Spring on the Spit

4 May 2015 – And all the way to Leslie Spit as well. We suddenly have warm weather, warmth we can count on, and this Saturday, the city is giddy with joy.

We are celebrating.

At Cherry Beach, for example, where people flop right down on the sand, knees & faces toasting in the sun …

Cherry Beach Park

And just east of Cherry Beach in Jamieson Kuhlman Field, where zillions of kids are tearing around in soccer practice. An Irish-accented coach explains a move in detail to his charges & cries, “I want to see your brains in action!” as he turns them loose to try it for themselves.

soccer practice, in Jamiesdon Kuhlman Field

All fun, but my target is Leslie Spit. As I have confessed before in this blog, I am a Leslie Spit junkie.

Five kilometres long & some 500 hectares in size, it is a Man/Nature joint venture project that began in 1959 as a lake-filling operation off the foot of Leslie Street — for port-related facilities they later decided they didn’t need.

From the start, Nature was busy developing an eco-system on all that clean fill. Humans caught up with the idea, & now the entire site is officially known as Tommy Thompson Park. Roughly half is already managed as an “urban wilderness” park (accessible weekends only); the rest is still a week-day dumping site, but contoured and managed with eventual park use in mind.

I have time to think about what I hope to see, as I cycle east. Yes! Today Walking Woman is Wheeling Woman — nothing fancy, just my sturdy old clunker, but I’m happy as I explore the day’s route from a slightly different perspective than usual.

map in TTP visitor centre

South on that left-hand orange line (Sherbourne St.) to join the yellow Martin Goodman Trail as it hugs assorted roads across town. South with the yellow line down Cherry St. to Cherry Beach, east again along the lake to the Spit. And on out the Spit.

Here’s my wish list:

  • Birds – it’s an important birding area, with over 300 species sighted & 55 known to have nested here. I will observe with a friendly, if ignorant, eye.
  • Bridge – There’s a funny little bridge mid-Spit, a good place to see birds, talk to fellow walkers & cyclists, look out over the ponds & landforms.
  • Beaver Lodge – Every visit, I hope it is still there. And inhabited.
  • Sculpture – What else to call it? All this rubble & rebar, people make art. I have seen magic out here.

Native shrubs & grasses are just beginning to wake up, but birds are already in high gear. Screeches bounce through the air. I know there are gull nesting areas on both sides of the Spit and, I tell you, the sound carries.

So does the cry of the Red-Wing Blackbird, one of whom preens for me on while I stop the bike & pull out my camera. He is in full display, red and yellow stripes both, very dramatic — thus all the more fun for him when he flies off exactly as I raise the camera.

Never mind. Moments later I’m cycling past a line of Bluebird boxes and — I think for the first time ever — I see a bird posing atop his box. Who stays there.

Eastern Bluebird on Leslie Spit

I’m still pleased with that happy gift from the Spit when I receive another.

There’s the beaver lodge! I don’t see any beaver, I never do, but the grasses to and from the water edge are flattened in what I hope is a beaver trail. (Later, in the newly opened Visitor Centre, I learn that beaver are indeed active in the park.)

beaver lodge on Leslie Spit

Just left of the lodge & mostly behind the grasses, you can see a flash of white. That’s one of the Mute Swans that also live here in considerable numbers.

And then … the bridge. I’ve crossed this bridge in all seasons, snow & glinting ice, summer warmth, fall colours. It’s like a little mid-Spit break in the trip, a place where people easily fall into conversation.

bridge partway up Leslie Spit

I remember standing here once, hanging over the railing to watch Long-tail Ducks eddy to and fro, trying to memorize their call. No ducks this time — but there is another bird, another reason for people to stop in their tracks, point in amazement, and smile at each other with the discovery.

Canada Goose atop piling, Leslie Spit

The City silhouette is quite handsome from here, but who cares? We only have eyes for the Canada Goose, peacefully settled atop the old wooden piling. Nesting? We don’t know.

I’m ticking my wish list very nicely: birds, check; beaver lodge, check; bridge, check.

Ah, but. Sculpture. True, I haven’t been up and down every single trail or along every shore edge, but I’m surprised that I haven’t yet seen anything much. Just a few rebar & rubble pop-ups along the eastern shoreline …

rebar & rubble art, Leslie Spit

Well, maybe there’ll be something interesting right out at the tip.

That is where, in January 2013, I saw a brick & cement “bed,” with a loving diary carefully inked into its concrete “pillows.” I called that post Magic and Found Poetry in its honour, and — though it is long gone — I have never forgotten it. (Visit the post for more images.)

the 'bed' at the tip of Leslie Spit

So I am slightly awash in nostalgia as I approach Lighthouse Point, and hopeful.

Hah. Piles of rubble, all right, but each mound is just as the dump truck left it, claimed by noisy gulls rather than creative human hands.

gulls at tip of Leslie Spit


And then I see it.

Not a great creation, not even very good, frankly — just some bricks that have clearly been shoved around & roughly organized into a big circle. There is a slightly more developed ante-chamber to one side, but it’s still not that terrific, not really.

I am trying to persuade myself it deserves a photo, though I know perfectly well it doesn’t, when — suddenly — the whole thing is transformed.

A child flies in from one side, yipping with delight, and flings himself down to play with the bricks.

at tip of Leslie Spit

And that is worth a photo. Not whatever it is he may create, just what it stands for: the sheer human urge to create, and the joy that act gives us in return.

Leaving the park, I see a street vendor & tick one final item from my list. I make my yearly springtime purchase of a Polish sausage in a toasted bun, and I love every bite as I lick escapee relish off my upper lip & watch swallows looping though the sky.

All good. Happy spring.

Leave a comment


  1. bobgeor

     /  4 May 2015

    There was a Jane’s Walk on Sunday on the archaeology of the Spit. That is, the layers of landfill from various building projects in Toronto over the years. Sadly I couldn’t attend and have yet to venture to the Spit. This piece should add some motivation 🙂

    • I couldn’t have gone on Sunday, but what a pity, I’d’ve loved that. Do get yourself out the Spit, from time to time, always something to discover.

  2. We are giddy with spring here too!


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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)

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