19 Jun
An English Country Paradise

Overflowing with beautiful flora and fauna, 2 000 trees and home to a wide range of birds and small animals, Camelot Estate’s open space is now officially a conservancy. A beauty on our doorstep

Story Katrine Anker-Nilssen

Most of us know Hillcrest’s Greensleeves, famous for hosting medieval feasts, weddings and other festivities. Situated on the picturesque Camelot Estate – created in the style of an English country paradise with charming Tudor houses, lakes and a manicured golf course – Greensleeves’ striking castle is a local landmark. But what most of us don’t know is that the estate’s environmental open space is now officially a conservancy – bursting with beautiful flora and fauna, inspiring projects and people that make sure its legacy is protected.

Richard Gaylord developed Camelot Estate, consisting of seven villages (Hathaway, Sherborne, Evesham, Stratford, Canterbury, Windsor Crescent and Hampshire Downs), as well as the central complex Greensleeves and the golf course, back in the 1980s. With Richard’s permission, three residents started a group in 1999 to protect their natural surroundings. And this is what finally became the Camelot Environmental Conservancy (CEC) in 2013.

Tony Wint, who left Manchester for sunny South Africa in 1971 and came to the Camelot Estate in 1998, is one of these three residents. Tony’s objective was to get everyone involved and paying a fee to the conservancy for its maintenance and protection. “Today, all 184 households on the estate donate a small levy and this helps to look after the internal environmental open space, which embraces 42 hectares,” he explains.

“The Conservancy and Golf Course management have a budget to maintain the area, especially aliens – both land and water based,” says Tony.

Apart from aliens, the conservancy’s biggest challenge is the Egyptian goose. “The geese cause havoc. They are extremely dominant and chase other birds away,” says Tony. “They damage the greens and tees with their acidic droppings, and the females are continually fighting. They are a bird species that conservancies can accept in small numbers, not vagrant flocks of over 150 in one visit.”

Achieving conservancy status is Tony’s greatest reward, along with participation by all divisions of Camelot’s management and involvement by all seven villages. “I hope the conservancy will continue with the ongoing commitment to conservation of the estate, through the villages and working committees, for many years to come,” he says. “An exciting upcoming project for us is identifying all trees, so that we can label the indigenous specimens.”

Tony’s wife, Barbara, is also very involved in all matters concerning the conservancy. She writes a bi-monthly newsletter to keep residents up-to-date on flora and fauna sightings, and has made a big effort in naming pathways around the estate. “When we arrived here, all residents were walkers and would report sightings on their outings,” says Barbara. “But over the years, some residents became housebound and reliant on the newsletter to know what was happening in their surroundings. So by naming all the pathways and making a map, they are now able to visualise the scene on their doorstep.”

Starting an impala herd with just one male and two females, and watching it grow to 10 has been very exciting for the conservancy and its members. Over 2 000 trees have been planted across the estate, on the nature trail, bird island and golf course, and they are all thriving. Water birds feel safe nesting around the lakes hidden amongst indigenous vegetation, while bulrushes and other water plants are home to many birds and frogs. Tall bird perches entice some of the larger birds to land, White-breasted Cormorants and Darters happily fish from them, and the Pink-backed Pelican has been spotted snoozing here.

“Our Camelot bird list names over 200 species. Camelot is also home to impala, duiker, genet, water mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, slender mongoose, banded mongoose, dassie, cane rat, porcupine, water monitor and rock monitor,” says Barbara. “Reptiles, fish, amphibians, smaller mammals, butterflies and insects reside here too.”

“I find the environment here never to be dull because of the beautiful surroundings, and I love the unique climate, with its misty mornings,” says Tony.

Although the estate is private, visitors can book a game of golf and experience the conservancy that way. “It is currently one of the most improved and successful nine-hole golf courses in Natal,” Tony concludes.

Raptor Rescue Golf Day

  • Held annually in November by the CEC at the Camelot Golf Club to raise funds for the Raptor Rescue clinic in Cato Ridge, the event started in 2005 and has raised almost R90 000 to date. All proceeds go to the clinic.
  • Raptor Rescue was founded 16 years ago by biologist Ben Hoffman, who had the vision to build a world-class facility dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, release and research of wild birds of prey in Southern Africa.
  • Visit www.raptorrescue.org.za for more info.
  • Contact Tony Wint on tonybarb@nashuaisp.co.za or 083 326 6716 to take part.
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