Tag Archives: Lislehurst

UTM Nature Trail

Sunday, November 7, 2021

In the 1960s the University of Toronto decided to expand with an additional campus on each of the east and west ends of the city. Eventually Scarborough and Mississauga each got a new university campus. The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) was develped on two adjacent pieces of land. The northern section was a millionaire’s estate while the southern section belonged to the Erindale Sand and Gravel Company. The old gravel pits have been redeveloped for the various buildings of the university while much of the old estate remains intact, forested and is home to the UTM Nature Trail. We set out to explore the nature trail and the local history. The 1961 aerial map below is from the Toronto Archives and shows the relative location of the mansion, the pond and the cottage going from the top of the image to the bottom.

Erindale Park was a lake when the dam was intact but is now a large park with plenty of free parking. It’s best to park there and then cross the Credit River on the footbridge. There’s a trail that goes to the right and follows the river upstream to where it climbs the ravine from the flood plain up to the table lands above.

The UTM Nature Trail begins at the top of the hill. The trail is a little less than 3.5 kilometres long and follows the edge of the ravine, providing some interesting views of the river below. Although the trail is a loop it isn’t all nature trail. Part of the loop passes through the University campus following a sidewalk route. We turned back when we got to that part.

The land that forms the northern section of the UTM property was granted to Peter Adamson in 1836 and he held it until 1854 when it was sold to Edward Shortliss. In 1869 Louise deLisle foreclosed on the mortgage and took the property away from Shortliss. Louise deLisle placed it in trust for the use of the Schreiber family. Weymouth Schreiber moved to Springdale (now Erindale) in the late 1870’s and lived there for awhile until a home was built on the northern portion of the property. Three houses were eventually built with Lislehurst being raised in 1885. The name likely pays respect to deLisle. Two other houses and a cottage were built but one of the homes was lost to a fire in 1913. The remaining home would be dismantled around 1930 and the materials used to enlarge Lislehurst when Reginald Watkins bought the property. He designed a false Tudor style home facing the river which features exposed beams and stucco. The University of Toronto acquired the 12,000 square foot home in 1968 when they bought the property to develop a western campus. Since then the home has usually been occupied by the Principal who has the luxury of 8 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. They also enjoy the short commute down the old laneway which is now known as Principal’s Road. The house is well posted as private property but as it is clearly visible from the UTM trail it has been decorated for Halloween.

Reginald Watkins bought the property in 1930 and began to renovate it into a grand estate. One of his most endearing creations was an artificial pond with a concrete bottom. He built a stone arch bridge across the pond which is still in use by pedestrians as well as almost everyone who passes by with a camera. You can reach the pond by following the old laneway away from Lislehurst. Between the house and the pond a set of laneway curbs runs to the edge of the new growth forest. Therein lies the foundations from another of the outbuildings from the estate.

Near the pond stands a large carving called Curiosity Knowledge Wisdom. It depicts an owl, pileated woodpecker, raccoon and a fawn on the front with a male cardinal on the back. It was donated to the campus on September 29, 2013 by two members of the class of “81 and their two children.

If you follow Principal’s Road past the maintenance buildings you will find a small story and a half cottage that was built in the 1870s by the Schreiber family. At various times it has served as a groundskeepers home, a guest cottage and the gardeners house. When the Schreibers moved around 1900 they left Stanley Plumb as caretaker and he moved into the cottage. Watkins rennovated the cottage when he updated Lislehurst. When UTM bought the property they first used the cottage for the Artist in Residence. It is currently used to stage mock crime scenes for the forensic students to try and solve. While Lislehurst has a heritage designation the cottage does not.

The car that was left parked behind the cottage has been stripped of everything that could be reused. The inside of the car shows signs of having been set on fire. I think it could have been a Chrysler Sebring based on the shape.

The trails on campus were lightly used on this Sunday afternoon with the exception of a few students. The upper trails were in pretty good shape but the lower trail along the river was quite muddy.

Chiggers, or Berry Bugs, look like tiny bright red dots. The one pictured below was on a log but they commonly hang around on the tips of tall grass waiting to crawl onto people and animals that pass by. They feed on animal skin and can leave a serious bite that causes an itchy rash known as Trombiculosis.

Orange Jelly Slime grows on dead softwood trees. It isn’t poisonous but appareantly it doesn’t hold together if cooked so it needs to be eaten raw. It’s also said to be basically tasteless so perhaps if I was lost and starving…

We saw evidence that there are plenty of deer on the UTM campus where they can avoid the crowds of people who are enjoying Erindale Park. You can read about when the park was Erindale Lake in our story Erindale Hydro Electric Dam.

Google Maps Link: UTM Nature Trail

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