Umtamvuna River gorge
An abbreviated history of the Thursday botanical walks (Nicholson Thursday Group)

The founder of the Thursday botanical walks at the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve was Hugh Nicholson (link) , affectionately but respectfully known as Mr Nic.  He was a forester as well as a conservationist and a very keen and active member of the Wildlife Society for many years. When he retired to Skyline in 1962, he continued his life-long interest in trees and devoted considerable time and energy to the study of the rich indigenous flora in his new environment.  At Skyline he established an arboretum and started a small herbarium with the specimens he collected in the area. He organised monthly botanical talks and started the tradition of weekly botanical walks, mainly from the Umtamvuna reserve. 

In his notes Mr Nicholson wrote that the hobby of exploring the countryside was made much more stimulating by the company on these outings of several enthusiastic like-minded amateurs as well as “the patient help and guidance of R.G. Strey (link) the government botanist in Durban, who also has been on many long tramps with us into wild and inaccessible places.”  Mr Strey held positions at the Windhoek herbarium in Namibia and the National Herbarium in Pretoria before being transferred to the Natal Herbarium where he became curator. The dedicated collecting efforts of Mr Nicholson and Mr Strey stimulated awareness of the special botanical diversity of the Pondoland Centre of Endemism and several plants have been named after them.

It is told that on the first Thursday outing, Fay Boix took Mr Nicholson and Mr Strey up the Izingolweni road to what is now Nicholson Kloof (also known as Mr Nic's gully) and said that was where they should start collecting.  And so began the tradition of weekly tree walks, meeting at 10:00 on Thursday mornings at Beacon Hill. Mr Nic attributed his knowledge of plants mainly to Mr Strey's efforts. They spent a great deal of time together looking for plants and this grew into a friendship. While it appears that Mr Nicholson and Mr Strey (Herr Strey to all who knew him) had a respectful relationship, this was not always the case with other people.  It is reported that there was a  personality clash between Mr Strey and Dr Fried von Breitenbach (a fellow German and renowned forester who later founded the South African Dendrological Society), to the extent that they wouldn't even walk together.  If Mr Nicholson and Mr Strey were talking and Dr von Breitenbach caught up with them, Mr Strey would walk on ahead.

When ill health prevented Mr Strey from carrying out work in the field,  Mr Nic's chief companion on botanical expeditions was Tony Abbott (link), farmer and conservationist at heart. In early 1981, Tony  was introduced to Mr Nicholson by a friend from his Zimbabwe days, Nolly Zaloumis, who later became president of the Wildlife Society of South Africa.  Mr Nicholson became Tony's mentor. In his notes on the first days with Mr Nicholson, Tony wrote about the many Thursdays spent with Mr Nicholson “patiently, endlessly repeating answers to those endlessly repeated questions that we tyros are wont to ply in our ignorance. So there was I, tutored by the most patient and knowledgeable mentor that one could wish for. As many of you will appreciate, a little knowledge whets one’s botanical appetite unmercifully.”  Tony could be just as patient with newcomers to the group in years to come.  Mr Nicholson and Tony developed a deep friendship, characterised by great respect for each other.  Tony readily absorbed all the information about trees imparted by Mr Nic, establishing the foundation of his specialist knowledge of trees of the Pondoland Centre.  Initially Tony didn't have any reference books and used the Port Edward library.  Mr Nic was always on the look out for books and would tell of reviews he had seen.  He built up a valuable collection of books that he left to Tony on his death.

Tony's special interest in trees was enhanced by meeting Braam van Wyk (subsequently head of the Botany Department at the University of Pretoria) who visited the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve in 1980 as a post-graduate student to complete his studies of the genus Eugenia in particular. Tony's observations and collection of plant material for Braam lead to the description of several new species, a number them named after Tony. The Abbotts and van Wyks, with their young children, went on several field trips together. In the 1990s, Tony's botanical interests spread to grassland plants, stimulated by Elsa Pooley's work in preparation for her wild flower books.  His keen collector's (and photographer's) eye was invaluable to botanists and several grassland plants have been named after him. The focus of outings then extended to include grasslands as well as forests and Tony collected and compiled plant lists for areas further afield such as Ngele and the reserves at Mkambathi, Ntsikeni and Ongeluksnek. Tony wrote accounts of some of these outings for PlantLife and later for Plant Chat.  He started a tradition at Christmas when he gave group members a copy of his notes on outings for each year, from 2005 to 2013, before he became too frail to continue. These and other report collations can be viewed here - please note that in some cases the text is provided without the original accompanying photographs.

With Braam's support, Tony worked tirelessly for the inception of the herbarium at Umtamvuna in 1981.  The herbarium incorporates the herbaria previously at Mbumbazi and Oribi Gorge Nature reserves as well as Mr Nic's private herbarium at Skyline and also houses approximately 9000 specimens collected by Tony.  Mr Nic's specimens are instantly recognisable, being on old brownish card and frequently annotated with little drawings and descriptions.  The localities however are often a mystery, described merely as, for example, “George's garden”. Tony sent his plant collections to Braam at the Schweikert herbarium (at the University of Pretoria) where the plants were identified, mounted and returned to Umtamvuna, with duplicates kept at Schweikert and/or Pretoria.  When Braam was unable to identify specimens he sent them to the Natal Herbarium and through this process, botanist Brian Schrire (link) became aware of the Umtamvuna reserve and the riches of the Pondoland Centre of Endemism.  Brian and Geoff Nichols, horticulturist and colleague at the Natal Herbarium, made regular visits to Umtamvuna as well as joining the Thursday outings. Ever the young lads, the two of them used to ham it up with affectations, much to Tony's annoyance.  At the time, Geoff Nichols managed the Silverglen medicinal plant nursery before going solo, amongst other things being horticulturist for the Zimbali estate on the KZN north coast. Geoff is well known and much appreciated for his enthusiasm and willingness to share his astounding knowledge, as well as his plants.

Geoff Nichols acting as umbrella wallah for Brian Schrire at Rennies'
A botanical outing with Mr Nic was described as “an event”.  Mr Nic would be ready and waiting for the group, impeccably turned out – he always wore shorts, long socks, a floppy hat, and carried a rucksack and a big stick. They walked mostly from the office but also other points of entry into the forest, as well as at Skyline, Uvongo, Gibralta (Oribi flats) and Izingolweni.  The walks were strenuous in those days as everyone was fit, Mr Nic in particular, despite his age.  He would often reach his destination well before younger members of the party. It was nothing to walk through the gorge and up the other side, returning later in the afternoon. In early years the group walked the length of the Umtamvuna, starting at its source at Ngele.  They walked in sections over months, despite difficult access through community areas, but the sights were worth all the effort.   Mr Nic's background was forestry so he really came into his own with bark and slash characteristics (colour, smell) of trees.    He was a good teacher but not forceful – he waited for questions and “dropped pearls of wisdom” as they walked along.  Mr Nic was a gentleman, very polite and affable although not outgoing.  His rule that there was to be no talk of politics, religion, sex or money on Thursday outings was strictly upheld by Tony in the years that followed. 

No Thursday outing was complete without a stop for lunch in a suitable spot.  Mr Nic and Tony used to share a thermos flask of tea until one day a cockroach appeared from the bottom of Mr Nic's flask and from then on, Tony carried his own water and tea things.  The cockroach event seemed to made a big impression on those present as it is recalled by several of them many years later. After lunch, Mr Nic would typically find a place to lie down, pull his hat over his eyes and have a nap, generally joined by one or two other members of the group.  Tony recounted with great amusement that on an outing to Hazel Ridge, Mr Nic settled down for his post prandial nap, hat over his face, fell asleep and then rolled down the slope, much to the amusement of the rest of the party.  However, lying down and looking up at the trees has its advantages, as Mr Nic discovered on one outing to Smedmore forest.   As was his habit, after lunch Mr Nic was lying on his back smoking his pipe and looking at the canopy when he saw an intriguing leaf.  A small specimen was taken to NH for Brian Schrire, who identified it as Atalya natalensis. This was a rare sighting as it was not known outside Ngoye at the time, according to Ian Garland, well known conservationist from Twin Streams at Mtunzini, who occasionally joined the outings.

Smedmore forest continues to be a favourite destination.  The path through the forest has become virtually impassible now and the group frequently stops for lunch at “Garter corner”, so named because Mr Nic, who always wore long socks, left his garters behind at that spot one day.  They were still there the next week and were successfully retrieved.  At the edge of the cliff above Smedmore was an old Manilkara nicholsonii, which is now no longer.  Fortunately the current group has discovered many more of these trees further westwards along the ridge, so many that the walk is now known as 'Manilkara meander'.  Mr Nic and Tony gave names to many of the different areas in the reserve, such as 'Maanhaar' and 'Devil's backbone'.  It was thought that the information about these localities was lost after Tony's death but fortunately an old map was unearthed in his study and the information has now been captured.  Another favourite spot is “Ingrid's falls”, so named because Ingrid, one of the members of the group, stripped and stood under the waterfall to cool off on a very hot day.  This was the location for one of the more memorable Thursday outings -- the surprise party arranged for Mr Nic's 80th birthday.  Unbeknown to Mr Nic, the backpacks that day concealed a bottle of champagne, glasses, a fruitcake that Maggie Abbott had baked and other goodies that made for a birthday celebration at lunch time.  The occasion was throughly enjoyed by Mr Nic and his group.   Mr Nic continued to lead outings until 1997, a year before he died.

The heyday of the Thursday outings was during the 1980s and 1990s when the number of people swelled.  One of the group members was Sheila Bodley (later Smith).  She got to know about the outings through her mother, who was a great friend of Joyce Nicholson.  Shiela admitted that she knew 'nothing' about trees but became totally absorbed in the subject.  On outings she made copious notes and collected plants. She also helped file specimens at the Umtamvuna herbarium.  Sheila's mental picture of Mr Nic is of him striding out in front with his secateurs.  After they had walked for a few hours, they had lunch.   The ritual of lunch was sacrosanct and she remembers even having lunch in the rain.  Sheila used to carry a little gas stove to heat water for tea. She became quite knowledgeable about plants and recalls with glee the one occasion when she could correct Tony, ' that young Tony Abbott' as Mr Nic called him, on the identification of a tree. She recounted one particular outing to the Mpenjati north bank when it was flooded and the water was above the knees.  Sheila found a trifoliolate leaf and keyed out Mucuna gigantea but nobody believed her because it wasn't known to occur that far south.  Subsequently they saw the flower and confirmed the identity.  This caused quite a sensation and even Botsoc got excited.  Those were happy times and Sheila was very fond of Mr Nicholson, her prized possession being a copy of Pooley's trees inscribed “To Sheila with best wishes Hugh Nicholson”.  Sheila retired to the Village in Margate and retains some contact with the current Thursday group,

 Another early member of the group was John Freid, a film distributor who retired to Mbango. He is described as a quiet, old fashioned English gentleman. Apparently John could not walk and talk at the same time and would say “please stop and look at me when I'm talking”.  He, like Mr Nic, also enjoyed a post prandial nap. Setting off for a walk, he had the habit of waiting until the car was locked and everyone was ready to go before remembering that he needed something left in the car – inevitably this still happens and is referred to, with affection, as “doing a John Freid”.

John Freid was the link to Mick and Pat Tyass, meeting them at a Wildlife Society meeting and introducing them to the Thursday group in 1989.  Mick and Pat were inveterate travellers and had always been interested in the outdoors, hiking and camping with their children.   They had done the walk from Port Edward to Port St Johns, liked the area and the climate and so they bought property at Banners' Rest in 1987.  They joined the Thursday group outings, enjoying the walking and good company but knew nothing about botany, Pat admitting that she “can't identify a Christmas tree unless it has lights on it”! They remember very pleasant days, walking mostly in the Umtamvuna reserve, all travelling in the back of Tony's landrover to the western heights and the vulture colony.  One of the highlights was seeing “a 6 ft python”. Mick and Pat occasionally joined the group for tea on Thursday mornings long after they stopped walking and continued to take an interest in the activities of the group. Even the current rangers/guards at Umtamvuna ask about them, a testimony to their lively presence in the group.  Mick died in 2016 and Pat, increasingly frail, lives with her family in Johannesburg.

Mervyn Todd's interest in bird watching extended naturally to trees and he wanted to learn more about them so he contacted Tony Abbot, a fellow farmer in the area.    After he sold his farms, Mervyn had a part time position at the casino, counting money, and had Thursdays and Fridays off, which allowed him to joined the outings.   He was the 'bird man' of the group. He has a particular interest in unusual tree species like Manilkara and Dahlgrenodendron and has always wondered about the disparate distribution of these rare trees. To help him remember names of trees, Mervyn collected leaf specimens, pressed them in a magazine and mounted the dried leaves on index cards, filed alphabetically because he was not familiar with plant families (and therefore couldn't use the herbarium).  He has a 'library' of more than 100 cards and still uses them for reference but he does send the odd leaf to Geoff Nichols as the ultimate resort. A knee injury curtailed Mervyn's walking but for a time he participated in Joan Smith'sTuesday tree walks (see below) that had “good social value” and he could either botanise or enjoy a social amble at the back! Mervyn lives in the house he built himself in Port Edward, surrounded by trees given to him by friends and past members of the Thursday group, such as the marula from Sheila Smith and the Harpephyllum from Vi Sinclair.

Many of the stalwarts of the Thursday Group on an outing
Other members of the Thursday botanical group at that stage were :
Dick Foster, a local farmer who had a special interest in ferns, frequently accompanied Mr Nic and Tony in the early days.  Foster's Folly is named after him -- despite being a British test pilot in the war, Dick had to be helped out of the gorge after being incapacitated by vertigo at that spot.
Vi Sinclair, a botanical artist (now deceased).  Her father was professor of Botany at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg.  She was reserved and tended to stay in the background but she was more knowledgeable than she was given credit for.  Vi would pick up Mr Nicholson from the Village and Sheila from her farm near Ramsgate and they would travel together to the reserve.
Vaughan Volker, manager of the Umtamvuna reserve at the time, sometimes accompanied Mr Nic and Tony in the early days.
John Stannard and his wife June owned the farm Blencathra, overlooking the gorge between Beacon Hill and Clearwater.  John was an estate agent in Margate.  He had the reputation of always having plenty of beer in his backpack.  He didn't walk much as his legs were not strong, as a result of having had polio as a child. June had a particular interest in bird calls and produced the first recordings of bird calls in the country. 
On occasion several members of NH staff joined the Thursday outings  – Marie Jordaan, Rosemary Williams, Barney Pienaar, Snowy Bajnath and Yashica Singh
A gentleman whose name no one can remember, cared for the gardens at Brenthurst (and was reportedly also involved at Sun City and San Lameer).  He had an academic background and was very knowledgeable. He walked with Mr Nic to learn the names of trees, joining the group during time off from Brenthurst so that Tony called him the “holiday migrant”
Mike and Toi Skellern  Mike was a medical doctor and presently indulges in his hobby of making knives.  Toi still practices as an architect.  They walked often and have very pleasant memories of the outings. Mike was another one plagued by vertigo.
Jo Arkel had a pottery studio on the road to the Pont, where she made beautiful as well as functional pottery.  She was very keen, had a good memory and picked up information quickly. Jo is credited with the re-discovery of one of the very threatened plants of the Pondoland centre,  Brunia (Raspalia) trigyna, the Pondo ghostbush. After much searching, it was believed that the plant was extinct. However, while Mr Nic and John Fried were napping after lunch on one outing, she wandered off on her own, only to come back with a little branch that turned out to be a piece of the long lost Pondo ghostbush.  Jo now works as a carer in England (apparently her father is a medical doctor and she has some exposure to nursing) and returns to visit her family in Port Edward once a year.
Mick Goodall, a medical doctor from Durban, joined the group quite by chance.  While spending a holiday at their home in Leisure Bay, he decided to walk in the reserve and encountered Mr Nic and Tony at Beacon Hill. Realising their shared interest in trees, he asked if he could join the outings and built up considerable knowledge of plants.  After the family's move to Leisure Bay, he could not join the outings as he continued to practice at the Port Shepstone hospital.

Currently there is a core of regulars on the Thursday outings. Maggie Abbott, Tony's wife, initially did not join the botanical walks as she was involved with her physiotherapy practice.  She did accompany Tony on trips further afield, such as Ngele and Mkhambathi.  Not having a particular interest in plants, she lapped up the beauty of the environment, particularly the Umtamvuna and Pondoland.  After Maggie retired from her practice in 2005 she joined the outings and after Tony' death she seemed to draw strength from the tradition of the Thursday outings and the support of the group.

Dorothy McIntyre, another nature lover, moved to Trafalgar in 1999. Her interest in plants led to her attending a flower identification course presented by Braam van Wyk in Port Edward in 2001 and his tree identification course in 2002.  She then joined the Thursday group and Tony became her mentor.  In 2004 Dorothy and Joan Smith embarked on the organisation of the herbarium specimens, necessitated by the amalgamation of specimens from various sources.  Dorothy has fond memories of many trips, into the Transkei in particular, packed like sardines in the back of Tony's Landrover. Dorothy's passion for collecting the special trees of the area lead to the transformation of her small garden into an arboretum, later somewhat to regret her enthusiasm as the trees have grown bigger.  Dorothy is very generous with her knowledge and her plants and no one leaves her garden without an armful (or bootful) of plants.

Joan Smith, another stalwart member of the group, had a lifelong love of trees.  Her father was a forest officer so she grew up on forestry stations, mainly in the then Transkei.  After Joan moved to Leisure Bay, she was keen to learn the names of the trees around her and nagged Tony repeatedly until he brought the Thursday group to identify the trees in the village in 2002.  Not long after that Tony asked Joan to join the group and she and her husband, AC, went on many outings.  Joan also became the scribe, keeping a faithful record of outings until Tony started contributing to Plant Chat in 2005.  Joan 's passion for trees and her infectious enthusiasm endeared her to many.  She did not allow her crippling rheumatoid arthritis to spoil her enjoyment of outings.  When her walking became curtailed, she would walk as far as she could with the group and then find a suitable tree or rock where she would sit and contemplate nature and have her lunch until the group returned, when she would invariably contribute an observation or present a plant for identification.  She also made an invaluable contribution to creating order in the herbarium and her handwriting in the herbarium register is a constant reminder of her presence.  Joan was a kind and patient teacher and mentored many of the interns at the Umtamvuna reserve in addition to starting her own weekly indigenous tree identification walks for the less botanically inclined.  Joan died in 2016.
Joan holding a specimen of Pseudosalacia streyi in Smedmore Forest
Joan with Pondoland CREW at Cubica Heights with Outeniqua Falls in background
Joan introduced Ruth Mathias  to the Thursday group.  Originally from the UK, Ruth worked in the heritage industry and apart from enjoying vegetable gardening, had no botanical knowledge.  She moved to Munster in 2007 and while waiting for her permanent residency she was looking for things to do and joined Joan's tree walks after seeing the advertisement in the local newspaper.  She thoroughly enjoyed the outings and seeing her interest, Joan suggested that she join the Thursday walks in 2008.  Ruth had the privilege of learning from Tony on outings but with the arrival of two children, field trips have had to take a back seat.  

It was Mick Goodall who introduced Kate and Graham Grieve to the Thursday botanical walks.  En route to Mbotyi from Pretoria, Kate and Graham stopped overnight at the Goodall's B & B in Leisure Bay.  Both were eager to leave busy professional careers in Pretoria and were considering possible retirement options where they could pursue their interests in birding and botanising.  A visit to the Umtamvuna clinched the deal.  In addition to being a qualified bird ringer, Graham's interest in trees spread to grassland plants and a renewed enthusiasm for photography, complementing Kate's passion for wild flowers and botanical art.  Experience and knowledge gained from the Thursday walks, combined with that gained over the years in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, has stimulated a greater interest in plant taxonomy, supported by interaction with botanists across the country. Braam van Wyk appointed Kate as honorary curator of the herbarium at Umtamvuna, in which he plays a much appreciated mentoring role.  Graham is a keen photographer and in addition to photographing all the specimens in the herbarium and finalising the capturing of all voucher information in the PCE_BRAHMS database, he has built up an impressive virtual herbarium of photographs of the special plants of the area.  Graham was also responsible for the creation and compilation of this blog up until June 2020 when he and Kate moved away from the area .

Anne Skelton, botanist, previously lived in Greytown and was a researcher working on easy/fast grain quality screening techniques for use by plant breeders in the seed industry. She moved to Southbroom in 2008 and soon became involved in conservation. She contacted Tony by email to ask for tree identifications but was “too scared” and busy clearing stands to get involved in the Thursday outings. As an Honorary Officer, she was transferred to the Mzimkhulu HO group and at the insistence of Piet Massyn (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) and Sally Booker (HO),  met Dorothy McIntyre, probably at a Wessa walk at Skyline. Dorothy invited Anne to join a Thursday walk at Smedmore in 2011 and she has been a regular and much appreciated member ever since.  Anne has specialist knowledge of plant propagation as well as non-indigenous plant species and her expertise is often sought.  For Anne, outing highlights are plentiful – beautiful tranquil vistas down the gorges, nail biting descents to get to the bushman shelter, a sea of blue Scilla at Western Heights, freezing in the rain on the hike to Clearwater and almost reaching boiling point at Fosters Folly, the expanse of orange Watsonia at Red desert, Mkahambathi falls, mentoring the Groen Sebenza interns and visiting their spaces but most importantly the camaraderie and banter along the walks and always a caring hand to help through the scary parts, be they heights (Anne has a fear of heights), broken wrists (Graham's), blackouts (Joan's) or falls (probably everyone)!

When Joan Smith was no longer able to participate in her Tuesday tree walks, she handed over the reins to friend and fellow tree enthusiast, Uschi Teicher. Uschi has always been interested in trying to find out the names of plants, starting in Germany, when people would say  “What do you want to know this plant’s name for? It is just a weed!” After retiring to Ramsgate, Uschi made friends with neighbours, who had some knowledge about indigenous and exotic plants and lent her reference books.  Uschi pestered her neighbours with specimens until they were exhausted. Understandably she was delighted to see an advertisement in one of the local papers for “Indigenous tree identification for beginners.” Very timidly she phoned Joan Smith and made arrangements for her first outing, and has never looked back. Joan was a wonderful teacher, patient, very kind and enthusiastic.  Joan encouraged her to learn not only the tree names but also the flowers and last but not least, the grasses. Eventually Joan and Dorothy (who she met on Wessa walks) invited her to join Tony Abbott’s Thursday group. Uschi writes “I wasted precious years before I joined this wonderful group because I was convinced I was not ready for such an awe-inspiring circle of botanists. When I finally joined them, I was made more than welcome and my first outing was to the Western Heights. It was a tremendous feeling to stand at the edge of the gorge in this vast unspoiled area. I had the feeling of standing on hallowed ground, which I still have after many such outings.”  Uschi keeps meticulous notes on the plants she sees and carries her printed sheets wherever she goes.  She can be relied on to provide information when there is debate about a species, much to the appreciation of the group.

Heidi Neethling's connections to the group go back some years but she was encouraged to re-join the group by Kate and Graham Grieve in 2014. Heidi met Tony in the mid-1990s when she was relief manager at the Oribi Gorge nature reserve hutted camp. Hearing of her new found interest in indigenous trees, he invited her to join the Thursday group. He was pleased to find someone with access to the Umzimkulu valley and hoped she would add specimens to the herbarium. However, family demands didn't allow this to happen but Heidi joined the group on a few occasions, visiting Gibraltar and their farm in the Umzimkulu valley. Heidi and Mike have a farm at Oribi flats and are very generous in allowing the group access to their grasslands and astonishing cliff sites. Many of the plants are very different and several species of conservation concern have been found. At present a project is underway comparing the effects of burning and previous disturbance on species richness and diversity in four separate grassland plots on their farm.

Pondoland CREW with Heidi Neethling standing on left

Fortunately there have been additions to the group.  Debbie King is a teacher and keen environmentalist.  As an Honorary Officer she has re-vitalised the Umtamvuna group and she runs an environmental club for young children, operating from Clearwater.  Debbie joins the group during school holidays. A self-confessed tree-hugger and keen photographer, Gail Bowers-Winters, has bravely volunteered to take on the task of keeping the blog posts going after Graham handed over to her in June 2020.  Another Honorary Officer is Tracy Taylor, who is passionate about plants and always willing to tackle invasive alien species.  Gail bravely volunteered to take on the task of keeping the blog posts going after Graham handed over to her in June 2020. More recently, Mark Getliffe and Alf Heyter started participating in the outings in 2019.

Cadets at Umtamvuna have derived a great deal of benefit from the expertise of group members, particularly when it comes to completing projects for their B Tech studies. Intrigued by the group of old people meeting weekly at the reserve, Lindo Tshapha asked if he could join the walks and became a keen and motivated participant in 2014.  After a stint in the Drakensberg, Lindo returned to his home at Inanda to complete his B Tech.  Lindo continued his studies, completing a Master's degree at UKZN (Westville) in 2019 and currently workiing on his Ph D.  He retains contact with the group and has done some data capturing work at the herbarium. Lindo introduced  Buyi Zakuza to the Thursday group. Unable to obtain a post at Umtamvuna, she worked as a volunteer at the reserve to gain practical experience.  Buyi lives close to the reserve and attended school at Izingolweni.  Her interest in conservation was stimulated by her school principal who made the students aware of environmental issues. She is close to completing her studies in Nature Conservation through Unisa. Lindo and Buyi learned a great deal and in turn their youthful presence was much appreciated. 

Pondoland CREW with Buyi and Lindo at Terraces, Umtamvuna NR
In 2007 the Pondoland CREW group was formed, largely at Tony's instigation.  This gave renewed focus to the many of the outings, in line with CREW's objectives.  The group monitors the sites visited and compiles lists of species on the sites as well as information on target species.  The data are submitted to CREW and SANBI with the ultimate goal of updating the Red List.  However, it is not all serious work and the group has had a great deal of fun, particularly on field trips to Pondoland, Mkhambathi and Ongeluksnek.  Through CREW, the group was exposed to the Groen Sebenza programme, a CREW and Botsoc initiative with the objective of  offering young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to develop skills in the biodiversity sector and enhance their employment potential. The group has worked closely with Sinegugu Zikhulu, well known conservationist and environmental activist, and his four Groen Sebenza interns, Mzamo Dlamini, S'bu Maqadi, Bongeka Ntola and Mxolisi Ngongoma, who were tasked with accompanying herbalists in their communities and documenting the plants collected, the vernacular names of the plants and their medicinal and spiritual uses.  The group provided workshops on basic botany as well as collecting and processing herbarium material, and the specimens collected were brought to the group for identification. In turn, the group made an unforgettable trip to Pondoland to visit the interns on home turf, that included spending the night in a headman's homestead and walking with the herbalist at Gobodweni as well as revelling in the beauty of the Mtentu estuary.

Pondoland CREW field trip with Groen Sebenza interns and herbalist at Baleni, Pondoland
Pondoland CREW with Groen Sebenza interns at Mtentu River mouth 

The legacy of Mr Nic and Tony Abbott is evident in the continued existence of the Thursday walks, remembered not only for the joy of plants and being out in the natural environment but also because of the special times shared and memories made.

Acknowledments to Geoff Nichols and Mervyn Todd for making archive images of the Thursday Group outings available. 

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