Each week I do at least one photo-travel-shoot with a friend, (Usually Ray) this one was with April AKA Sublime Polyester on Flickr. April is a talented jewellery designer, graphic artist and photographer to boot!
This time I went to Edward Gardens in Toronto, the home of a former estate and now a public garden and park with plenty of floral displays, rock gardens and trails including an old water wheel.If you are visiting you will find it at the corner of Lawrence and Leslie in North York(MAP). For hikers and bikers it is of note that trails from here extend through ravines as far as the lakeshore!
It was a hot day in May, one of the first we’ve had this year and nice to be outdoors after our too long winter. April is taking a photography class related to her work and got me up to speed on using my camera with manual settings much more efficiently. Since this trip I have been experimenting more with shutter-speed, f-stops and ISO settings in manual.
Driving down the highway I often wonder ‘what’s behind the trees?’ Today I answered a very small part of that very large question and discovered for myself the Bognor Conservation Area.
Described by Grey Sauble Conservation as covering “668 hectares of escarpment upland forests, three major marshes, reforested areas, natural regeneration areas, and several small springs feeding the marsh and stream system.” It was much more sublime than this dry depiction.
From the highway we walked through a corridor of trees. Fungi of every shape and sort clung to dead wood and the bases of living trees, caramel dragonflies and lilac butterflies flitted about. The trail ended in an open field and to our right the board-walk into the marsh began.The area opened up into a vast wetland populated by lilies and cat-tails. The songs of birds filled the air. Red-winged blackbirds, hawks and tree swallows were the most visible wildlife but snakes, frogs and turtles abound as well.
A few weeks ago Ray and I visited the Corran at Spirit Rock Conservation Area. We returned yesterday and went on the trail to the lookout. Along the trail there is an area that opens up into a grassy “orchard”. It is a wild and abandoned but you can make out what might be cherry or apple trees as well as some of the lost children of the rose garden that once grew there.
There was a grove of birch trees that we passed. When I was very young my mother collected birch bark from the road side. later she would cut patterns out of it and sew together tiny birch bark canoes and tee-pees. Spirit Rock is associated with a tragic “Indian Princess” legend. The story is that a young native woman fell in love with a member of a rival tribe and the following tribulations ended in her leaping off the cliff to her demise at Spirit Rock. On stormy nights when the lightning flashes ‘they’ say that her face can be seen profiled in the cliffs. Most of these Indian Princess stories seem to have been the creations of white settlers rather than actual native lore.
The lookout is fairly overgrown with cedar trees but a view of Colpoy’s Bay with it’s clear, almost tropical blue, water can be seen.
Yesterday my friend Ray and I went out to Walter’s Falls another place in the Grey Bruce area that I have never visited. It’s out past Bognor in an isolated part of the county about midway between Chatsworth and Meaford. What we found there was a 14 metre high waterfall (as was to be expected at a place named ‘falls’), the shell of an old woolen mill, the scattered, rusting parts of an old saw mill, a forklift that got mired in the muck one day and was left abandoned ever since, an inn & spa, the Bruce Trail and some very imaginative wood carvings.
The story of Walter’s Falls begins in 1852 when John Walter of Toronto claimed 300 acres of land on the south branch of the Bighead River. A saw mill was built in 1853 and the town grew up around this. By 1865 the town had a grist mill, a woolen mill, a post office, a tavern, a blacksmith, a wagon maker, two carpenters, a millwright and a tinsmith. 1 The village had a population of about 200 people in 1887.The sawmill remained until it burned down on October 15, 1984.
Hubbert, Mildred (1983). The Paths that Led to Holland, Vol 1. Canada: The Historical Society of Holland Township. p. 1 ↩
Occasionally there are things in your backyard waiting for you to discover if you would only turn around, take a step forward and look. Yesterday I turned around.
Wiarton (the home of Wiarton Willie the prognosticating albino rodent) is 35 minutes from where I live and is the gateway to the Tobermorey peninsula, that long finger of land that seems to point to the outer limits of the world as you drive north. Just beyond this small city on Georgian Bay is the Spirit Rock which conveniently is located in the Spirit Rock Conservation Area. Along with this scenic outpost are found the ruins of a manor known as The Corran. This appropriately is said to be Gaelic for ‘land running into the sea’ as well as the name of the Irish county the owner Alexander McNeill came from. Yesterday my friend Ray and I drove up to explore
Construction on the home began in 1882 by Hester McNeill and her husband Canadian Member of Parliament Alexander McNeill. The 17 room manor was filled with luxury and opulence, oriental carpets, bearskin rugs, a marble bath and an extensive library. All of this was surrounded by 3 acres of gardens including 500 rose bushes among which were the black roses of McNeill’s home Ireland. There was also a stable for the horses, a barn for the Durham Shorthorns that McNeill bred, an ice house, a power generator and two cottages for the McNeill’s dear friend and estate manager Alfred Lewis, who had come with his wife and daughters from England to help McNeill after Hester passed on in 1890, the manor still not complete. Lewis himself died in 1931 the victim of the first auto accident in the region. Alexander McNeill passed on himself the following year a month short of 90.
The McNeill’s only had one child, Malcolm and Malcolm never married or had children. He lived in the home with the housekeeper Sally Simmons and when Malcolm passed on in 1952 the home went to her. Malcolm had left debts and Simmons could not afford the upkeep of the home and property. She sold it in 1960 to a man from Willowdale Ontario. Soon after the home was vacated forever. Over the next 16 years it endured youthful vandalism ending it’s days in fire. The property now belongs to Grey Sauble Conservation. The gardens and orchards are gone now overgrown with trees and weeds. All that remains are some of the two story stone walls and the steps to the front entrance where the porch once was.