In October 2006, Stan Dugmore, who runs the Forest Way Outdoor Outreach programme in Stutterheim was inspired by a small, wheelchair bound school girl.
Little Brodie Moodie was only in Grade 1 at the time and was part of the Clarendon class attending the yearly outing to Forest Way. Unable to take part in the obstacle course and races, Brodie was adamant that she would join her friends on the walk to the waterfall.
Impressed by her enthusiasm and courage, Stan discussed the possibility with the accompanying teachers. It was decided to change from the electric wheelchair to the manual chair with thicker wheels in order to tackle the yellow route as far as the first waterfall. To this day he is still not sure how they managed it, but they did. It took an exceptionally long time, navigating the bumpy path and at times quite nerve racking for Brodie as in places, the narrow path crumbled towards the edge and the wheelchair had to be tipped on its side. This courageous little girl was pushed and bumped until finally they reached the waterfall.
Stan recalls how her face lit up, a mixture of wonderment, excitement and pride. She had never sat next to a waterfall or heard the sounds of the forest before and she was overjoyed. For Stan, this was a watershed moment. Realizing how much we take for granted living in this area, being able to walk the forests whenever we wish, he resolved there and then that somehow the indigenous forest must be made available to all.
With the aid of the Thina Sinako funding, the idea of a boardwalk changed from a dream to a reality. After a great many months, having applied for permission to build in the forest, the drawing up of plans by a local engineer and the first poles being planted, members of the Stutterheim community rallied together at the forest picnic site. With much enthusiasm, on Saturday 5 June, everyone sorted themselves into groups and in no time at all, planks were being screwed into place, handrails fitted and varnish applied.
This idea may have stemmed from Stan and the eScape Route, but it has become a community project. Several businesses in the area gave discount on items needed or time and expertise to help build it. Our thanks especially goes to Amabele Poles who donated a large quantity of wood even after they had suffered greatly from a fire in their factory.
The Khologha Forest is the second largest indigenous forest in South Africa and to have a wheelchair friendly boardwalk which will go from the picnic site to the first waterfall, a mere distance of 1km for the able, will give everyone the chance to visit and appreciate the natural beauty of this area.