Four days ago I set out on a journey, that I had been planning for a little while. Since last year, in fact. I wanted to explore the countryside directly north of Streetsville. Following along the River as much as possible, photographing and exploring, and chronicling what was disappearing, and what still remained.
I am very familiar with all of that country. Firstly, as a child when I went for Sunday drives with my family, then later on, when I learned to love and appreciate its scenery and small villages, on my own. Unfortunately, I have watched over the years, as the developers have scooped up land, built houses, and altered its landscape. Increasingly, I have felt the need to memorialize what was left of the past, before their was no more of the past to memorialize.
I had my sister drive me to Queen Street, near Huttonville, which is the most northern point of what I was hoping to write about. My goal was to walk back towards Streetsville. I never believed I would make it all the way, without having to call my sister to pick me up. And I made sure she understood that!
Nearby, where I was dropped off, is an old nursery, now run down and unused. A perfect place to begin. This nursery had been owned by Portuguese, and is where my father would sometimes go to purchase garden stuff. I strolled around the dilapidated property, and looked inside the offices, which had been broken into. It’s pretty clear to me that this large, beautiful piece of land will be developed. The hawk that circled above me, and occasionally cried out, seemed to know it, too.
I left there and crossed the road where another building, like the nursery, was no longer being used. It was also onced owned by Portuguese, and had been a market and a winery. Next to it is a small creek, that I discovered three bright orange goldfish swimming in. An Indian gentleman and his wife happened to come walking along at that exact moment, and saw the goldfish as well. In his broken English the man suggested to me that I should catch them and put them in a tank. I told him, “Better to be free, just like us”, and raised my arm in the air like Braveheart. He smiled and nodded his head in agreement. “Yes”, he said, “free.”
Next, I turned south on Creditview Road, and walked up the laneway of an old farm, intending to ask the owner if I could take photos of the house and barn. The farmer, named Richard, was very obliging and spoke to me at length about the properties history, and the generations of his family who have lived there. While he took a phone call, I freely walked about taking pictures. I did not know he had cattle, and felt it would be tactless to mention that I didn’t eat meat. Across the street from his farm are newer houses. If and when he chooses to sell his farm, their can be little doubt that it will be turned into housing as well. Way far off in the back of his proerty, everything looked as pretty as the English countryside.
Not far away from the farm, and on the same side of the road, I came upon an old apple orchard. I slowly strolled along the rows of trees, making my way towards the house, I could see it tucked far back, almost hidden. My plan was to get permission to take pictures. Then I changed my mind, and slowly strolled back towards the road again. In this way I spent several minutes enjoying the property, without having to bother anyone.
Neighboring the orchard was a pretty white house, which was old, but nicely renovated. I could see as well that it was empty. (The first of several houses I would come across with no one living in them.) In the backyard their were many Coneflowers growing, as well as sunflowers, which I took pictures of.
Just before I reached the sharp bend in the road, I explored one other old house. This one was abandoned and ready to be knocked to the ground. In fact, they had already put a fence across the front, which had a sign with the name of the demolition company on it A section of the fence was fallen down, so I snucked into the backyard, and looked things over. For years I had thought of buying this property, and its tiny house; but now it was all in ruins. I was about to go inside it, when I realized that the floors were not safe, and so contented myself with what I could see of it, through the broken windows.
It was ready for knocking down.
I crossed a white bridge, and came upon some open places . On the right side of the road, their was a swamp, and in the swamp were some water lilies. I did not see many frogs, but I heard them. I crossed over the road and ventured into a field. My hope was to find a short cut to Churchill Road, where I intended to continue my walk. Instead I came up against the river, and some soggy wetlands. In my younger years I would have got myself stuck in the mud, and dirty from head to toe, rather then turn back. As I said though, that was in my younger years. I discovered lots of Purple Loosestrife growing there, and stopped to admire their colorful flowers. I do not believe that they are the monster weed, that we were warned they would become. Though that is only my observation.
In the swamp were some water lilies.
Once I was back on the road, I continued until I reached Steeles Avenue. I was now slightly past the half way point to Streetsville. Their is a very pretty, old brick house there that my father used to admire. I have never been able to get up close to it, but as it appeared no longer lived in, I poked around and took photos. The front facade is lovely. Its very unlikely they would destroy such a nice looking house but one never knows. Once I was done there, I walked east for a little, until I reached Churchill Road.
But before I turned right, I allowed myself to be sidetracked, as I wanted to get a few pictures of the huge Polish Church that was nearby. Out front of it is a fairly large statue of John Paul II. His arm is upraised as if blessing or waving to people, and he is carrying a staff with a crucifix attached.
I allowed myself to be sidetracked.
I finally reached Churchill Village. My family used to come here often in the summer months, to picnic and swim in the River. So, of course, my memories of it are mostly pleasant ones. When I got older, I discovered its cemetery, and have explored it a little. It is much smaller then the one in Streetsville, but possesses more of a country feel. When you first enter it, their is a plaque on your left which commemorates a Mormon community that once existed in those parts. Apparently, Joseph Smith himself had once visited here , and encouraged them to move to Utah. Which they eventually did.
I finally reached Churchill Village.
Amaziah Church is the man whom Churchill took its name from. He is not only buried in the cemetery, but was the very first person they did bury there. I used to visit sometimes just to admire his headstone, which was not a stone at all. It was made of wood, and was cracked down the middle, and had lettering that was nearly illegible. At some point in the last year though, they had replaced it. I didn’t mind all that much, because the new one is more durable, and they re-created the words and the design of the lettering exactly as it had been on the original. Besides, I like to believe that the wooden one will be put on display somewhere, like in a museum.
Churchill cemetery possesses a country feel.
In the village itself their is little to see. A smattering of homes and buildings, the park that we picnicked in when I was young, and little else. Yet, it does possess one very iconic and defining feature. An old green, iron bridge. So narrow that only one car can cross over it at a time. When I was young this bridge fired my imagination for some reason. It just seemed so extraordinary, like out of a picture book. Now, I realize how plain it really is. Yet, it is a strong reminder of another time. I decided that I would end my journey here. So I called my sister and asked her to pick me up.
The old green, iron bridge.
While I waited for my sister, I decided I would go for a swim in the River, for old times sake. That, and because it was hot out. So I emptied my pockets of everything, and dunked myself in the cool water. It was deep, just as I remembered it, and the current was strong. On the opposite side I noticed something painted blue, and some other colours, but couldn’t tell what it was. Curious, I swam to it, and discovered a statue of Lord Ganesh, lying face down in the mud. I dragged him to shore, cleaned him up a little, and admired how fine it looked. I was tempted to take it home with me, but in the end I left him on the grass for someone else to rescue.
(To be continued.)