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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