December 4, 2010
Walkers: Jennifer Bonnell, John Wilson, Helen Mills
We set out to pick up where we left off on a cold day in early December (I’m taking up the dubious practice of blogging a month after the event). Or, at least, more or less where we left off. Our last walk
concluded south of Eglinton at the south end of Flemingdon Park Golf Club. Here the river bends to the west, and access to it is complicated by the Golf Club property (along the eastern bank of the river), the DVP (west of the river), and the rail line (which bounds the golf course to the east)–see inset. To continue north to Eglinton, one is faced with the choice of walking along the railway line (not recommended), or crossing the river and walking through the golf course property (permission required). We attempted to find a pathway east of the railway tracks, but met with steep slopes and boggy wetland areas. In the end we elected to circumvent this stretch of river and pick up our walk on the north side of Eglinton Avenue, north of the Golf Club property.
the valley through a lovely deciduous forest, the noise of traffic on Eglinton receding behind us. Black cherry, white pine, birch and hemlock covered the slope running down to the river bed, and large houses clung to the edge of the ravine above us.
We followed the course of the river north and east along a deep oxbow. The trail became more legible in places, and at one point we were joined by several groups of local residents out walking their dogs. West of Wigmore Drive the valley opened up, and we found ourselves on a
particularly stunning stretch of trail that traced the rim of the valley wall, with
great views of the river below and the city to the west and south. In the forest just south of Anewen Drive, we came across a great old white pine about eight feet in diameter.
Following the curve of the river west again, we passed under two railway overpasses before connecting with the established (City of Toronto) trail along the river at Wynford Heights. Here the grade became level and wide–too wide for my liking, but presumably constructed as such to accommodate future cyclists as well as walkers. As John Wilson’s map of our walk route shows, the trail will eventually be linked with the Moccasin Trail west of the DVP. Without the need to watch our feet or seek out the traces of a trail, we covered the last leg of the journey to Milne Hollow very quickly, following the path beneath the spectacular CP rail bridge in the falling light of the afternoon.
Tucked away on a slope just north of the rail bridge we passed the rusting remains of a ski lift once used by the Don Valley Ski Club, now surrounded by industrial buildings. According to Don Valley conservationist Charles Sauriol (1904-1995), the ski hill was cleared in preparation for the Ontario Championship Ski Meet in February 1934. Jumps created at the site allowed competitors to make jumps up to 150 feet; the 1934 event apparently attracted about 10,000 spectators.
We concluded our walk at Milne Hollow, once the site of a small nineteenth-century industrial community in the valley (which included among other buildings a woolen and a saw mill, a dry goods store, and workers’ housing). The city trail leading up to this site passes through wetlands and restored wildflower meadows in the valley flats. Today, the site comprises the northern reach of the Charles Sauriol Conservation Reserve, and is among the City’s Bird Flyways sites, a project to enhance bird habitat along migratory corridors.
The light was magnificent as we approached Milne House, a gothic revival-style farmhouse built in 1860, and the only surviving building left on the site. Its unlikely survival through over 150 years of valley history has made it the subject of restoration ideas by the City, the TRCA, Heritage Toronto and local conservation groups. The building’s boarded windows, and the quiet of this valley location, however, suggest that those plans may be long in the making. For further exploration of the house and its history, see Gary Miedema’s post on the Spacing site.