Monthly Archives: December 2016

Crothers Woods

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Crothers Woods has at least three access points, each with parking.  There is one parking lot at the Don Valley Mountain Bike Trailhead on Pottery Road (map link at end) just before the bow-string bridge over the Don River.  This parking lot sits on the old road allowance for Pottery Road, a section of which was abandoned when the Bayview Extension was built in 1959.  From the trailhead, the path leads north following the side of Bayview Avenue until it reaches the northern tip of the park where there are a couple of parking spots.  To the right along this trail is an area known as Sun Valley.  It was home to a small brick making company called The Sun Brick Company which operated until the late 1930’s.  The property had been home to the Taylor Family who built their homestead here in 1826.  The family owned the Don Valley Brick Works and Todmorden Mills where they ran one of their three paper mills. When the clay for the bricks was nearly exhausted the town of Leaside purchased the pit for a landfill.  Over the next few decades, they dumped garbage up to 25 metres deep in the pit.  It has now been capped with clean fill and is being restored as a meadow at this time.  The Taylor Family home has been moved to Todmorden Mills where it is being preserved.  The picture below shows the home, that once stood in today’s Crothers Woods, as it appeared in the summer of 2014.


Following the trail into the woods leads to a slight diversion, the abandoned CPR tracks. The first train to roll across the tracks here was a freight train in 1891.  That train continued south along the Don Valley and into downtown Toronto.  Along the way, it passed over the Half-Mile bridge.   The first good snowfall of the season sits largely undisturbed on the tracks in the picture below. Due to the fact that the snow had fallen without much drifting the rails and ties can be clearly seen in spite of the fact that there is about a foot of fresh snow.  This is one of the few local abandoned railways that still has the rails and ties intact.  It is likely that Metrolinx, who owns the railway corridor, will incorporate it into some future passenger line.


An active set of tracks belonging to Canadian National Railway runs parallel to the abandoned CPR ones as the Don Valley made a suitable access to the city.  Two freight trains passed along the other tracks while the lower ones were being briefly explored.


Crothers Woods is one of the most bike friendly parks in the city.  Bikers are encouraged to use the trails although pedestrians still have the right-of-way. Winter biking has its challenges and a bike is normally fitted out especially for the season.  Fat tires and wider frames are matched with enclosed gears that prevent freeze up.  The tires may be inflated to as low as 5 pounds pressure.  A group of winter bike enthusiasts was using the park to get some exercise and enjoy their custom cycles.    It is always nice to see others who find a way to enjoy the winter weather.


Crothers Caterpillar had a manufacturing plant in Crothers Woods until 1979.  Built by George W. Crothers it produced heavy equipment, primarily for the mining industry.  The plant backed onto the railway and the factory buildings on the site were removed by 1991. The site has recently been partially repurposed as a Loblaws store and parking lot.  There is a trail head here as well that was the starting site of the group of fatbikes we had seen earlier.  There is also lots of parking available in the back of the parking lot near the trailhead.


The loading ramp from the former Crothers Caterpillar plant still stands along the abandoned railway track.


A lone hydro pole stands in the woods where it once was part of the Crothers Caterpillar plant.  What was an open field 30 years ago has grown back in quite well!


In 1929 the city built the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant on the edge of Crothers Woods.  It processes the effluent from North Toronto and Leaside.  Personal experience indicated that the sewage system covers in North Toronto are mainly dated 1928 with a few from 1929.  The cover photo shows another view of the treatment plant.


Crothers Woods was a farm for about 100 years before it spent the next century as an industrial site.  Today it still retains some areas of Carolinian Forest consisting of beech, maple and oak.  There are also a few butternut trees which are locally rare.  Crothers Woods has been designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) because it is a home to some rare undergrowth plants.  It is also a good place to see common spring flowers like trout lilies and trilliums.  The east ravine wall contains some climax forest which is the historical normal vegetation that exists in a stable condition in this part of the country.  New growth forest has taken over much of the rest of the 52-hectare park.


An extensive set of stairs leads from the corner of Redwood Road and Millway Road down to the sewage plant.


There are plenty of remnants from old land usage in the ravine.  A lengthy penstock runs down the hill behind the treatment plant while these concrete structures stand a little farther along.  They say that old relics from the Crothers Caterpillar plant are still dug up on occasion in the woods.


Crothers Woods also includes the Beechgrove Wetland which is a successful restoration project.  The wetlands, Sun Valley and an abandoned road await a visit in the spring when the wetlands will be teeming with life.

Google Maps link: Crothers Woods

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Morningside Park

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Morningside Park is one of a series of parks that are interconnected along Highland Creek in Scarborough. In spite of its name, Highland Creek is actually a river.  It flows through a wide valley, often 100-metres wide, that was crossed only by Military Trail until the 1930’s. Before longer span bridges were constructed, travellers had to make the climb down into the valley and back out again.  It provided a natural barrier to the expansion of the city eastward.  The river flows along the east end of the Scarborough Bluffs and the picture below shows the sand that makes up the bluffs also forms the banks of the river.


Morningside Park, at almost 600 acres, is the largest park in Toronto and has a large herd of white-tailed deer that call it home.  A wetland filled with invasive phragmites separates the second parking lot from a woodland behind.  Along the side of the woodland, there were three deer who kept their distance but were otherwise not afraid of the human presence.  Over the crest of the little hill behind the deer was a tent that looks like it may be lived in at the moment.  Perhaps the deer have more human company than usual.


The University of Toronto Scarborough is recognized as a Global Climate Change leader. They have over 200 faculty members on their three campuses that are researching various areas of climate change.  Bill Gough’s Climate Lab at the Scarborough campus, for instance, is researching how atmospheric conditions during thunderstorms can be used as predictors for tornadoes.  A research program has been set up in the park in a small dell that has been fenced and posted.  There is a sign with a phone number “for more information” but it connects to a message about a summer camp program that finished in August.  I wanted to find out why they had placed half coconut shells onto posts and then fenced it off to keep people out.


In the 1850’s Highland Creek was the largest residential and commercial centre in Scarborough Township.  It got its post office in 1852 and soon was home to several hotels, general stores and blacksmith shops.  The town also featured Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic churches.  The land grant that Morningside Park sits on was owned by John Wilson in the 1870’s and he operated a saw mill using the river for water power.  As the local timber supply dwindled the mill was closed and the property eventually sold for an estate.  The original mill is gone but the remnants of a more recent concrete dam provide some flood control on the river.


Erosion is a continual problem on Highland Creek and the picture below shows the extent that it can take.  The river bank behind the storm drain has been washed back two full sections, one of which now lies in the creek.


Highland Creek had two grist mills on the historic atlas of 1877.  Today there is a modern flood and erosion control dam in the creek near the Miller Lash house.  The creek has flooded behind the dam and removed vast quantities of soil so that the metal plates are falling into the creek.


The foundations for an earlier bridge can be seen on either side of the creek.


In 1913 Miller Lash purchased the Highland Creek valley lot because he loved the fields with the river flowing through them.  He was also in love with the local forests that provided ample opportunities to observe the abundant wildlife.  He hired a Buffalo architect firm to design his estate in the popular Arts and Crafts style.  The one story building was made of poured concrete faced with fieldstone collected from the nearby creek.  Squared pine timbers support the cathedral ceilings on this seventeen-room mansion.  The main house, along with several matching smaller buildings, is topped with natural clay tiles.


The estate was purchased in 1963 by the University of Toronto to create Scarborough College.  When the campus opened in 1965 the house was occupied by the principal.  From 1978 until 1998 the property was empty but then it received a historic designation.  This led to the restoration that brought the buildings back to their 100-year old glory.  They are now used for conferences, events and weddings.


The town of Highland Creek and several other parts of the park remain to be explored at some future date.

Google Maps Link: Morningside Park

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Taylor Massey Creek – Underwriters Reach

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Taylor-Massey Creek is a tributary of the Don River.  It supplies just 5 percent of the water volume in the Don River but up to 80 percent of it’s contaminants in some conditions.  The Don River has the poorest water quality of any river in Ontario and it is thought that Talor-Massey Creek may be the most polluted watercourse in Canada.  To see what this section looked like today I parked at the end of Underwriters Road where the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) are.  You wouldn’t have to check too many electric devices to find their logo, meaning the product was subjected to a set of safety tests.

A watercourse is normally described in sections that are known as a reach.  It is usual for a reach to extend between two tributaries.  In the case of Taylor-Massey Creek many of the tributaries have been lost or combined with storm water drains and so the reaches have been established based on major roads and the neighbourhoods through which it flows. This little hike looks at the section known as Reach 8 – Underwriters.  The reach extends from Lawrence Avenue (green) south to Eglinton Avenue (purple) and runs through a mainly industrial area.  I’ve marked the historical county atlas to show the original course of Taylor-Massey Creek in blue.  The new channel that was cut in the 1950’s when the area was developed is shown in red.  The “PM” on the map at the top of this reach is the Wexford Primitive Methodist church on Lawrence.  Warden Avenue is grey to give a modern context to the map.


The creek flows between two banks that are about 10 meters apart and 3 meters deep. The slope ranges between 45 degrees and 80 degrees.


There are 30-35 species of wild apples, otherwise known as crabapples.  Apples are members of the rose family and some crabapples are not much larger than rosehips.  The cover photo shows one of several crabapple trees that give colour to the late fall along the side of Taylor-Massey Creek.  Crabapples can be eaten but are often sour.


The trail along the side of the creek follows an old rail alignment.  The industrial spur line entered many of the factories along Underwriter’s Road.  In the 1990’s the city purchased the right of way and removed the rails.  There are still a few sleepers or ties remaining to remind us of the former use of this strip of land.


Historically the Taylor Massey Creek used to drain into post-glacial Lake Iroquois just north of the parking lot in Warden Woods.  The creek has lost all of its original wetlands and the surrounding lands are highly developed.  To be healthy a waterway should have at least 10 % of its area in wetlands.  Water conditions along the creek are aggravated by the pollution which is leeching out of 24 old landfill sites along its course.  A lone alder tree grows along the side of the trail with its male and female catkins.  Alder trees have cones like a conifer but leaves like a deciduous tree.  Over 1,400 trees and shrubs have been planted in this area by local groups and businesses.


The Taylor Massey Project (TMP)prepared a document calling for a plan for each of ten reaches along the creek.  The idea was to get the city to commit to fixing the top five priorities over a five year period.  A budget of $1 million dollars per year was estimated to be required. The first priority was in reach 10 where the creek originates.  Terraview and Willowfield parks were identified as priority one and that restoration has been completed.  One objective of the Taylor Massey Project is to create conditions where the creeks e-coli levels are in compliance 95% of the time.  This reach was to be renaturalized like the two parks above and have it’s wetlands restored.


In 1842 the Primitive Methodist congregation purchased a quarter of an acre of lands from Anthony Twaddle to construct a log chapel.  The chapel was known as Twaddles chapel until 1857 when the name was changed to The Parsonage Church.  The present brick building was constructed in 1876-1877.  When the Primitive Methodists united with the Wesleyan Methodists in 1883 they refused to join and became a Presbyterian church.  In 1925 the Presbyterians and Methodists joined in forming the United Church of Canada and they ended up with their Weslyan brothers after all.  There is a newer addition on the back which was added in 1955 and the narthex on the older part of the church was added at some point in between.


There is a pioneer cemetery beside the church where the first burial took place in 1837. The former rail line continues north of Lawrence running beside the cemetery.  Turning back I made my way past the car and continued south along the creek.  The trail crosses a green space that contains the Gatineau Hydro line and an east-west trail.  The creek flows through two perched culverts where the old hydro corridor access road passes.  Perched culverts have the outflow end elevated above the stream bed which creates an obstacle for migrating fish.  At the present time this isn’t much of a concern because the creek is dead. Just beyond the culverts, there is a section of the creek bank that has been badly eroded by the flash floods that the creek is subject to.


The picture below shows the creek as it flows through a concrete channel in this section of the reach.


One of the reasons the Taylor-Massey Creek is so polluted is the 252 storm outfalls that carry untreated waste into the creek.  Sewer pipes run along both sides of the creek through this reach and they are not fully separated from the storm water outfalls. Whenever there is a severe storm the water floods through the system and it carries raw sewage into the creek and from there into the Don River and then to Lake Ontario.  This, along with illegal hookups at local industries, serves to foul the creek on a continual basis. The picture below shows the colour of the waste water that is being emptied into the creek.


When the creek reaches Bertrand Avenue it becomes inaccessible.  It has a very deep, narrow channel.  This channel is considered dangerous and has been completely fenced off to prevent people from getting into the area in case of a flash flood that could be deadly.

Google maps link: Underwriter’s Road.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

By the time that Inglewood was getting started a lot of small communities in Ontario had already faded from prominence, including nearby Sligo.  Inglewood got started directly from the arrival of two railways.  To investigate this area, we left one car on Chingaucousy Road just north of Boston Mills Road where the Caledon Trailway (yellow below) crosses.  A second car was taken to Ken Whillans Resource Management Area where there is free Trailway parking and access.  The hike took roughly the green trail including wandering around in what would become Inglewood.


A short trail connects the resource area with the former Hamilton & North Western Railway (H&NW) that was built through here in 1877.  The Trailway crosses the Credit River on the same bridge that the railway once used.


A close look at the H&NW crossing reveals several railway construction methods.  Wood pilings can still be seen in the river from the earliest crossing.  Cut limestone has been used for the abutments and a central pier that supports the current steel bridge.  The upstream side of the central pier has been given a newer concrete facing and point to act as a spring ice breaker to reduce damage to the bridge.


The Trailway heads west from here toward Inglewood.  The railway junction was created when the Credit Valley Railway (CVR) arrived in 1878.  The historical atlas above shows the junction as well as the woolen mills but the town was yet to get started.  Early names for the community were Sligo and Sligo Junction but these names didn’t last because it had already been used in the area.  The original Sligo had a post office which was located on Thomas Bell’s property a couple of concessions north.  I’ve indicated the location on the map with an arrow.  There was also a switchback on Centre Street (marked on the map) where a community named Sligo had once housed a population of 50.  The name was changed to Riverdale but when the post office was opened a new name was needed and Inglewood was chosen.

The two railway lines crossed on the west side of the street where you will also see the old General Store.  Built in 1886 by George Merry it has an interesting and highly decorative chimney.  The rear of the store housed a bake oven that outgrew the location and, after moving, supplied bread to the local towns until it was destroyed by fire in 1940.


South of the railway junction is the railway hotel which now serves as a general store.  It was built around 1881.  The original industry predates the town and is still to be found on Maple Lane in the form of several stone buildings.  A short laneway, lined with mature trees, leads to the mill.  In 1834 the property was purchased by Thomas Corbett who built a dam, mill race and a small frame woolen mill known as Riverside Woolen Mills.  A larger mill was built downstream a few years later so that the work of fulling and spinning the wool could be done in the mill instead of in the local farmer’s homes by their wives.  In 1871 the mill was rebuilt in stone by Corbett’s son-in-law, David Graham.  That building is seen in the photo below.


Just four years later the building was gutted by fire and leased to Ward and Algie who rebuilt the mill.  It grew and in 1890 the Grahams returned to running the mill.  The building seen below was added by them in 1896.


The head race carried water from the river to the mill to power the machinery.  The Riverwood Mill raceway is an obvious trench that the local farmer now cuts for a crop of hay.  The cover photo shows the raceway with the farmer’s old steel bridge allowing him access to his property on the other side.


At the upper end of the raceway is  a section of the river that has been protected with gabion baskets filled with rock.  There are at least two phases of the gabion as a lower one is badly corroded.  There are no signs of any original dam construction here.


Inglewood is a good place for a short walk through town to observe some of its architectural heritage.  The house below is in the correct place to be the David Graham house on the historical atlas above.  The Cultural Heritage Landscapes Inventory suggests that it could be his home.  If so, it predates the building of the village.  This five-bay, one and a half story Regency Cottage has the elaborate doorway and large ceiling to floor windows that were popular between 1810 and 1840.  If this is the original Graham house, as it appears to be, then it contains a mystery.  It faces Louise Street and not 1st line west (McLaughlin Road) as one would expect.


This house is also on David Graham’s property  and dates to around 1870 making it contemporary with the mill and not the town.  There is a stone building behind this house that was most likely used by workers at the mill.


The Methodist Church was built in 1889 with a grand opening in 1890.  The Graham family was a key employer in the town and was also instrumental in the construction of this church building.  In 1925 the Methodist Church merged into the United Church.  This building is interesting in that it has a weathervane instead of a cross.


The Trailway continues west out of Inglewood to where it crosses Old Base Line. Continuing, it passes through The Caledon Golf and Country Club.  Near Chingaucousy Road you will see a series of decaying chalets that used to belong to the country club.  They have been described in greater detail in a post called Caledon Country Club Chalets.


The historic town of Inglewood and the Caledon Trailway make a great place to explore.

Google Maps Link: Inglewood

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Caledon Country Club Chalets

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016

Bruce McLaughlan had a vision of a country resort for the entire family.  In the late 1950’s he purchased an 180-acre farm known as Wynn Standing Farm.  The property is shown as the Estate of John Standing on the 1877 county atlas.   The farm was on the northern edge of Chinguacousy Township and so the original name for the club was Chinguacousy  Country Club.  Today, the club extends from Mclaughlan Road to Chinguacousy Road.  The cover photo shows one of the abandoned chalets that remain on the property.  It, along with the one below, can be seen from the parking area beside the Caledon Trailway on Chinguacousy Road.


McLaughlan hired Rene Muylaert to design the course even though Rene had never designed a golf course before.  Apparently, Muylaert did a good job as he went on to design over 50 other golf courses in Ontario.  Among these were the Inglewood and Glen Eagle courses.  As can be seen in the pictures presented here, entry to these buildings is very dangerous.  Floors and ceilings have already collapsed and more can go at any time.


In the summer of 1961 the first nine holes were opened for golfing.  An equestrian riding academy was added and tennis courts were being built.  New for 1961 was a small model farm for children and a supervised playground.  The picture below shows one of the old chalets that is folding in on itself.


Memberships were coming in at twice the rate anticipated and another 70 acres were added to the site in 1962.  Ongoing improvements led to a new club house near the Credit River which was opened in 1963. Chalets that have weathered better than the others have still been broken into and exposed to the elements so that all of them are destroyed.


Next, a series of chalets were added with the intention of providing year-round attractions. Cross country skiing, skating, outdoor curling and horse-drawn sleigh rides were provided as winter activities.  The Chinguacousy  Country Club also expanded to 27 holes, with nine of them being for juniors.  Although the chalets were intended for all season usage there is no evidence of any insulation in the walls or ceilings.


In the 1980’s the riding academy was closed and the junior 9 holes were also removed. The swimming pool had already been closed by this time.  In 1988 the club went from private to a fully public one and took on the new name of Caledon Country Club.  Around this time the rental of the chalets was discontinued as well. They have been in the process of decaying ever since. The local coyote has moved into this cottage as can be seen from the coyote scat that is left at the door to mark this chalet as occupied.


Like many of the buildings, this chalet has given a new meaning to the term “sky light”.


This is another of the 8 chalets that are falling down in the old resort.


The last of the buildings headed east, this one visible from the Caledon Trailway.  The trailway has been created on the former Hamilton Northwestern Railway line.  The Canadian National Railway operated on this line from 1878 until 1967.


The Caledon Trailway runs through the Golf Club property and can be hiked from here to Inglewood and then on to the Ken Whillans Resource Management Area.

Google Maps Link: Caledon Country Club

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