Trinity Bellwoods Park

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trinity Bellwoods Park is one of the busiest in the city with thousands of visitors on a sunny summer day.  It also has an interesting history as the home of Trinity College from 1852 until 1925.  Not much remains today to mark the history of the site except the old gates on Queen Street.  They can be seen in the cover photo.

Trinity College was founded in 1851 by Bishop John Strachan to be closely aligned with the Church of England.  Strachan had made a name for himself as the civil leader of York when the British abandoned the town following the Battle of York in the war of 1812.  The gates bear his name and the Roman numerals MDCCCLI for 1851.


The building was Gothic Revival and operated from 1852 until the school relocated with the University of Toronto in 1925.  The buildings then became city property and were demolished in the early 1950’s.  The archive picture below shows the college in the early days.


Today there are walking paths among the many mature trees in the park.  There are tennis courts, children’s play areas and an outdoor skating rink.  There’s also summer picnic areas and lots of off leash areas for dogs to play in.


A paved trail leads down into the lower bowl where Garrison Creek used to flow.


Female students began to attend Trinity College in 1884.  By 1888 the female student population was still only 2 but it was decided they needed a dedicated building.  Euclid Avenue was the first location for the new facility but after moving a few times it settled in 1903 into a new building on campus.  This building has had several uses since 1925 including the current role as John Gibson House.  It is the only remaining building from the Trinity College campus.


Although St. Hildas opened for students in 1903 the cornerstone shows that construction began in 1899.


From behind St. Hildas College you can see the rise of land that marks the sight of a buried bridge.  This artificial hill has become a popular tobogganing slope.


The Crawford Street Bridge was built in 1915 to replace the 1884 wooden bridge that previously crossed Garrison Creek.  The triple span arch bridge was influenced by designs of R. C. Harris, Public Works Commissioner.  It bears a lot of resemblance to the Bloor Viaduct, a contemporary Harris design.  This archive photo is from 1915.


By the 1880’s the city was expanding westward and Garrison Creek was already badly polluted.  A solution was put forth to bury the creek in a sewer pipe.  This got approved and Garrison Creek disappeared from the surface in 1884 when the previous bridge was installed.  In the 1960’s the city was digging the Bloor subway line and looking for places to dump the soil they were removing.  It was decided to fill in the ravine on either side of the Crawford Street Bridge saving upcoming maintenance costs on the bridge.  Maintenance work in 2004 has identified the former course of the creek as well as illustrating the types of fish that used to swim through here.  These included Pumpkinseed, Brown Bullhead, White Sucker, Bowfin and Northern Pike.


North of Trinity Bellwoods Park at Harbord Street there is a second buried bridge on on the former watercourse of Garrison Creek.  The Toronto Archive photo below shows the bridge nearing completion in 1910.


This bridge was likewise buried with subway diggings except that in this case they left the railing on the north side.


Looking down into Garrison Creek ravine you can get a feeling for the way things used to be.  The people in the dog park are standing above the buried creek where it runs through the old sewer pipes.


It really is too bad that the city of the 1950’s didn’t put more emphasis on heritage because we might still have the grand old building of Trinity College.  Perhaps it could have been turned into the community centre instead of building a new one.

Google Maps Link: Trinity Bellwoods Park

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Betty Sutherland Trail

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Betty Sutherland Trail runs for 1.83 kilometres from Leslie Street and Sheppard Avenue to Duncan Mills Road and Don Mills Road.  The park is named after a long time city councilor who was active in supporting Toronto’s recreational areas and trails.  She was also a member of Toronto Region Conservation Authority.  The park runs through an area known as Henry Farm.  The farm was settled in 1806 by Henry Mulholland and was later owned by George Stewart Henry who was the 10th Premier of Ontario.  To explore the trail we parked near the corner of Duncan Mills Road.  The formal trail runs on the west side of the river at this point but we chose the less traveled east side of the river.

The cover photo shows one of the stone buildings associated with Duncan Mills which used to operate at this site.  In 1935 a pump house was built to bring water from the river to Graydon Hall at the top of the ravine.  This water flowed through terraced gardens as it returned to the river.  These two old buildings greet you as you enter the trail and their story can be read in more detail in our story Graydon Hall.


The East Don River runs along side of the trail.  The river was frozen over in many places but still had open water where the ice hadn’t formed.


The trail passes under the 401 where the steel girders are marked Bridge & Tank.  This company has its roots in Hamilton in 1872 as the Hamilton Tool Works.  It went under several names until the Second World War when it began manufacturing tanks for the military.  In 1954 they became the Bridge and Tank company and continued operations until 1984.


A series of side trails form a loop extending the trail and providing access to a couple of ravines


The Betty Sutherland Trail is well known to bird watchers as a place to see a multitude of species.  This late in the winter there are relatively few but that is about to change very soon.  We saw several cardinals standing pretty in the trees and singing to their females.


On the west side of the river stands the North York General Hospital.   The idea for this hospital began in 1960 when a group of local citizens met to explore the possibility of building a 70-bed community hospital.  On March 15, 1968 the new hospital was dedicated by the Premier of Ontario.  The present building includes a major expansion that was completed in 2003.


The trail ends at Sheppard and Leslie which was the former community of Oriole.  We crossed the road to have another look at the old dam that marks the site.  Click on the link to read the story of Oriole – Ghost Towns of the GTA.


The trail is wide and had three clear paths running along it.  Ideally the walkers would take the middle path while skiers would go single file in the two outside lanes.  If the outside paths were once ski trails they have been over-run with footprints of pedestrians.  With a little luck pedestrians will be sharing the path with cyclists instead of skiers in the next couple of weeks.


Pine Grosbeaks are normally a northern bird and are uncommon in Southern Ontario and we were lucky to see this female in the top of a tree along the trail.  Pine Grosbeaks move south in the winter looking for food at which time they will feed on buds in maple trees.  They are a member of the finch family but are one of the larger, plumper species.


The Betty Sutherland Trail is just part of the extensive trails that follow the East Don River.  At this time they are not continuous but each section is well worth the visit.

Google Maps Link: Betty Sutherland Trail

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Greenwood Conservation Area – North

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Greenwood Conservation Area is 283 hectares and after seeing a visitor post from #hikingblogto about it, we decided it was time to check it out.  A quick look told us that there are three parking areas, all of them free.  The park is split in two by the fifth concession and we decided to start with the section north of it.

We decided to start with the trail that follows Duffins Creek and along the way we saw several of these nests hanging from the forked branches of trees.  These nests are carefully woven of twigs and branches as well as pieces of paper wasp nests.  Nests like this are likely from Red-eyed Vireo.


Ever since Groundhog Day we have had a series of snow storms and very cold weather.  This isn’t the time of year that you expect to see spider webs but we found several funnel spider webs on the underside of a large tree branch.  The warmer weather of the past couple of days has woken the spiders up but I’m not sure they will have found too many insects to break their fast on.


From the trail you can see a straight line in the trees which always indicates a man-made object.  Upon closer inspection we found a foundation for farm building.  A old roadway is visible running from the foundation back toward the fifth concession.


The park is well posted to inform pet owners that dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.  We saw several people walking dogs but not one of them was on a leash.  From the looks of things, this trail will be quite a mess in the spring when the snow melts but the poo doesn’t.


Duffins Creek flows through the conservation area and the ice has broken up a few times previously.  The creek was full of Atlantic Salmon when the Europeans arrived in the area.  Atlantic Salmon were also one of the first species to disappear as a result of human activity.  The Duffins Creek watershed is being restocked in an effort to revive the species.  The creek meets the waterfront after flowing through Alex Robertson Park where there are multiple enchanted carvings.


There are a couple of places along the trail where someone has decorated trees for Christmas.  I find this to be in very poor judgement.  It may look cute for a short time leading up to Christmas but unfortunately, no one comes back to clean it up.  The ornaments get broken and become so much litter in the woods.  There are a couple of broken ornaments on the tree pictured below.


Trails in the park are multi-use.  There are several kilometres of mountain bike trails and The Great Trail passes through the middle of the park.  As with all multi-use trails it is important to respect the other users.  One of the key ways of doing this in the winter is to allow cross country skiers to have their own trail.  Don’t walk where they ski as it makes it very difficult to ski.


The snow was gently coming down as we made our way through the forest.  Winter hiking can be quite enjoyable but by this time of the season we begin to get a little tired of white and brown blogs.  We received 63.4 cm of snow in January 2019.  This was the most in a single month since February 2014 when we got 65.3 cm.


The trail leads toward Highway 7 where we came across several buildings elated to Pickering Museum Village.  This is the largest pioneer village in Durham Region.  There are close to twenty buildings in the village which tell the story of life in the area prior to about 1910.  The Puterbaugh House has been made over to represent a one room school house similar to the ones that Pickering children would have been educated in during the early 1800’s.


With the village closed for the season, we decided to return via another route.  This time we passed the shell of an old barn.  The side panels look to have been scavenged because the frame and roof appear to be in pretty good condition.  The outside of the barn can be seen in the cover photo.


We followed the upper trail on the return trip along several different bike trails.  We came to the other end of the road that leads to the foundations we had seen on the way in.  It’s always interesting when the guard rail closes a road that can no longer be seen because of the new growth on the right of way.  This road can still be seen from the creek side trail as a straight line through the woods.


Downey Woodpeckers are the smaller of the common woodpeckers on Ontario.  They very closely resemble the larger Hairy Woodpecker but are not related to them.  These little birds are among the more common woodpeckers in the area.


Greenwood Conservation Area is large enough that it will take several visits to explore the whole park.  It also seems that a trip to the Pickering Museum Village might be in order.  You can see some pictures of early Pickering in our post Duffins Creek.

Google Maps link: Greenwood Conservation Area

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Dundurn Castle

Saturday, February 23, 2019

This post is technically GTHA (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area) as it takes us to Hamilton.  For those who live in the west end of the GTA, Hamilton is only a short drive and it shares some of our War of 1812 and Rebellion of 1837 history.  Dundurn Castle is linked to both.  The property originally belonged to Richard Beasley who owned it from the early 1800’s.  It then belonged to Allan MacNab from 1833 until 1862 when he died.  The 1877 map below shows it as Donald McInnes who bought it in 1872.  When he was finished with it in 1899 it was given to the City of Hamilton.

Dundurn Map

When Richard Beasley’s farm was commandeered during the war of 1812 the military built earthworks to hide their canon behind.  Burlington Heights gave a great view out over the bay and was a strategic point at the western end of Lake Ontario.  Since the war, maple trees have been planted down both sides of the berm and the area has become known as maple walk.


In 1833 Allan MacNab bought the Beasley property and started to build his own estate home on the site.  He believed the future should be built on the foundations of the past and so he had the new house constructed to share the basement of the former house.  The house ended up being narrow as a result but is spread over three floors.  The servants lived and worked in the basement except the male servants who were housed separately.  The house was designed so as to impress those who would see it from the bay.  When MacNab brought the railway to Hamilton in the 1850’s he sold the strip of property along the waterfront, cutting himself off from it.


One interesting building facing the lake is the cockkpit.  It was likely built to give the gentlemen of Hamilton a place to engage in the “sport” of cock fighting.  There is no record that it was ever used for that and may have just provided a conversation piece or a place to escape for awhile.  There was a fashion in the early 1800’s of adding fake Romanesque ruins in the gardens of great houses to make them look more historic.  This building really was abandoned and had fallen into ruin.  A great restoration has been done to return it to a more original state.


Dundurn had always been intended to be seen from the bay and the rear faced York Boulevard.  Allan MacNab became the Premier of the Canadas between 1854 and 1856, during which time he led a coalition government of moderates.  In 1855 his daughter Sophie was to be wed and so he decided to spice up the home and added a colonnade facing York Boulevard.  MacNab hadn’t referred to his home as a castle until this addition was made.


MacNab built a dovecove at the castle to raise doves.  These were kept for their eggs and meat and the droppings were collected and used for fertilizer.  It may have been used for doves but it was undoubtedly built to show MacNab’s status as Laird of Dundurn.  The dovecove features a severed head over the doorway, which is the family crest.  It is a reflection on the historic feud with the clan MacNeish.


The coach house and stables were built of wood and housed the male servants, with the exception of the butler.  He was the only male servant to live in the main house.  The coach house was destroyed by fire and in 1873 the new owner,  Donald, McInnes, built new ones of cut stone.


Battery Lodge was built on top of earthworks left from the war of 1812 and was in place prior to the Rebellion of 1837.  William Lyon MacKenzie led the rebellion which came to an open battle on Yonge Street at Montgomery’s Tavern.  MacNab was supportive of the Family Compact and gathered men to cross the lake in support of Sir Francis Bond Head.  MacNab led the loyal forces up Yonge Street to engage in the successful battle.  Battery Lodge was later used as a guest house and a home for the live in teacher.  Today it houses the Hamilton Military Museum.


In preparation for Sophie’s marriage in 1855 the house was upgraded and new gates were erected at the entrance off York Boulevard.  The gates were built for George Rolph who was a prominent reformer and political opponent of MacNab.  It was alleged that MacNab was one of the Tory faithful who tarred and feathered Rolph in 1826.  If so, MacNab likely felt some sense of irony when he passed through the gates.


The castle gardens were instrumental in helping the house be self sufficient.  Milk was collected and dairy products produced by the servants.  Gardens were laid out to grow food and herbs for use in the kitchen. Plants with medicinal properties were also grown, especially those that would help ease Mary MacNab when she was suffering from what was likely tuberculosis.  Both Sophia and Minnie had their own garden plots to help keep them occupied during their mother’s illness.  The gardens are still operative and a small garden shed stands at the west end of the garden.


The grounds of Dundurn Castle also feature several historic plaques as well as cannon placements.  Admission to the house is $12 for adults but you can wander the grounds and visit the gift shop for free.

Google Maps link: Dundurn Castle

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Lakefront Promenade Park

Monday, February 17, 2019

Family Day in Ontario seemed like a good opportunity to get out and walk around Lakefront Promenade Park.  The park is operated by the City of Mississauga and Credit Valley Conservation Area.  It is 40 hectares in size and has marinas with slips for 170 boats.  Just to the east of the park was the Lakeview Generating Station.  It was commissioned in 1962 and operated for 43 years.  After it closed in 2005 it wasn’t long before it was demolished.  The four chimneys were known locally as the four sisters and they were demolished on June 12, 2006.  On June 28, 2007 the rest of the building was demolished.  The image below was taken from Wikipedia.


The site of the former generating station is now undergoing restoration which will eventually allow it to be developed.  A mixed use community is planned which could contain up to 20,000 people as well as having employment, commercial and parkland uses.


Barn swallows traditionally nested in caves but have adapted quite well to human built structures.  They became very common in barns throughout the province.  Now that the number of barns has been greatly reduced, the barn swallow has been listed as a species at risk.  The park has constructed these mini barns to encourage nesting because the swallows are important in controlling the mosquito population.



Lakefront Promenade Park has a splash pad for the children to enjoy on the warmer summer days.  It didn’t seem to be too popular on this sunny afternoon.  The water is activated when kids are under one of six play spouts and then is drained into a nearby wetland.  This allows the water to be filtered naturally before being released into the lake.


Waterfowl are far more likely to spend the winter in the GTA than they were twenty years ago.  The open water attracts swans, geese and several types of ducks.


Several times we observed  flocks of seagulls all in neat rows.  Of interest was the fact that they all stand facing the same direction to take advantage of the sun.  The seagulls in this picture are mostly asleep, their heads tucked up underneath their wings.



This flock of seagulls was standing on the end of the dock where Canada Customs operates an inspection station.  These birds had all been facing the same way and when they flew, they all took off in the same direction.


The trees around the shoreline were coated with a layer of ice from the spray coming off the lake.


Barn swallows build simple cup shaped nests out of mud.  They like to attach them to course wood surfaces.  These nests can take up to 1000 trips to build, carrying a small amount of mud in their beak each time.  All this work makes it practical for the birds to return to an old nest for another season.


Looking to the west you can see the Ridgetown, a ship which is partially sunk in the Port Credit harbour.  It forms the outer portion of the break wall at the mouth of the Credit River.  The story of the Ridgetown can be found at this link.


The walking was often tricky because there was a hard layer of ice below a couple of inches of loose snow.  We found a group of people taking advantage of a small slope to slide downhill on their boots.  Just past the final parking lot there is a short break wall that protects the marina.  As we approached the break wall we found a lady on the ground.  She had slipped, fallen and was convinced that her leg was broken.  Her husband was waiting in their vehicle and so my brother went first to retrieve him and then returned to the parking lot to direct the paramedics.  Meanwhile I waited with her and called 911.  Due to the ice underfoot it took all five of us to get her onto the stretcher.


The marina is being kept open by use of under water pipes that keep the water moving.  It keeps the water from freezing over and makes an interesting pattern on the surface.


The break wall that extends out from the east point is quite long compared to the western one and has a small light house on the end.


We watched a swan that was sitting on the ice in the bay.  As we watched it took flight and came toward us.  The cover photo shows the swan as it prepares to land.  The picture below is the very first point of contact as it touches down.


We often think that places we visit would be nice in another season so perhaps we’ll return to this one some day.

Google Maps link: Lakefront Promenade Park

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Graffiti Alley

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The idea of graffiti is not a new one.  When they uncovered Pompeii they found graffiti written on the walls from prior to the destrution of 79 A.D.  “Gaius was here, Oct. 3, 78 B.C.”, or at least the equivalent, was found as well as “Lucilla made money from her body”.  In modern urban centres it has been the bane of property owners who often pay to have it painted over only to find that they created a clean slate for the next vandal / artist.

One alley just south of Queen Street has become famous for the graffiti that runs for the entire length.  In 2011 the Queen Street West Business Association fought to have the stretch of alley between Spadina and Portland recognized as a legitimate street art exhibit.  A street sign on Spadina announces Graffiti Alley and the first painting lets you know you are at the start.


Every so often there is a 24-hour legal painting session held in the alley and the city has initiated a program called StART (Street ART Totonto) that is mapping legitimate street art.  The Islington Village Murals are a colourful example of community art projects.


Some of the paintings are quite a bit of fun like the lobster DJ below.


Some are a little more abstract and leave you wondering what the heck that guy is eating.  In other places along the alley we find people eating sandwiches, a popular motif in Toronto graffiti.


And then there is the pointless, like the blue circle around the window above the alley.  I guess the objective was to show it could be done.


Popular Toronto DJ Son of S.O.U.L. passed away in his sleep September 1, 2015, at the age of 44.  Toronto rapper King Reign died of a heart attack in 2016 at the age of 40.  The two of them are commemorated in the painting below.  The artist has asked for respect from others to keep from having it painted over.


These horses struck me as looking like carvings.  They seemed fitting as horses were originally the prime users of the lane way.  Shop keepers on Queen Street would keep their delivery wagons and teams in the alley behind their stores.


Once you cross Augusta Avenue the alley changes names and becomes Rush Lane.  Having grown up listening to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, I was hoping to see a portrait of Alex, Geddy and Neil but there wasn’t one.  The 1880 Goads Fire Insurance Map shows this as Rush Lane so I guess we can forget about it being in honour of the band.

Rush Lane

A little way down Rush Lane there was a colourful building painted with a full mural on one side.  Painting the building appears to be an effective deterrent as this building has not had recent tags.  The north face is painted in one large aquarium scene that extends across the window sashes and glazing bars.  The cover photo also shows this building.


The west end of the same structure contains a mural of Toronto.  There’s a lot of neat little things in this painting and a considerable amount of Canadian content.  I especially like the little Sam The Record Man sign.  Rob Ford features prominent in the mural as his name will be linked to graffiti in Toronto for a long time.  When Rob was the mayor he led a concerted effort to eliminate graffiti in the city.  The effort was, obviously, unsuccessful but it cost property owners a small fortune repainting their buildings to cover it up.


Parts of Rush Lane are less attractive, at least to me.  For some reason I have a hard time picking out the words in the typical graffiti writing style.


Mike Kennedy was a graffiti artist in Toronto until he passed away in September 2017.  His dog is featured in the mural as well.


I wonder how many cans of spray paint have been spent in this alleyway over the years.  It is too bad that some of the people who paint in this area end up leaving their dead spray cans on the ground.


Rush Lane ends at Portland Street which can be followed to Toronto’s oldest burial site which is hidden beneath Victoria Memorial Park.

Google Maps Link: Graffiti Alley

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Bruce Trail – Hilton Falls Side Trail

Saturday, February 2, 2019

When we previously visited Hilton Falls we followed the trail from the sixth line.  Today we decided to complete the other portion of the trail from the main parking lot north to the falls.  The history of the falls can be read in our previous post Hilton Falls.

Although the snow was deep making hiking a lot of heavy work, we decided to add the Philip Gosling Side Trail.  This short trail takes you to the main Bruce Trail, completing a partial loop around the reservoir by the time it connects with the Hilton Falls Side Trail.

Hilton Falls Conservation Area opened in 1967 and the dam and reservoir in 1973.  We followed the lower trail from the parking lot toward the Bruce Trail.


Philip R. Gosling was awarded the Order of Canada for his role in creating the Bruce Trail.  Gosling had a vision of a trail that could be passed down to future generations and worked tirelessly to make it happen.  A short section of side trail has been named in his honour.  We noticed that most of the trees on both sides of the trail have been marked for removal.  I’m not certain if this is for emerald ash borer or for trail maintenance and widening.


This side trail connects the parking lot with the main Bruce Trail and then carries on part way around the reservoir.  You can’t see the reservoir from this trail as it is hiding behind the ridge of land in the picture below.


Small rodents often dig holes in the snow to stay warm and avoid inclement weather.  Tunnels and open pockets of air form under the snow where they can remain for extended periods, feeding off the grasses and insects there.  This is known as the subnivean (Latin for “under snow”) zone and with 6 to 8 inches of snow it can remain around the freezing mark, regardless of the outside temperature.  Air holes will be dug as needed to provide ventilation and access from outside.


There are about 35 kilometres of trails in Hilton Falls Conservation Area.  In the summer half of these trails are for bicycles only but at this time of the year the trails are taken over by cross country skiers.  It also turned out to be perfect conditions for snow shoes.  In spite of the deep snow we saw several people walking their dogs while others were slowly walking along the trails.


When you reach to top of Hilton Falls there is a campfire burning there.  People can warm themselves or food and a general party mood prevailed.  A set of stairs leads down to a small viewing platform.  As can be seen, many people did not stay on the platform and the frozen falls was difficult to photograph without people in the shot.


However, close ups were still available.


On the opposite side of the creek stands the old wheel housing from the saw mill.  The arch allowed water to return to the creek after being used to turn the water wheel.


At one time a 40-foot wheel spun in this cut stone wheel housing.  The mill was abandoned in 1867 and the wheel housing has deteriorated in height since then.


After turning the wheel in the housing, the water joined Sixteen Mile Creek again and continued downstream.  The creek has cut a fairly narrow exit compared to the size of the bowl around the waterfall.


The return hike passes through a mature forest along the western side of the reservoir.  When we were within sight of the parking lot we had the option to turn and follow the roadway along the top of the reservoir dam.  From there you can see how the reservoir is set in the ravine and on the south side of the dam you can get a sense of the depth of water.  This is a favourite place for fishing.


There are still plenty of trails at Hilton Falls that we have yet to explore but along with our previous Hilton Falls hike we have covered off all of the Bruce Trail side trails.

Google Maps Link: Hilton Falls Conservation Area

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