Central Experimental Farm Family Outing

I love re-visiting favourite routes with friends and family, so yesterday I led a bunch of kinfolk down paths through the Central Experimental Farm. Here’s where we went.

We started at the western end of the farm where my sister lives.

Off we go
Start of the path through the forest parallel to Fisher
First stop – swap box in the middle of the woods

My sister discovered this swap box a few days ago while biking to work. She knew I’d be interested as we have our own homemade one in front of our house. Turns out both share the same inspiration – the fabulous artist Elmaks, who used to mount his own wonderful boxes throughout the city. The folks who made this one did so in honour of him. You can read all about it here.

We approached the box all prepared. We swapped a mini skate boarder figurine, little rubber duck and party horn, for a dog poop bag (empty of course), a sketch book with mini pen, and a marble dispenser. That’s my talented young artist nephew on the left who is studying in Montreal. That’s my very talented architect sister on the right who works in Ottawa. And that’s my extremely fantastic but a little bit shy daughter in the middle.

Swap time!

Next stop was the Canadian Organic Growers Demonstration Garden which my brother-in-law told us to look out for. It sits on the edge of the Ornamental Gardens, and consists of a wonderful display of various types of beds, including a rockery, perrenial bed, herb bed, fruit bed and fragrance bed. There’s even a bed of plants attractive to bees and butterflies, and all organically grown. They’ve got free pamphlets available from a dispenser at the entrance to the garden that tell you all about it.

Organic Garden

Next we headed down Morningside Lane. In various locations along the edge of the larger farm plots are maps such as this one just off Morningside Lane explaining what’s been planted in the surrounding fields.

Experimental plantings

After crossing Prince of Wales Drive we headed over to the Fletcher Field Wildlife Garden.

Fletcher Wildlife Garden

A narrow path with interpretive signs meanders through this intimate natural garden, so intimate and sensitive that I recommend walking versus riding along it. It’s a short path and well worth the stroll.

Fletcher Field Interpretation

And finally, the Arboretum, my favorite part of the Experimental Farm. Wonderful wide trails meander past all sorts of trees, familiar and exotic. There’s a map here explaining the various groupings of trees, or this book published by the Friends of the Farm which also serves as a guide through the Arboretum.

Biking through the Arboretum

And finally home, where our own happy swap box was there to greet us upon our safe return.

Barbara Ann Scott Arena

Carla was lying in bed early Monday morning reading the news on her iPhone.
“Oh my God!,” the tone of her voice snapped me out of my half sleep.
“What’s wrong?”, I asked.
“Barbara Ann Scott died!”.

Carla designed the Barbara Ann Scott Gallery exhibit in city hall that opened in August. In the process we came to appreciate how, as a young skater from Ottawa, this remarkable and gracious woman became such an admired national hero. The exhibit commemorates her achievements and has on display many of the awards and memorabilia she donated to the city, including her 1948 Olympic gold medal. (UPDATE -2018: After an extended run at City Hall the exhibit ended, however interpretive elements on the life and accomplishments of Barabara Ann Scott are now on displayed in the entrance foyer of the Barbara Ann Scott Arena)

There is an arena on Baseline Road named in her honour, so yesterday rode  out from Centretown to find it.

After stopping off at Fabricland, I pedalled down Baseline Road towards the arena. There is a short section of bike lane just beyond Woodroffe, as well as a shared bus/bike lane along another stretch, but for the most part there’s not much room to manoeuvre between the curb and fast moving cars. The alternate line on the above map is the route I recommend taking to avoid Baseline.

All hockey parents know how to get to the Barbara Ann Scott Arena, but signage identifying it as such is hard to find. Here it is as seen from the sidewalk along Baseline.

Barbara Ann Scott Arena

The quiet residential streets surrounding the arena appear to have been developed in the fifties, with lots of big mature trees providing a colourful canopy of Fall leaves – a fine area to bike through at this time of year.

Streets near the arena

I’ve heard we northerners are more at peace with the cycle of life and its various stages; birth, growth, death, rebirth, because we experience the change of seasons in such strong contrast. Maybe, but the third stage still hurts.

R.I.P. B.A.S.

Forêt Boucher Forest, via Chemin Garden

After telling a friend about this blog, she suggested Chemin Garden in Aylmer as a destination of interest. She should know, she lives there! Fabulous. While setting my coordinates for Chemin Garden I discovered Forêt Boucher just to the north, so I added it to my itinerary. Here’s how it all panned out.

Sunday morning is usually a pretty safe time to venture down streets I would normally avoid, however I can now confirm that Boulevard Alexandre Taché/Chemin d’Aylmer is terrible ALL the time. The little dirt path in the image below on the left is the only safe place for pedestrians and bicyclists alike who make the mistake of venturing along this street. I fortunately survived and was able to to make it to Pont Champlain, where I hopped onto the Voyageurs Pathway (image on the right). Oof!

Brown Line……………… Yellow Line

At the southern end of Chemin Garden sits Howard’s Pawn Shop with its distinct high security front entrance.

Howard’s Pawn Shop

The rest of Chemin Garden is graced with an interesting mix of small homes generously spaced apart. As my friend explained to me, this is as a result of their sewage being stored in septic tanks and decontaminated through drain fields, which requires the added space. The houses have also been around for a few decades, giving them time to develop and settle into their own personalities. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Chemin Garden

Continuing towards Forêt Boucher I passed these nifty benches outside a public pool. The curved ribs of the fish provide comfy back support. Cleverness all around.

Fish Bench

Now let me try to explain biking through Forét Boucher. It is firstly a natural reserve with little way finding or interpretation. So, no trail signs. Bring a GPS. I used my iPhone Location Services a few times. Proceed with extreme caution as the paths are rough and narrow in spots, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Here are a few images to give a taste of what to expect.

I had hoped to work my way across the forest and wind up at the end of Chemin Antoine Boucher which defines the northern limit of the forest, but I overshot my mark and wound up even further north. I climbed up a ridge and found myself looking over this enormous Lafarge stone quarry.

Open Pit

I followed the trail under the power lines that bordered the edge of the stone pit as far as Chemin Pink. The trails north of Chemin Antoine Boucher are set by ATV’s. I didn’t come across any but I did meet another biker and his dog sporting a small cow bell.

By the time I got to Chemin Pink the drizzle had turned to rain so I bee-lined home along Chemin Pink and down through Gatineau Park. Twas’ a good ride with lots of discoveries.