Well, everybody, it happened. Whether or not you’re willing to admit it, winter is here.
There are plenty of ways to both tolerate and even enjoy winter! Some take to the slopes and rinks, speeding their way down and around it. Some try the bear’s tack, getting drunk and ignoring it with a luxurious unconsciousness. I myself like to engage with winter by taking a walk and hopefully catching a glimpse of something beautiful!
One of the nice things about living in the Forest City is that, even though the leaves are gone, there are still plenty of great forests to enjoy throughout. That being said, there are far too many to name all in one go. Therefore, take a look at these three different jaunts you can take when cabin fever rears its ugly head.
This adorable little path winds its way along the river between Wharncliffe Road South and Springbank Drive. Nestled behind the London-famous Archie’s Fish and Chips, and situated next to the German Club, this path is an easy walk that will appeal to adults and kids alike. The Coves have all the key factors one looks for in a winter walk; gorgeous icy vistas, trees that are both stunning and grotesque, a varied topography, and a handsome smattering of wildlife.
While it’s no National Geographic photo-op, the Coves shelter a nice array of birds, all the cute furry Rodentia you could want, and even a bonus deer every now and again! It’s also a perfect choice for a nice constitutional after a hungover breakfast at Archie’s – just off the top of my head.
One notable warning; Crabapple trees near the end of the path loom over what seem to be a set of attractive and safe sitting stones, but be wary! One strong wind and a frozen little fruit might just plummet to bop you on the head. A teensy element of danger only enhances what I consider to be a charming excuse to get face to face with winter! Take the kids on this one, and enjoy!
A touch further down Wharncliffe, across the bridge, headed North, one can find the tip of Cavendish Park. Accessible from either Riverside or by snaking your way along the river just off the bridge, this surprisingly multi-faceted little set of paths is gorgeous any time of year. However, it has a particular sparkle in the sleepy season.
This park is one small level-up in regards to its hiking “difficulty”. Sneaky river reeds may make a seemingly safe promenade along the river’s shoulder, but be attentive. I’d hate for you to suffer from wet feet on my recommendation.
A small forested area towards the centre of the park has several stunning natural formations of overturned and uprooted trees. What I can only describe as a wooden cathedral-clubhouse sits in the middle of the winding bridges and little river eddies in this beautiful wintry scene.
Two notable bonuses about this possible outing; firstly, because of its proximity to the river, the paths can change a bit based on flowing water and ice. This leads to several bonus mini-lakes that freeze and change the topography of the park week by week! It’s a small but exciting feature, as well as a gorgeous set of options of where to throw giant chunks of ice and rock. I can’t be the only one to do this right? It’s mad therapeutic, not to mention genuinely fun.
Secondly, see if you can find all 10 of the government erected plaques, originally placed there to describe the park’s flora and fauna. They have since been overrun with guerilla art and seemingly responsive graffiti. The art contained in these plexiglass frames ranges from inscrutable to charming, and may even pull a tear or two from your eye. A heart-warming, unexpected experience, and truly lovely the whole way through.
The Kains Woods Environmental Area
This last offering to check out might be the “hardest” of the three paths to walk, particularly in the winter-time. A great mix of sizable muddy hills, thin rock-laden walkways, and what can only be called The Gorge, would suggest that a dog would be a better walking companion here than a kid.
This path is on the West end of the city, near the Riverbend borough, off of Oxford Street. Hidden behind one of London’s newest subdivisions is a glorious hidden trail known as the Kain’s Woods Environmental Area. Getting to this path, especially if you don’t drive, can be somewhat of a hassle. It’s as west as west can go, and through a subdivision that looks like it belongs right next to a golf course (and by Jove would you look at it, this one is). A seemingly innocuous park path leads to a steep hill descent. You can feel the trail starting to shake off its city vibe.
I would suggest taking the right path when the choice presents itself. Even in Summertime, the left path is less of a trail and more of a suggestion of possible walkability. When you head right from here, you experience a gorgeous riverside vista, with plenty of skinny little trees doing their damnedest in the winter snow. Several large trees that have bent to the forces of ice or wind. They present an eerie view, some making archways and domes through the brushier parts of the trail.
Keep heading eastward and you’ll reach several small hills and what I affectionately named The Gorge. Walking through this lovely part of the city, it was hard to believe I was still in London. Except for one small instance of seeing a fence and a peek of the nearby golf course, you cannot tell there’s a bustling city nearby. Only the infrequent sound of a train whistling along broke my fantasy and brought me back to London. The path goes on for 7 kilometres winding around the river and golf course, and seemingly beyond. Long, Lovely, Legit.
Get Out There
Now, of course, there are many more trails and paths all over our city. These three should be a good jumping-off point for anyone looking to get out in nature more! Even though Winter can seem like an insurmountable season to some, meeting it in a leisurely way like an easy hike or two really does wonders!
As an added bonus, studies are flooding in from all over the world confirming the direct physical and mental benefits of spending time out in nature — which, in my opinion, seems like a much-needed confirmation for people as opposed to a revolutionary new idea. So what’s to lose? Amble! Promenade! Saunter! Plod! Enjoy!
Feature photo by Nicole Borland.