Part 47: Holland-Sydenham Townline to Concession Road 6 South
Date: 15 June 2020
Start: Holland-Sydenham Townline at Grey County Road 29, Walters Falls
End: Concession Road 6 South at Massie Hills Management Area
Distance Covered: 10.5 km
Total Distance Covered: 579.2 km
570. Today’s hike in beautiful cloudless weather is a little shorter than it’s described in our Bruce Trail Reference Edition 29. That’s because a section of the Main Trail (and the almost parallel Walters Creek Side Trail) through Walters Falls Management Area is still closed off by a private landowner, while the part of the Main Trail that formerly looped through Walters Falls itself has now been demoted to a Side Trail. But given that the Trail has so recently reopened after the pandemic lockdown, it’s with exemplary diligence that the local Sydenham Club has already blazed the Trail’s new, shorter route that makes greater use of the Holland-Sydenham Townline.
571. McLean’s Cemetery stands on the Holland-Sydenham Townline just east of 2nd Concession South. The McLean family, from near Belfast, Northern Ireland, came to Canada in 1855. The Knox Holland Congregation memorialized on the sign at left seems to have been a Presbyterian Church that was demolished in 1963. The cemetery, though some distance from any existing village, is in good shape with many well-tended graves.
572. Road signs often encapsulate little-known aspects of Ontario history. The “Holland” in the Townline’s name was named for Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland (1773-1840). He began his political career as Lord Privy Seal in the wonderfully-named Ministry of All the Talents (1806-07), a brief British national unity government under Lord Grenville. (Lord Privy Seal is a cabinet office still existing in the British Government, even though its holder, as one wit put it, may be neither a lord, nor a privy, nor a seal.) Between 1830-40 Holland served in the ministries of Whig Prime Ministers Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne. At present, when the British imperial legacy is being scrutinized more closely than ever, we should ask, What was Holland’s position on slavery? Well, he was a zealous and outspoken abolitionist … and yet he owned slaves in Jamaica! This embarrassment to him came about through an inheritance from his wife’s side of the family. Nevertheless, as a slaveholder he is documented as receiving substantial compensation when slavery was abolished in 1832. Such are the moral complications of history.
“Sydenham,” a township in Grey County that lends the local Bruce Trail Club its name, has a stronger Canadian connection. It remembers Charles Edward Poulett Thomson, 1st Baron Sydenham (1799-1841), the last Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada and first Governor General of the United Province of Canada (1839-41) after Canada West (now Ontario) and Canada East (now Québec) were united in 1840. Sydenham established his capital at Kingston, where he is buried after dying there in a riding accident. An important figure in pre-Confederation Canadian history, Sydenham was extremely unpopular in Québec as he was overtly anti-French and ensured that Canada East had no say whatsoever in the Union of 1840.
The Chatsworth Township mentioned on the lower sign is a recent creation, replacing the former Holland Township in the year 2000 (hence the sticker). It’s named for the village of Chatsworth southwest of here, the birthplace of the distinguished Canadian suffragette, politician, and author Nellie McClung (1873-1951).
573. A long section of today’s hike follows the Holland-Sydenham Townline west for 3 km and gives us the unusual pleasure of a wide-open view in all directions. The country hereabouts is almost idyllically pastoral …
574A & B. … and at this point, literally pastoral! The word comes from Latin pastor, a shepherd, and we enjoy the unusual sight of a small flock of sheep grazing in a nearby field. Our presence upsets them, and they run to the point of the field farthest from us. There are about 3,000 sheep farms in Ontario, which is not a lot considering the province is five times the size of New Zealand, where there are 16,000.
575. Mike makes a new friend on the Townline.
576. This large installation is set back to the south of the Townline. It’s a dairy specializing in organic milk production. Its owner is among many in the organic dairy industry quoted in a recent Toronto Star investigative article entitled “Milked,” that controversially claims that the only significant difference between regular supermarket milk and the organic variety is the price: organic milk is twice as expensive. Read the article and make up your own mind.
577. This beauty offers us a purple bouquet as we pass on the Townline.
578. Birdwatchers call small brown passerine birds “LBJs,” meaning “Little Brown Jobs,” because even the experts find it hard to distinguish one species from another. I want to say that this little bird, snapped on a wayside stump, is a female horned lark, but I’ll be happy to defer to whoever can identify it for certain. [Note: my old friend and experienced birder George Thomas, after much thought, identifies it as a song sparrow, and I’m pretty sure he’s right.]
579. Mike contemplates a field of young corn. Corn needs between 60 and 100 frost-free days from seeding to maturity. Some corn agronomists identify as many as fifteen or more stages of growth, with a major division into V (vegetative) and R (reproductive) stages. Some of the R stages have colourful names: Silking, Blister, Milk, Dough, and Dent. What’s visible here is something like V6: the six-leaf vegetative stage.