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Looking Back On A Few Celebrations.
After fifty years and six hundred hacks we look back to the vision of hack founder, Denys Heesom. Have we achieved what he wished to achieve? Yes and no. Indeed the approach to Betty's Bay from Pringle Bay passes through magnificent fynbos – the expressed fear voiced in 1963 that it might resemble the approach to Hermanus has been vanquished. The battle will never be won and possibly the battle against the New Zealand Christmas tree invasion of Sunny Seas has been lost (in spite of the efforts of a few of the residents). However the main arena of battle is being held. The original battle motto which was “Hack the Hakea” no longer applies thanks to the hackers and biological control of that enemy. Port Jackson is on the retreat around the dump too.

The first hack on the 3rd February 1963 was advertised in the press and locally and forty two turned up armed with their own refreshments and where possible, tools, these included both a contingent from the Cape Town section of the Mountain Club of South Africa and from CAV the Cape Town based Control of Alien Vegetation. Of interest is that the leader of the MCSA group was Tut Trainor (father of Merrilee Berrisford) and among the CAV members was Louis Silberbauer (father of Ed and Lewis). They worked in the area north of the Wallers' Holiday Camp and repaired to the Heesom house for the Aftermath.

From this hack until the 200th hack the Heesoms hosted the Aftermath and later also provided the tea and sandwiches. Michael (she was christened Maureen) Heesom and Ida Broadwith were the tea ladies.

The 100th hack is memorable in that it was a two day hack, with a group of forty ACF trainees from Youngsfield hacking the hakea on the Saturday above the Rooiels hill and on the Sunday the regular group augmented by members of the mountain club attacked the gum trees at the Big Bend on what was then Clarence Drive -now Porter Drive (2nd May 1971). At the Aftermath the mountain club presented a Wild Olive tree and a Rooiels tree to Denys who proposed planting them near Bass Lake. Now in 2013 there are a good number of these trees in that area!

The 200th hack was held on the second Sunday of the month, 9th September 1979 to accommodate the mountain club who brought thirty hackers and the locals numbered twenty. Tut Trainor presented Denys with the floating trophy – The Golden Hakea, the hackers gave him the promise of the John Rourke book being prepared for publication – The Proteas of Southern Africa and Ed Silberbauer presented him with the “Silver Tankard” award. Denys greatly appreciated this recognition of his leadership. Sadly two weeks later he died.

The Silver Tankard was subsequently awarded to Rod Smitheman, Bo & Jill Attwell and Gordon & Sheila Cunningham. In 2003 the tables were turned when his sons made one for Ed Silberbauer. The 'tankard' is a beer can with a tin handle soldered on. This 'tankard' was coated in a layer of “old Cape Silver” and tastefully inscribed in Latin with red paint.

After Denys' death the Betty’s Bay Wild Flower Society funded the hack which was convened by Rod Smitheman until his death.

The 300th hack saw 80 hackers in the field (again including a contingent from the mountain club) in the area of Agapanthus road. There was a walk arranged on the Saturday and many of the mountain club members camped either at Mooihawens Holiday Camp or in the Silberbauer garden where the next day the Aftermath took the form of a bring and braai.

A record was set at the 400th hack in April 1996 when 80 troops took the field on the mountain side of the Groot Witvlei area. The Aftermath was another bring picnic or braai held in Crassula Hall and attended by representatives from BotSoc for by then the Wildflower Society had become a branch of BotSoc.

For the 500th hack Crassula Hall was again the venue for a boerewors roll lunch given by the branch. At this Ed Silberbauer was awarded their highest conservation award by BotSoc, the Denys Heesom gold medal. The first presentation of this award had been in 1983 to the Betty's Bay Hack Group.

The 600th hack. It is notable in that all three of Tut Trainor's children attended the 600th and two of Louis Silberbauer's. Currently Louis' son Ed convenes the Betty's Bay hack and son Lewis the Friends of Stellenbosch Mountain hack while (although not at the 600th hack) Ed's son James convenes the Friends of Helderberg Reserve hack in Somerset West.

A grand turnout considering that this was the last day of the Easter holidays, the weather was far from promising and most of the “swallows” had left their temporary nests and migrated back to their summer homes. (Some of these “summer” homes are still experiencing winter blizzards) Returning to bad weather is a poor reward for these wonderful people who travel 6000 miles or more to help us rid Betty's Bay of alien invasive trees. It is of interest that these migratory hackers make up 24% of the average number of active hackers in our area. Would that 24% of our local population took a similar interest in this vital exercise.

Concern was expressed at tea time over the non appearance of our longstanding hacker and road verge alien cleaner upper – Pieter “the verger”. A search party was dispatched led by Frik who located Pieter -he having been holed up in a thicket of blombos. Pieter's knees are not what they used to be and believe me knees have to be 100% to get through this foul variety of hacker unfriendly fynbos. Recovering from this misadventure Pieter joined us at a most convivial aftermath braai at No.10 Kloof road. A fitting end to 600 hacks manned by our outstanding men, women and youngsters over the last 50 years. A special mention and toast to the sandwich and tea making professionals without whom no hack would have taken place beyond hack No. 1!

There have been many other celebrations for instance the 40th year, 45th year and in February 2013 the half century of hacking. No doubt there will be more in future. We trust that new troops are in reserve waiting to join the fight to keep the fynbos free.