Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Niagara Escarpment


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Not long ago I stood gazing up at the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment rising high and ragged from the water on the far shore of Colpoys Bay. Not long after I found myself on the top of that same ridge marvelling at a reverse angle view of the small, curved sandy beach where I started.


To get to this point, we entered Hope Bay Provincial Park, followed the Blue Blazes of the Bruce Trail Conservancy until the Hopeness Side Trail led us to this impressive panorama. It wasn’t a rigorous a walk up. That was yet to come when we left the trail and cautiously made our way down the cliff face in search of caves.


We slid over leaf-mulched paths, skated down scree, circumnavigated moss covered boulders, traversed narrow slate strewn passages, free climbed short rock faces and fallen cedars while straight below us, through an occasional break in the trees, the crisp blue water of Georgian Bay sparkled in the sun.

In his essay ‘Walking’ David Henry Thoreau wrote, “When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall?” This ‘walk’ was certainly no stroll through, “garden or mall’. The land set the pace. We had to measure up to it. Recently, though, I have leisurely strolled through fields and woods, taken walks on back roads, shorelines and town lines.


 In fact Thoreau describes me perfectly when he writes, “…with regard to Nature I live a sort of border life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional and transient forays only…” Living here in Bruce and Grey County country has made these forays all the more possible.


I have read Bruce Chatwin, Robert Macfarlane, Wade Davis, Edward Thomas and others. I have soaked up Robert Frost’s early poetry. I have lost myself in their stories about tracks and footprints, songlines and journeys into wild places, about their visions of the earth as a network of paths dating far back in prehistory.


And I sometimes find myself regretting that I didn’t follow their lead a lot earlier in life. One must, in the cold face of reality, earn a living and live up to one’s obligations.


At the same time it is important, for the sake of sanity, not to forget that there is another world beyond the borders that now hold most of us back.


The therapeutic nature of walking, out beyond the confines of everyday circumstances and into the land, through fields, footpaths and country roads is restorative. A solitary stroll or hiking in the company of like-minded wayfarers lifts your spirit and lets you leave the known world far behind.




Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

July 5, 2013 at 6:00 PM


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EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR BUSINESS…at least they think they do.

One of the idiosyncrasies of small town Ontario that I’ve yet to get use to is the one the lets you think you can live anonymously in your community. If you come from away, you immediately forfeit your privacy. Any unfamiliar face on the street suffers intense scrutiny. Your identity must be made known. The townies will not rest until your past and your present is revealed or, at best, subject to some subtle investigation.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Most new-kids-in-town expect some scrutiny. They’ve taken up a new life, in a new place by choice. Making new friends is part and parcel of fitting in. The prying of new neighbours is, at first blush, kind of fun. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?

What is kind of unnerving though, is when they look at you and say,

“Oh, you’re the ones who bought the old such & such place,” and then fall silent, and look at you sideways, watching you try to figure what they really mean.

Case in point. Not long ago my son bought 42 acres of untouched meadow next to a site protected by the Grey/Bruce Conservation Authority. It was an old farm, long abandoned close to Big Bay. It had a sawmill, at one time. The original house, barn and out buildings were removed after the Niagara Escarpment people ordered an Environmental Assessment. (It passed.)

Eventually he will build his family a home there. But right now it sports, a fire pit, a woodshed and a trailer – nothing else. It is his escape from the city.


The other weekend we enjoyed a picnic and some bird watching there. Afterwards we drove to Keppel Croft Gardens to wander their nature trail. My daughter-in-law was chatting with Dawn the owner. She mentioned that they were up visiting their property. Dawn innocently asked where it was. When told, she immediately responded, “Oh, you’re the ones who bought that old farm…lots of mosquitoes on that property. And you’ve put a caravan there. How long will you be living in it?”

My daughter-in-law destroyed their assumption that they were living in the trailer.  But she did plant the idea that an architecturally different home would soon be built on the land…just to give them something else to talk about.

Now Dawn will be telling everyone that a lovely young couple have taken the old storied farm that stood vacant for so long, under their wing.

Word sure gets around, doesn’t it? Well, at least now, they have a clearer picture. The owners of the old farm are no longer anonymous.