All aboard for Cape history lesson
If you are interested in studying and enjoy natural history, you should attend meetings of or join the Cape Natural History Club (CNHC).
The club was established in Cape Town in July 1922.
Gabrielle Peel was the president for many years until she retired to the UK.
“We used to meet at the Sacs Hall but when this became unavailable, moved to the Athenaeum in Newlands.
“This is a central meeting place as people come from all over the peninsula, the Deep South, northern and West Coast suburbs, Cape Town and even sometimes as far as Somerset West,” says Sheila Lewis, spokesperson for the club.
The club is an independent organisation which aims to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of natural history and to enable all those interested to meet for monthly meetings, outings and activities.
“Our membership is mostly made up of retired people and professionals as well as younger people and students. Members pay a yearly subscription of R100 which goes towards the cost of hiring the Athenaeum Hall and other expenses related to the running of the club, and R20 per person for talks. We give the speakers a small gratuity towards their travelling expenses, or as a donation to their projects or organisation. All committee members work on a voluntary basis,” she says.
“The committee arranges monthly lectures on a range of subjects that would be of interest to their members and visitors. These range from the Cape’s history to fauna and flora, as well as exploring the sciences such as geology, astronomy and palaeontology, and other subjects of interest to our members.
“Talks are held once a month on the last Friday and followed up with an outing usually on the last Sunday of the month. If the outing falls in an area outside of the city’s boundaries, the committee will organise transport in a coach.
“Visitors are welcome to take part in the activities. Members are sometimes given a discount on the cost of outings when possible.
“Events are advertised in our newsletters and Facebook page, as well as in the local newspapers and periodicals. The newsletters also include other events of interest, such as the programmes held at the Royal Observatory, the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Iziko Museum, and events and talks held by other clubs and associations,” Lewis says.
“Importantly, the Club aims to educate, entertain and update people with the talks and go to interesting and fun places.”
Past talks and outings include a visit to Matjiesfontein with Dr John Almond who accompanied them for a weekend of geology, palaeontology and exploring historical sites, and flora and fauna in the Karoo.
“Tim Jenkins presented his talk ‘Escape from Pretoria Prison’ which is being made into a documentary.
“Professor Mike Bruton spoke on his books Old Four Legs, about the coelacanth, and What a Great Idea, about South African inventions.
“We also paid visits to the Porterville museum and the pomegranate farm, Hopefield and the historical church and organ, as well as to Simply Bee for the tour and talk on beekeeping,” Lewis says.
“A guided tour of Paarl’s historical architecture and buildings was undertaken and Dean Allen spoke on his book Empire War and Cricket.
“Dr Helen Robinson, historian, talked on the early history of the Cape Town areas and original farms.
Douglas Anderson, geochemist, talked on meteorites and led an outing to geological sites around Cape Town.
“Eleanor Yeld-Hucthins from Save our Seas Foundation spoke on the Cape clawless otter, and Anita Wilkinson spoke on the Cape Leopard Trust. Both guests were involved in the SABC series Shore Line.
“Elsabe Britz spoke on her book Emily Hobhouse, Beloved Traitor.
“We undertook some fun outings to the Spice Route and a visit to the Alpaca Loom and Weaving Studio and tour of the farm; [we went] cherry picking at Klondyke farm in Ceres; a steam train trip with Ceres Rail to Ceres and lunch at the Country Club; to Vergenoegdt, the nine-inch muzzle-loaded cannon in Simon’s Town Middle North Battery and lunch,” she says.
On Friday 27 July a talk about the Quagga Project will be held in Newlands and on Sunday 29 July an outing to Vredenheim to see the big cats will be undertaken.
Future talks will be held on Friday 31 August on Volunteer Fire Services; on Friday 28 September Dr John Rogers, geologist, will share his knowledge on the Karoo; archaeologist John Gribble will talk about the SS Mendi on Friday 26 October; and on Friday 20 November the head of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (Crew) will talk about the endangered wildflowers.