In today’s fast-paced digital world, it is easy to forget the simple things in life such as the beauty of nature and the effect it has on people.
For most people, their tree-watching experience is limited to office plants and perhaps a forest themed wallpaper on their computer, but this cannot be said about Hannes Bosch.
Mr Bosch, 84, has recently stepped down as the chairman of the Vink Green Belt Association, an NPO dedicated to the preservation of the Majik Forest in Durbanville, and the former building material supplier must now prepare to leave the forest and memories behind.
Although Mr Bosch did not spend most of his formative years with nature, anybody can clearly see his passion for the forest every time he speaks about the trees and the memories he has made.
“I will certainly miss being part of the association but the time has come for me to step aside and let somebody else take things forward. Being part of the association has certainly played a massive part of my life since 2005, as I have made many friendships and long-lasting memories.
“To be honest, when I started with the association my knowledge of indigenous trees was very limited, so being in this role has also been a great source of knowledge for me and it has exposed me to a new world.”
Mr Bosch, who lives with his wife, Liz, in a nearby retirement village, is originally from Johannesburg and got involved with the association when he moved to the area in 2005 and met Vink van Zyl, the founder of Majik Forest.
Mr Bosch said Mr Van Zyl, known affectionately as the “Tree Man” back then, started the forest in 2002, when the retired engineer got permission from the City to plant trees on the vacant land.
“You would always see Vink with his white Volvo and his four dogs here in the park, and when I started I was involved in helping him set up the hoses and getting the water cans for the planting of the trees. When Vink got sick, my role increased as we did not want to see all his hard work come to nothing, and we promised that we would keep the project going.
“He returned to work, and I stayed on until his unfortunate passing in June 2005. It was a massive blow for us and in October we started the Vink Green Belt Association.”
Currently, the forest has over 400 trees with indigenous species, including yellowoods, cycads, fig trees and saffrons, although just how many species there are is hard to know.
“There are so many different types of species of trees and the people that record these are very specific in what names are used for certain species. Also with many plants here in the forest, you often have to wait for it to flower before you can say for sure what type of tree it is.”
Mr Bosch says about 90% of the 400-odd trees in the forest are adopted by members of the public and there are plans to plant more in the future.
“It has truly been overwhelming the number of people that have adopted trees here in the forest. They all pay an annual amount, but what is amazing to see is how many of them come and visit the forest just to simply have a picnic, or they will come to clean up around their tree.
“I often find myself just walking around the forest and seeing these people at the trees, and we end up talking, and that has just shown me the uniting power of nature.”
It is also common to see people bring water bottles to plant around the trees and whenever Mr Bosch sees a younger person do this he is reminded of his dear friend and former head groundsman, Ezra Ngozi.
“Before Ezra died in September this year, he met a group of young boys from Khayelitsha here at the park and he taught them about watering the trees and looking after them. He even made jokes about beating them if they did not. At the time, we simply just laughed it off, but a few years after that, I saw the same group of guys at the forest and they told me that since that day they planted trees all over their neighbourhood and they actually tell people the exact same speech that Ezra told them.”
Mr Bosch added that Mr Ngozi was one of the many dear friends he had made during his time with the green belt and now that he has retired he looks forward to leisurely walks around the forest and perhaps resting on the rock close to the sweet thorn tree that he adopted.