Monday, 27 July 2015

The Invasion of the Round Gobies

 Tuesday May 26th and I seriously could not believe it when I came across the sign below at the start of the Elora-Cataract Trailway, as it was a little late to discover this when I was already en route!....
 
..There had been nothing on the TCT website about this unexplained ruling, and with only five days to go I am afraid to say that in the circumstances I ignored it and continued on my way.
I later found out it was to do with surface conditions, but after a period of dry weather the trail was in fact perfectly rideable.
 
Riding through the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park and conservation area which includes parts of the Niagara escarpment which has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve.  
The escarpment has created the Cataract Falls here, but the fact that I was unable to see them as I crossed the deep Forks river valley gives a clue to the fact that they are no way on the impressive scale of the Niagara Falls. In the past the falls gave rise to a water powered industrial complex, long since in ruins.
A pretty path on the hillside above the falls... 
 
Apparently America is under imminent threat from The Invasion of the Round Gobies and the French ones even more ominously have the Black Spot which I suppose they present to unwary victims. 
 
But perhaps the turtles will come to the rescue if they are of the Teenage Ninja Mutant variety..
 
At home with some of the extensive and friendly Kirk family, who took us in after I turned off the trail at Orton...
Left to right (hope I have got it right) Kevin Kirk, daughters Deirdre, Teresa, Bronwen, Rhianna and boyfriend Paul, Avery.   I was glad to have use of their trailer as it poured with rain that night.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Back on the Trail

 Sunday May 24th and Lady and I set off round the outskirts of Newmarket...
 
Riding across Holland Marsh to the west of Newmarket....
 This is a reclaimed wetland area along the Holland river that was drained between 1925-1930.  Settled in part by Dutch families skilled in farming, the fertile organic soil now supports a flourishing market gardening industry producing a variety of vegetable crops such as onions, carrots, leafy greens, celery and potatoes.
 
Lady checks out a fisherman on a drainage canal from the top of a dyke protecting the polderland...

As evening set in, I was directed up a long drive lined with trees to a house where I was reliably informed they kept horses. This turned out to be the spacious cedarwood home of Honey Craig and husband Bruce, respectively a retired teacher and financier, who took Lady in without question and gave me a warm welcome.  Once again I was invited in for supper and my sleeping bag remained packed up when I was shown into a luxurious bedroom where I had a sound night's sleep.  Thank you both.
 
Monday May 25th  and we join the Trans Canada Trail again near Tottenham.  It seems like an old friend now...
 
 A quick check to see if we are in the right circle...

At the entrance to the OLC Caledon Pan Am Equestrian Park, which is bang on the trail.  An existing facility was completely renovated at a cost of around $6.8million in time to host the equestrian events at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am games. New facilities include a 4000 seat arena.
 
An amusingly chatty notice, but I hope it doesn't apply to us!.....
In fact on well kept sections of the trail such as this, I always kick Lady's unsolicited additions to the side of the path.
 Hopefully Lady is taking note of this rather more serious warning......
 
Home made aubergine lasagne and coffee at the Trailside Café in Caledon, which as the name suggests, is right on the trail..
 
Recommended if you are travelling this way, and there is even somewhere to park your horse within sight!

Riding up to a neat barn in Inglewood to find a place for the night, I was welcomed with open arms by Sue Graham, who runs an organic farm enterprise Riverdale Farm and Forest with husband Owen Goltz.  Among other animals, they keep two working Haflinger ponies - one shown below. 

 Both Lady and I received five star treatment, and after another hot sweaty day a shower, snooze and moose steak and asparagus supper washed down with a glass of home-made wine was bliss.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Newmarket Break


After a couple of hours travelling on the morning of Tuesday May 19th we left the Trans Canada Trail to cut across country towards Sharon near Newmarket (just outside Toronto), initially on gravel roads..
Besides the modern rail fence shown in the above photo, it is quite common to see traditional split rail fences in this part of Canada.  The type below with rails between double posts is popular but can only be used where the soil cover is deep enough to drive in posts ....

  but one also sees the types shown below with rails supported by braced posts ...
..or built up in a zig-zag pattern.
These styles can be used where a rocky surface with thin or non existent soil cover means posts cannot be driven into the ground. 
 
A cool breezy day meant we covered over 40 kms to Zephyr quite easily.  Following advice from a young man I talked to (thank you Dale!) I found myself staying at with former educationalists Jay and Jean Hooper at their beautiful house with stunning interior design and an insect free stall in a spacious barn for Lady. 
 
Wednesday May 20th The last 30 kilometres to Sharon were mainly on metalled roads, but with Jean's help we planned out a relatively traffic free route..
Sign outside a garden centre near Sharon..
I had arranged to stay in Sharon for a few days at the lovely Quaker home of Russell and Darlene Morton, which unfortunately is due to be demolished when the area is redeveloped due to Toronto urban sprawl. .
The irrepressible Darlene is a fellow Welsh pony breeder (see Morton Stables) and had been expecting me since I contacted her about two years ago!  I had a very busy three days off, hiring a car to move my surplus baggage from Ottawa, dealing with media commitments, having my unruly mop of hair cut, trying to catch up with my blog, and planning the next stage as on Darlene's advice I had decided to cross into the USA at Sarnia-Port Huron  rather than Windsor-Detroit.  But Russell kept me fortified with his wonderful breakfast pancakes with maple syrup, and son Ray rather rashly let me have a go with his driving ponies....
The farrier also came to fit Lady with new shoes
..and at my request he welded borium onto the undersurface. 
Hard wearing borium not only provides better grip on slippery surfaces, but can considerably prolong shoe life. Lady had been through two sets of shoes since I started from Trois Rivieres as the farriers I used did not have a borium supply readily available, but hopefully this would mean the set of shoes would take me a lot further.
 
My one regret was that I never really had time to look properly round Darlene's lovely ponies, with which she has had considerable success.  She has imported many Welsh and British riding ponies over the years, and I was able to see their impressive Section B stallion Stockham Commander, who was imported from the UK stud of mutual friends the Fillinghams. Unfortunately their beloved imported stallion Rhoson Pasiant has only recently passed away.
From left to right - Darlene, grandson Hunter, Russell, daughter Angie.
Many thanks for providing a base and lots of help and support not to mention laughs!

Mosquitoes

   Sunday May 17th and it was a morning's ride to Peterborough.  We were not held up by the beaver ambush....
 ...but by the disappearing trail.....
 ...and once in Peterborough Lady had to accede to the attentions of her many fans...
 and negotiate a maze of streets and parks and yet another grill bridge (we could not follow the trail across a lock gate)
..but eventually we found ourselves on the trail out of town meandering through Jackson Park.
 I managed to find a barn near the trail (thank you Lydia and Russell) though the insects were troublesome both inside and out and I ended up huddled down in my sleeping bag under the stars again.
 Monday 18th and incidentally Victoria Day in Canada, which rather oddly celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday - I suppose it is any excuse for a knees up with the Canadians.

Crossing local landmark Doube's trestle bridge near Orange Corners...
It is 200 metres long (apparently reduced from 500 metres by filling in) and is suspended 29 metres above the Buttermilk valley, offering panoramic views to those without a fear of heights - I tramped across with head down and eyes firmly on the planks.
 
It was another hot and muggy day, so it was great to find this idyllic lunch spot at Reaboro with covered picnic area out of the sun and even a portaloo!  

Spring blossom on the trail...
An interesting challenge to negotiate these gates in Lindsay with saddle bags..
After a long hot and sweaty day I was relieved to find somewhere to stay at last when I noticed a neat barn with a horse head weathercock and well kept paddocks.   Shane Warner used to breed and compete barrel racing quarter horses but sadly had to sell them due to a stroke. The spotlessly clean barn was now used for storage, but wife Gladys cleared a space for a lounger to put my sleeping bag on.  I eagerly accepted the offer of a shower, cup of tea and sandwich, and enjoyed a good horsey chinwag with Shane. 
Lady had use of a large grassy paddock, but the mosquitoes came out in force that evening, and I was thankful Gladys had said I could bring her into the narrow central alleyway in the barn. When I opened the door I was hit by a tremendous buzz of insects and this lasted until well up to midnight.  By then there was also a bit of a breeze and the mosquitoes abated enough for me to turn Lady out again.

True Brits

A muggy buggy start to Saturday May 16th...
We soon reached Hastings, where I tethered Lady while I went for a coffee and delicious raspberry muffin in the cool interior at Banjo's Grill , a small intimate café with a lovely riverside location right by the bridge.  Much recommended.
The bridge turned out to have a metal grill section, and to my horror I discovered the pedestrian walkway at the side also had a metal grill rather than the usual concrete surface.  There was no alternative, and if Lady refused to cross it meant a long detour of at least a day.  Would she do it?
 .. but she proved she is worth her weight in gold again by tramping across without hesitation.

After my coffee stop it was a relief to come across a convenient convenience ....
 
 A tunnel under Highway 2 on the very well maintained Lang-Hastings trail which forms part of the Trans Canada Trail.
 
I inadvertently caused consternation to a nesting osprey when I stopped to bug spray Lady...

 ..the nest was on one of two small platforms especially placed to encourage these glorious birds of prey.
Not sure what this hirsute gentleman is up to.......
 
...but I gave this ominous individual a wide berth...


...a snapping turtle well over a foot long about to cross the trail at a swampy section.

The trail appears to be little used by horse riders, so another rider approaching was a unique sight....
...but this was Alex Winship on her daughter Katy's appaloosa gelding Everest coming to guide me in to her Barn View boarding stables.  After a week of 'winging it' I had managed to phone ahead the day before to arrange accommodation for Lady, and it was a relief to have somewhere sorted and not have to worry about where I would be staying that night.
Alex and Bob are Brits who moved over from Coventry about six years ago and are loving Canada.  They gave me a tremendous welcome and even took me for a meal at the nearby Elmhirst's Resort where I had arguably the best meal I have had in Canada so far.
Not only that but I was provided with a peaceful bedroom with views out over the rolling countryside and had the chance to shower and put all my clothes including rank socks into the washing machine, and relax with my hosts and a glass or two of wine in the gazebo.  Thank you both!
Bob, Alex and daughter Katy who had just survived a car prang!  Older daughter Charlotte had also just averted a fire at her house, so the family were looking somewhat relieved to be intact.