Glendon Forest

Sunday Mar. 27, 2016

The piece of land that we call Glendon Forest was, in fact, cleared and used for farming between 1816 and 1920.  It has also been home to a quarry and a millionaire’s estate.  Today it belongs to York University.

Lot 5, first line east was first owned by John and Nancy Blewett who were the original settlers.  In 1818 they made arrangements with Francis Brock who operated a stone quarry known as Brock’s Quarry for close to 60 years.  Large boulders were left in the Don River Valley during the retreat of the last ice age and these were collected from along the lower lands of the flood plains.  By the 1860’s  the farm had been sold to John Burk but the 1878 atlas below shows it was owned by the Russell family by that time.  When the Russells sold it to Edward Rogers Wood in 1920 there were only two small areas of the original woodland that had not been cut down.  The area along the east valley slope and the west woodlot adjacent to Bayview Avenue.  This second woodlot is known as Lawrence’s Bush in honour of the neighbouring farms which belonged to Peter and John Lawrence after whom Lawrence Avenue is named.

Glendon Forest

E. R. Wood converted the open fields of the farm into an estate and woodland in just a few years.  The story of Glendon Estate is included in the post on Bayview Estates.  The park can be accessed from Sunnybrook Farms where there is parking near the stables. There is also parking on the east side of the river that can be reached from the back of Sunnybrook Hospital.  From here the trail starts near the closed bridge and follows the twisting West Don River.  It was a beautiful spring day with the sunlight dancing on the river.


Common Snowdrops bloom in the early spring from perennial bulbs.  Each bulb produces one flower which, when closed, resembles a drop of snow hanging from the pedicel.  Some countries have approved the use of an alkaloid from the plant to treat Alzheimer’s disease. There is a large patch of Common Snowdrops along the trail as it makes its way out of Sunnybrook Park.  Snowdrops were also seen the previous day in Jack Darling Park, this picture can be seen on our Facebook page.


Mallard ducks form into pairs before the mating season begins.  Mallards are generally monogamous with the females making the familiar quacking sound.  The males make a quieter, raspy sound when they can fit a word in.


Glendon Forest was replanted during the 1920’s by the Woods and today is home to a surprising array of plants and wildlife.  There are at least 37 species of rare flora and at least 100 species of fauna that call the forests, ravine slopes and wetlands home.  The picture below shows the marsh which is quiet today.  In a few weeks it will be alive with thousands of tadpoles and all the creatures that find them tasty.


Along the trail between Sunnybrook Park and Glendon Forest there are three bridges, the first two abandoned.  These bridges have been closed, in part, as an effort to keep people from using the trails on the east side of the river.  There is a plan to let the east part of the forest naturalize because the trails on that side have eroded badly in many places.  The trail from the other side of this bridge leads to the old access road for the Brock Quarry.  It can be seen in the cover photo.


Quietly rotting in the trees along the side of the west trail are the remains of this wagon.


After passing the second closed bridge you come to the only one that is still open.  It leads to a campus parking lot which contains the trail-head for the eastern trails.  Adjacent to the modern bridge are the old abutments for the previous bridge.


Like the Common Snowdrops featured above, Coltsfoot is another sure sign of spring. This year they are a week ahead of their first appearance a year ago when we found them while investigating Churchville.


The picture below shows the second closed bridge, as seen from the east side of the river. Notice the major crack on the concrete at the left hand side of the bridge.  The quarry was located close the the site of this bridge, which is a replacement for an earlier one.

Glendon Bridge

The 1947 aerial view below shows the east side of the Glendon Forest as it was in 1947. Closed bridge number 2 is located on the upper left with closed bridge number 1 on the lower left.  The old gravel quarry laneway runs along the wooded eastern slope of the ravine and is mostly hidden in the dark strip of trees.  The leading end is marked near the first bridge and the tail end can be seen where it meets the roadway between the second bridge and Lawrence Avenue, which runs along the top of the picture.  The slope above the roadway had collapsed at some time in the past and was reinforced with a stone wall.  As can be seen in the cover photo, this wall is now collapsing as well.

Glendon Aerial

A tree was used to cross Limestone Creek in Nassagaweya Canyon last weekend that was half the size of this tree.  Limestone Creek is small and would have provided wet feet if one slipped off of the tree.  The Don River is high, moving fast and very cold.  This tree could be crossed in the summer, but not when the Don River is raging as it is right now.


Along the eastern trail as it approaches Sunnybrook Park are four concrete platforms standing in the woods beside the river.


In the distance of this picture is another closed bridge.  This one crosses the Don River between Sunnybrook Park and Sunnybrook Hospital and I was parked just to the right of it.  This bridge was closed after the park was donated to the city by Alice Kilgour. Alice requested that the park be free for the use of everyone and that there not be any road passing through from Bayview Avenue to Leslie Street.  Having completed the loop around the forest I was almost back to the car.  However, a large chunk of the trail has been eroded away and you can’t get to the bridge along this path.  The options here are to turn around and go back to the bridge or attempt go up the side of the ravine.  I recommend you go back, or don’t come this far, because sliding down the hill would drop you in the river.


Glendon Forest will need to be visited again when all that rare flora and fauna is around to be observed.

Google Maps link: Glendon Forest

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12 thoughts on “Glendon Forest

  1. Delio Ansovini

    Thank you for the article. It’s nice to attach the place’s history to the images taken. Not too long before we will see the exploding green  I am planning for Infrared Images of the trail. delio

  2. Judith Weatherhead

    I walked through Glendon Forest today, as I have for the last over thirty years. Has anyone else been dismayed by the negative changes that have taken place over the last few years? The sturdily built fences that protected the wetlands from people and dogs have fallen into disrepair. Signs that detailed wildlife that could be observed have been obviously deliberately broken, the fences which prevented walkers etc from accessing the east side of the river have been broken and an open invitation to dog walkers ramblers and cyclists. The trails have become more numerous and widened by overuse. I saw a dog walker with at least eight dogs on the east side of the river. A golden lab was running free chasing a pair of mallards.
    Yes, the coltsfoot and wood anemone were blooming and I saw numerous birds but the area is suffering.

    My question is who is responsible for the upkeep and preservation of this beautiful woodland that we are so lucky to be able to enjoy?

    1. hikingthegta Post author

      I believe it is part of the TRCA properties. I’ll write to them to bring it to their attention.

      1. Mark

        I would like to echo the statement of Judith Weatherhead. Some people, dogs and dog-owners are using parts of the trails that they’re not supposed to. The dogs that are off-leash are intimidating wildlife and walking on parts of the area that they should not use. Has there been any follow up with the TRCA? I can say that I have not noticed any difference whatsoever and I walk on these trails for about 6 years. I have called 311 to make a report today because I was walking with my child and an off-leash dog approached us. Among other issues, dogs can carry coronavirus. I wish dog-owners would follow the rules like everyone else.

    2. Ryan Horsley

      Judith Its all our responsibility to protect and maintain the lands. My father played at ERs house and surrounding forest in the 1940s and 50’s i would love to honour the tradition so that my children will and can continue to see the beauty that that area holds.

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