Part 18: Speyside to Sixth Line
Date: Wednesday 29 August 2018
Start: Speyside Resource Management Area
End: Sixth Line, Limehouse
Distance covered: 15.1 km
Total distance covered: 229.9 km
216. Wild grapes (Vitis riparia) ripen on a fence at the edge of a field between 4th Line, Acton and 5th Line, Limehouse. Such grapes were used in the early days of the southern Ontario wine industry, with an unfortunate effect on its reputation: they’re highly acidic and don’t make good wine. Nowadays the wineries use imported European grapes grafted onto hardy local rootstock.
217. Tall goldenrod (Solidago) bordering a meadow in late summer makes a brilliant yellow that Van Gogh might have envied. Goldenrod, a member of the aster family, is a North American native, and there are over 100 species. The leaves of one of them naturally yield a form of latex. Thomas Edison the inventor cultivated this species, hoping to exploit a domestic source of rubber that could be turned into automobile tires. (In the end, petroleum won the day.) It’s generally assumed that the thick pollen of goldenrod causes hay fever. But goldenrod is pollinated by insects. It’s less showy plants like ragweed that disperse their fine pollen into the air that cause seasonal misery for allergy sufferers.
218. A fine stone house greets us as we cross 5th Line. Its excellent external condition is a good advertisement for the domestic renovation company that owns it.
219. This dramatically fissured edge-of-the-Escarpment landscape in Limehouse Conservation Area provides hibernacula for snakes, amphibians, and bats, as well as legendary hidey-holes for bootleggers, rustlers, and smugglers. The trees are eastern white cedars, the last remnants of old growth forests. Some of the cedars are over one thousand years old, and they owe their continued existence in this location chiefly to their relative inaccessibility to those seeking wood to fire the local kilns (see below).
220. Here, the main Bruce Trail involves going down that ladder …
221. … and through a narrow crevice that becomes a short tunnel. This is the view from inside what’s known as the “Hole-in-the-Wall” …
222. … and this is the view as we look back: the entrance to the Hole-in-the-Wall as seen by Bruce hikers approaching from the north. Yes, that’s a white Bruce blaze on the lintel!
223. Today’s hike offers a wide variety of terrains: open fields, hedgerows, forest, and karst. By contrast, this is a marshy area around Black Creek, the main waterway in Limehouse CA. This was a busy industrial site in the early 19th century. Limestone quarried from the top of the Escarpment was melted down in kilns to form the lime used in construction mortar.
224. This is what remains of a draw kiln at Limehouse, built in the 1870s. Fed with wood, it took three days to reach its required temperature, and thereafter it could be operated continuously. It’s about 15 metres high, reaching to the level of the floor of the quarry. A horse-drawn wagon would bring a load of raw limestone to the top of the kiln, where it would be dropped in. The heated stone was slaked with water, then ground into a powder. It was then mixed with sand and cow hair to make mortar. This stone structure is evidently crumbling and in urgent need of restoration. However, it might be a mistake to get too nostalgic about 19th-century industry: the mortar-making process produced a lot of toxic smoke, and most of the area’s trees were chopped down to make firewood to feed the kilns.
225. The powder magazine at Limehouse. Built in the 1850s, it stored the explosives used to blast limestone into pieces small enough to be fed into the kilns. The magazine was deliberately placed in a small dip, to limit damage if the contents should explode accidentally.
226. A VIA Rail passenger train on the CN line between Toronto and Guelph passes under the bridge at Limehouse. This section of rail was originally part of the Grand Trunk Railway system, built through Limehouse in 1856.
227. Limehouse Village, originally called The Rock, then Fountain Green, currently has a population of about 800. This is one of its more attractive heritage buildings. It’s the 1857 Forge, next to the stone house of Robert Ford the blacksmith.
228. An impressive example of the jellied false coral mushroom (Tremellodendron pallidum) at the foot of a tree on the Trail just beyond Limehouse.
229. Yet another landscape on this hike. The overgrown Trail beyond Limehouse is starting to take on the colours of early Fall.
230. As we near the end of today’s long hike, Mike poses by a forest giant showing its gratitude to the Bruce Trail for having been spared the axe.
Go to Part 19: Sixth Line to Tenth Line