Robins, Yes; Leaf Blowers, No-No

26 Mach 2015 – We’re looping around an unknown bit of trail, Phyllis & I. It is not in the plan for this Tuesday Walking Society outing, but it has us laughing & curious from the get-go. And you should always let your feet follow your curiosity, should you not?

Here’s why we are laughing.

Lower Don Recreational Trail

Not exactly a “yard”! The sign — companion to some Native Plant signs — is deep in woodsy ravine parkland beside an off-shoot of the Lower Don Recreational Trail, which plays hopscotch with the Don River in its final tumble down through the city to Lake Ontario.

The Don can rise in sudden & violent flash floods, but at the moment the water is calm & the levels low, suggesting not much spring melt has yet made its way this far down the river. Just a few gurgles & riffles of foam, where water bounces over the rocks.

Don River, north of Pottery Road

We dropped into the ravine just north of Danforth Avenue, & decided to explore the trail a bit more to the north before doubling back south to the environmental centre, Evergreen Brick Works, for a mid-hike latte & treat.

We’ve walked the main trail here before, but when we reach this railway bridge, we’re so struck by its street art & the fields beyond, we decide to take the detour.

After we suitably admire the bridge, that is, so perfectly mirrored in the calm water below.

railway bridge in Lower Don Parkland

Soon we spot this camera graphic, read the message and approve of it, of course — any “environmental plot” is by definition a Good Thing — but we do wonder what it’s all about.

Beechwood Wetland and Education Project

Few more steps, another lookout, and the explanation. This is the Beechwood Wetland and Education Project, designed to enhance an existing pond by removing invasive non-native species (Japanese knotweed, boo-hiss); planting native trees, shrubs & plants; and providing the stewardship to monitor & maintain the site.

So that’s what that bit of water is — not the Don itself (it’s easy to lose track), but a wetland pond.

More signage points out how this project complements the neighbouring Crothers’ Woods, one of Ontario’s most northerly & easterly pockets of Carolinian forest.

Soon, we’re in Crothers’ Woods. It has open areas as well as woods, and one of them seems to be given over to a paddock.

mystery paddock, Crothers' Woods

But no, the fence seems wrong. It’s tidy & trim, but it doesn’t feature the traditional double bars of horse fencing …


it's a bird paddock!

“I guess birds can read,” marvels Phyllis, and she must be right: the huge field positively teems with them. Majority occupants: Robins, Blue jays, and my own great favourite, Red-wing blackbirds, with their distinctive call and their flashing red & yellow epaulettes.

Not just birds in the woods. Also dogs, all properly leashed.

We meet Tricia, a rescue dog who, after three months of love & care, is brave enough to nuzzle a stranger’s hand but still bears the sad eyes of earlier trauma. We also meet Bella, bouncing with joy & practically glued to her owner’s thigh. “I got back last night from holiday,” laughs the woman. “She won’t let me out of her sight!”

Birds. Dogs. What else do you find, deep in Crothers’ Woods?

an invasive, non-native species...

Why, of course. Chairs.

I have no explanation. I can only deepen the mystery by adding the chairs are curiously out-sized, and the location is very far from any picnic, parking or recreation facility.

But the biggest mystery, and the most striking sight of the day, is provided by Mother Nature. For one long stretch, the west embankment of the Don is …

along the Don River, in Crothers' Woods

… an ice cliff. We try to puzzle it out. Was there constant flow along this edge throughout the winter? No, no sign of contributing rivulets. Perhaps rushing waters would splash high on this side, in this stretch? No, it’s not the kind of curve that would catch water that way.

Sometimes it is very restful to be total amateurs. You can just enjoy something, even though you have no idea why it is what it is, or located where it is.

(Now scroll back up to the photo of the railway bridge. Look — there’s a glimpse of the ice cliff beyond the bridge. You missed that, the first time around, didn’t you? So did we.)

The ice cliff has brought us back around the big Crothers’ Woods loop. We rejoin the main trail, head south this time, and eventually leave it to go seek treats in  Café Belong, in Evergreen Brick Works.

The treats are “fully priced,” as the euphemism goes, very fully priced indeed, but they are also delicious. And the surroundings, like everything in EBW, are environmentally responsible and visually wonderful.

Even the great big light fixture.

Nestled, by Jana Osterman, EBW

Nestled, it is called, the work of Jana Osterman. We are nestled down ourselves, happy with latte (me), Americano (Phyllis) and blueberry scones (both).

And then home, this last stretch on city streets. I try to dial out car horns, replay some Red-wing blackbird shrieks instead. Equally raucous, but a lot more enjoyable.


Leave a comment


  1. In the 4th photo, with the sign about environmental monitoring, what are the reddish-brown blobs in the branches in the background? At first glance, I thought they were birds, but when I try to zoom in, they look like clusters of some sort – flowers, berries? – but they’re too blurry when enlarged to really see them. Tell me – I am curious!

    • They’re the fruit of the Stag-horn sumach, & stay on the tree all winter when it’s bare of leaves. The fruit is bitter, a food of last resort, but I guess late March is last-resort time, because robins were eating it a lot. I considered talking about that in the post, then decided not to. Now I wish I had!

      • Thanks – very interesting! Maybe I’m the only oddball that was seeing birds/blobs there anyway! Wonderful post, as always!

  2. Wish we’d been on the walk with you. Lovely!

  3. Hi Penny – the weather looks really different on this walk. Once the snow goes, is it gone? Do you ever get rogue snow days in April? We do!

    Thought of you when I was listening to the radio yesterday – there’s a walking programme on Radio 4. If you can pick up any of the episodes, I think you might enjoy it

    All best wishes

    • No, the snow is not necessarily gone! There can be late, usually very wet snowfalls so I’m always nervous until mid-April. If it has been a year of heavy snow and then there is rapid melting, there is also danger of flooding — something they’re worried about right now in our Atlantic provinces. I’ll try for that podcast link, thanks


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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