Monday, 3 March 2014

The Rains at Rookwood

Approaching thunderstorm

 In my last blog I mentioned the night that PSV Magic arrived home, he was subjected to a tremendous amount of rain. It certainly was one of the heavier downpours we have experienced in many a year.


When I first got to Rookwood we had an exceptional February season with almost 300 mm falling in the month. This is a lot of rain considering our average rainfall for the year is just over 500 mm. Most of that rain occurred at regular intervals however, the rain that fell the night Magic arrived home, was very different.  There was a bit of thunder and lightning around and then it just bucketed down.After two hours we were heading for 100 mm of rain!!

Mapassa mountain in the background
By 10 o’clock we could hear the rivers roaring like a wild sea and realized that this had been one of the heavier falls experienced in a very long time.  We donned our gumboots and equipped with torches and headlamps, headed down towards the river to ‘see’ the rivers in flood.  The thunderous roar of the water made it impossible to hear anyone speak.  Unfortunately,at that time I could not get any good photos.  We then headed down our main road towards the turnout of the farm.  On the route we walked  past the area where both the ground dams of Rookwood are.  The one dam can hold water quite well, and is at the base of two kloofs.  It is also fed by means of a furrow from the Tuli river weir near our neighbour George Filmer.  The second  dam is below the road and we call it the ‘sink dam’ as it is so porous that when filled, it is empty again within a day.

flattened fences

As we slipped and negotiated the very wet clay, we shocked to see the water in the sink dam– it was level with the driveway.  A little further on we realized that the Kloof dam must have given way as all the fences on both sides of the road were flattened, obviously from the force of the water.  

We continued our night walk towards our turnout and could not believe the size of the Tuli river.  At the turnout we walked down to the drift where the river normally flows underneath and were met with trees pushed across the drift and water still flowing over the top.
Daylight allowed us to see the extent of the damage.  

Both dams had partially broken (fortunately) and with that had flattened fences and pushed ground into the lands. These lands have been left to return to natural grass veldt for many years already. The access road was severely damaged as well as the main gravel road leading past the farm.

While walking along, I came across 
this hairy worm on the fence with what looked like eggs.  I have been informed that these ‘eggs’ are that of a wasp that the worm was possibly just passing by.

Getting out of the farm required careful negotiations, but the staff have been slowly working on improving parts of the road. 

Oz surveying the green scenery of Rookwood

Oz and I took a walk and approached the ground dam from the kloof’s side. 

From the top of the kloof, I could see both dams.  

A view from the top of the kloof
Here we could now understand  how the water must have rushed down the kloofs into the ground dam and pushed back into the furrow as it broke the overflow concrete structures (been there since the 1930’s) and pushed over the wall of the dam in nine different places.  We certainly were extremely lucky that this dam did not break completely.

ground dam partially washed away

overflow in the furrow washed away
 The ‘sink dam’, although partially broke, has continued to hold water despite its reputation. 

Scott standing in the break in the wall of the sink dam

It was not long before the dabchicks, herons, ducks and hamerkops were around to utilize this new feeding ground.  The dogs have enjoyed every moment and opportunity to play in the water.  Joy introduced both Cash and Magic to the water in the ‘sink’ dam and, despite initially being nervous, they swam around quite comfortably.
Cash swimming in the sink dam

Magic feeling a little nervous of the 'waves'

The Tuli and Mbelandla continue to flow quite strongly and the strength of the water once the two had met at the fountain region is quite evident.

river still running strongly

One just has to look at the reeds, trees and branches all packed up against the other vegetation.   

Luckily we had no stock in the river camps.  I just wonder what happens to all the other living creatures in the river.  Do they realize or maybe have a sixth sense that the river is going to come down?  One will never know.

The rivers continued to roar, but have definitely subsided quite a bit. We and mother nature are slowly repairing the damage  while life returning to normal.  Rookwood is looking wonderful and very green with a reassurance that the underground supply of water is good.  As the African Fish Eagle circles and calls above Rookwood, I am ever so grateful that the rains blessed us this summer.
Rookwood in October 2013
Rookwood in February 2014


A young African Fish Eagle calling while flying overhead


  1. Gosh, Kate. It looks like a lot of work for you to do...

    The before and after pictures are astounding.

  2. Marie we are all amazed at the turnaround of the before and after and some are saying that this is the best the veldt has been in many a year. Just so grateful the rains did come as watching cattle dying while getting stuck in the rivers chasing whatever green they could find or running after you while feeding them, was seriously very soul destroying.