Tag Archives: Bloodroot

Staying Close To Home

Sunday, May 3, 2020

In keeping with the request to limit travel I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walk through the Burke Brook ravine to The Don River and back.  Years of exploring different places each weekend has left me with the impression that my local park was boring.  That certainly wasn’t true.  One section of the trail along Burke Brook in Sherwood Park is an off-leash dog area and is currently closed due to COVID-19.  This forced me to walk along Blythwood Avenue until I reached Bayview.  From just south of there I could enter the ravine near the old Bayview Transformer House.   I stopped to see the deterioration that had occurred since my last visit.  With all the windows broken, the weather has been able to get inside and the ceiling is almost gone.


White Fawn Lily are a variation of the yellow Trout Lily.  These plants are also known as Adder’s Tongue and Dog’s-tooth Violet.  Yellow Trout Lily are very common throughout the GTA but the white ones are a rare find.


Twice I thought I heard something in the leaves but couldn’t identify a source for the sound.  Moments later I crested a small rise to see a Garter Snake crossing the trail.  It stopped to say “Hello” and then was gone under the leaves.


There is a well used trail along the valley floor that follows Burke Brook and the upper trail is used mostly by cyclists.  For this reason you need to be cautious as there are places where allowing a bike to pass is tricky.  There’s also a couple of steep sections that are impassible when muddy.  The section pictured below has a knotted rope to help people get up the slope.


White Trillium are the Provincial Flower for Ontario.  Along the trail I found a small patch of three.  At this time of year I usually follow the progress of the red ones in G Ross Lord Park.  These are less common than the white ones, but there are between 3 and 5 red flowers in one spot and 2 in another.  On occasion, the white flowers may have a green stripe down the middle of each petal.  This is caused by a virus and the size of the stripe will increase until the plant is no longer able to produce proper flowers and seeds.


I returned to the trail in the valley which has a boardwalk through sections where water is weeping out of the ground.  There were a few people on the trail but when parks are only used by the locals, it is fairly easy to respect social distancing guidelines.  We’ll see how it goes when they ease the restrictions and everyone rushes out to the trails the first nice weekend.  I hope people won’t be careless and cause the parks to be closed again.


Burke Brook enters the Don River near another off-leash dog park which is currently closed.  It is possible to get to the mouth of the brook but other people were already enjoying it so I chose to go another way.


Near the mouth of Burke Brook I found the remains of of a concrete circle, possibly a well except that had been lined with wood.  I decided that it had probably been part of the landscaping for the home of Joseph and Alice Kilgour.  The donation of their 200 acre estate had allowed the creation of Sunnybrook Park and provided the land for Sunnybrook Hospital.  Later, as I did a little research, I discovered that there just might be enough interesting stuff around to tell their story.  It looks like another neighbourhood walk is in order.


There were many Ostrich Ferns throughout the area, just beginning to open.  At this point of their development people often refer to them as Fiddlehead Ferns because their shape is similar to the end of a fiddle.  Later when they are fully open they resemble Ostrich plumes, from which they take their name.  It is when they are very young that people pick them to enjoy the annual delicacy of fresh fiddleheads.


Bloodroot is a member of the poppy family and is one of the earlier spring flowers.  There is a single leaf and flower that emerge on separate stems but with the leaf completely wrapping around the flower bud.  The red sap from the roots of the plant was traditionally used as a dye for clothing and baskets.  It was also used by the native peoples as an insect repellent.


You can follow the Don River northward until you come to Glendon Forest.  This section of the river is usually home to a heron and several families of cardinals.  I didn’t see any and decided not to wander too far into Glendon Forest as that is another entire adventure on its own.


The original driveway leading to the Kilgour properties still leads back up the hill toward Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.  It was here that the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Ontario was recorded.  I walked by and realized that behind these walls are hundreds of true heroes.  This blog is dedicated to everyone who works in this series of hospital buildings and all other front line workers, everywhere.


All of this was within walking distance of my home.  What is waiting near you?

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Saturday April 18, 2015

It was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature climbing to 20 degrees as we walked.  Hiking north on the Credit River from where we left off last week in Eldorado Park isn’t possible.  The river flows through Lionshead Golf Course which is considered to be Canada’s most difficult course.  The course extends across 520 acres all the way to Mississauga Road.  Huttonville grew around mills that were established on the Credit River at Mississauga Road.  Today the river through town is clearly posted as no trespassing.

When the area was first settled around 1820 it was called Brown’s Mills after the grist mill.  The locals also tended to call it The Wolf’s Den after the creatures who lived in the forests and hunted their livestock.  James Hutton bought the mills in 1855 and renamed them Hutton’s Mills. When he opened the town’s first post office the name Huttonville was adopted.

We parked on the small section of old Mississauga Road where Queen Street dead ends just above Huttonville.  There are a couple of abandoned houses rotting in the woods here whose pictures will be presented on our Facebook page.  We went for a walk along River Street where you can see the old mill dam in a few places.  We stopped to talk to the property owners who were tending their gardens.  They told us that Hurricane Hazel (Oct. 15, 1954) had done some serious damage to the dam.  They graciously allowed us access to take a few pictures.  The picture below shows the dam with the sluice gates on the right.  The dam has a distinct lean to it as it reaches out into the river.  It was built in 1923 it was the fourth dam constructed at this site.


Sluice gates are the part of the dam used to control the flow of water out of the mill pond.  The miller wants to have a consistent flow of water to turn the wheel or turbine at a steady pace in the mill.  By raising or lowering the sluice gates he can continue to operate the mill at times of either high or low water levels in the river.  The sluice at Huttonville is an excellent example of how this worked.  The steel cranking system still stands above the gateway while the remains of some of the boards are in the bottom.  Behind this gateway is the head race that carried the water to the mills on Mill Lane.


The American Bullfrog lives an average of 8 years in the wild. During the winter they lay on the mud at the bottom of the river.  They can’t dig in the mud like turtles do for the winter because they don’t actually hibernate.  Instead, they turn the body fluids in vital organs into glucose so that it doesn’t freeze.  If it gets too cold they will stop breathing and their hearts will stop beating.  When they warm up above freezing their bodies start to function again. As we were enjoying the old dam we saw many pairs of cormorants flying up the river.  Cormorants usually eat small fish but if one of them spots this frog sunning itself on the concrete of the old dam, this is one frog that won’t make it to 8 years old.


In 1887  John McMurchy built a woolen mill that was powered by its own private powerhouse. Built of red brick it has since been painted over in a drab grey.  With a staff of 30-35 employees, the mill’s main product was socks.  During the first world war, it produced the socks used by the military.  After 65 years of production, the mill was closed in 1953.  The following year Hurricane Hazel would destroy its dam.


The original signage still stands on the roof of the building facing Mississauga Road.  The cover photo shows the mill during it’s prime.


A powerhouse was built onto the grist mill in 1885 by Hutton to power his mills.  It generated 100 horsepower of electricity and was considered an engineering marvel at the time.  Along with the mills, it provided power to Huttonville and Brampton.  When John McMurchy bought the plant in 1903 he increased its production to 300 hp.  It provided power to Brampton until 1911 when the town went onto the public grid originating at Niagara Falls.  It continued to be a personal power supply to the mills until 1953 when they closed.


The historical photo below shows water flowing from the Huttonville mill pond through a shed where it is turning a turbine.  The little waterfall drops it into a settling basin before the tail race returns it to the river.

Huttonville ph

Bloodroot is the white flower in the foreground of the picture below.  It is one of the first flowers in spring but it’s flowers last only a couple of days after being pollinated.  It gets its name from its blood red roots.  Sprinkled in among a sea of bluebells they bring the lawns to life for a short period each spring.


James Hutton’s house still stands at 2072 Emberton Road, a short walk from his milling empire.


Across the street from Hutton’s house he donated land for the Methodist Church.  In 1885 it was decided to combine the nearby congregations in Page and Springbrook.  The Page church was demolished and the wooden church in Springfield was moved to Huttonville.  It was placed on a stone foundation and extended by 10 feet.  Then a brick veneer was added to the outside. In 1925 it became a United Church when the Methodists joined the new congregation. Today it is rented on Saturdays by the Seventh Day Adventists.


Beside the church stands this building which was likely the Queens Hotel.


A truss bridge used to carry Mississauga road across the Credit near the end of Emberton Road. The foundations remain on the east side of the river but have been removed on west side for road widening.


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