools, and to provide resources;
  • To build the capacity and ensure sustainability of the initiative.

Currently, the Trust needs to create and grow a Capital Fund to finance the ongoing Teacher Development Project and to ensure the sustainability of the Trust and its’ objectives. Donations to the Trust will be fully tax-deductible in the donor’s hands, and will also be exempt from donations tax in terms of Section 56(1)(h) of the South African Income Tax Act. Bequests or accruals from deceased estates are exempt from the payment of estate duty in terms of Section 4(h) of the Estate Duty Act. All donations received are recorded in the Trust register and at financial year-end, PBO receipts are issued to donors.

For more information, please contact us:

  • Kirstin Legg
  • 072 594 3125

Read the Latest newsletter

Donations can be made to:
Kwena Basin Education Trust
FNB Rosebank
Account Number: 6240 5646 152
Reference: Your full name OR email address :

Youth Fly Fishing Training Program

Youth Fly Fishing Training Program

KLIPSPRUIT KIDS The Gauteng North Fly Fishing Association, (GNFFA) and the Jacaranda Fly Fishing Club, (JFFC), both of which are based in Pretoria, have been running fly fishing clinics for the children from the Klipspruit Combined Secondary School from 2011 – 2016. We use the facilities at the lodge as well as the Crocodile River and the dams on the property to train these youngsters. Ages range from 14 to 22 and include an even spread of both girls and boys. Typically we have between 20 to 30 kids at a session which takes place on a Saturday. These sessions are held 4 times a year.

The children have learnt to fly fish and were trained as controllers for the 2012 South African Fly Fishing Association, (SAFFA,) Youth Fly Fishing National Championships and the 2014 SAFFA Senior A Nationals, both of which were held at Verlorenkloof. Sixty children were trained for these two events. As controllers they had to measure fish caught by competitors, note the measurements on a scorecard and then ensure that the fish was released safely back into the water. We have since continued with expanding their fly fishing skills.

The coaching includes rigging tackle, knots, small stream fly fishing techniques, Stillwater techniques, catch and release techniques, basic streamside entomology and matching imitative fly patterns. And we’ve just recently introduced fly tying. Rods, reels and fly line is supplied by the South African Fly Fishing Association. Additional rods and reels supplied by coaches. Polarised sunglasses supplied by Solly’s Anglers Corner, Pretoria. Leaders, tippet, flies and fly tying materials supplied by members of GNFFA and JFFC. SAFFA has also bought complete fly tying kits which will be used at the clinics.

Our goals are firstly, to teach the children the value of looking after the environment and an appreciation of nature. Some of the kids have expressed an interest in fishing competitively, earning provincial colours and going on to compete as a member of a National team. By introducing fly tying some may even consider this as a way to make pocket money or go further and turn it into a career. At the very least these clinics allow the kids an opportunity to enjoy a fun day outdoors.

One of our major challenges is funding; funding for further clinics and funding for advanced training to get the youngsters who are keen, up to competition standard. These youngsters will need their own tackle to enable them to practice on their own. This would include rods, reels, fly lines, wading boots and waders, appropriate clothing, including caps and hats, fly vests, fly boxes, leaders, tippet, fly tying equipment, fly tying materials and flies. A second challenge is transporting the youngsters from their homes to the venue at Verlorenkloof. As they all come from a rural area this entails a round trip of 200km for some of them. At present these transport costs are carried by the GNFFA and JFFC coaches. Verlorenkloof is able to provide transport for the youngsters within a 20km radius. Funds for accommodation of the coaches is also needed, this amounts to between R6000.00 to R7000.00 per weekend session. We used to provide lunches and drinks for the kids, again out of coaches’ pockets, however recently, Verlorenkloof has generously stepped in to provide meals and drinks for the children attending the clinic.

We are passionate about developing these youngsters, and we’re not only looking at developing competitive anglers we’re also introducing them to areas where they may make career choices in the fly fishing industry; whether it be as guides, tying for a commercial fly tying operation, working at a fly fishing lodge or merely instilling a love for the sport and the environment in which the sport is practiced.
Stuart Smith