Swansea Brew Club

With all the hundreds of brands of beer available at the beer and liquor stores, why would anyone want to put in any time and effort in making and bottling their own? Well, for a start, it's cheaper, purer and tastes better than the beer you buy at a retail store!

Swansea Beer Club is located in Toronto's Swansea village right near the Queensway and the South
Kingsway.  Just like other Brewing Clubs, the beer is made on the premises and is all -natural and unpasteurized, so pretty much free of any additives and  preservatives that make you sick! 
It takes about two weeks from your order date for your "batch" to be ready.  There is a one-time investment of reusable plastic bottles and caps, and that is your only other expense.  It takes about an hour to bottle.  But what an hour that is! With the gregarious James keeping you company and discussing the intricacies of beer and wine.  The beer you will end up with tastes better than commercialized, pasteurized beer.  The pasteurization does make the beer keep longer, but it also removes much of the flavor, including the sweet honey aroma of the hop nectar and bready hints of the barley. 
Unpasteurized is how draft beer is, and how beer has been for hundreds of years when it was a staple of the European diet (as well as the only safe source of drinking water!) Being pure and free of additives is less likely to give you a hangover, and the cleanliness of the well-maintained premises means you won't be getting one from dirty lines, as one may from the draft from seedy bars.  Oh but I'm not putting down commercialized pubs and taverns, they're a lot of them out there that run a clean establishment and hey it's great to get out for a pint with some friends, but this is a great alternative to the beer fridge at home!  Less cost (actually 2/3 or less than the price of commercial beer) and great taste (naturally carbonated, with no added sugar!)  Now I'm sounding like an ad.

After bottling, just be sure to keep your beer as cool as possible and out of direct sunlight and it will stay fresh. I really think that if more people knew about the superior product of Swansea and other brew-on-premises shops, the commercial breweries wouldn't dominate the market as they do. But anyways, what do I know? 


Frenchman's Bay (Waterfront Trail)

Once exiting the Petticoat Creek Conservation Area, you'll be forced off the Waterfront Trail to pass through a residential area (corner of Marksbury and Surf Avenue to West Shore). At this point, there are so many variations but no matter what you decide to do, you will have to go off the trail in order to go around the Frenchman's Bay and catch up to it once again 5.5 km later.  

Still there are plenty of things to do before heading back onto the trail.  The Frenchman's Bay Yacht club has a local clientele and has been there for 50 Years.  You can also launch your boat from Beachpoint Promenade close by as well.  You'll pass Bruce Hamscombe Park, located on the west shore of Frenchman's Bay.  It's a great place to stop and throw a line in for awhile.   There's a children play area as well, but remember it's just a neighbourhood park, so its not large, but has some access to the waterfront.  

Finally getting into some really pretty views of the waterfront at the Beachfront Park!  While passing by the Progress Frenchman's Bay Park, and the Millenium Square which has all kinds of really cute little shops and bistros by the Lake.  This whole area reminds me a lot of The Harbourfront in Toronto, on a smaller scale.  

Beachfront Park is great for everyone and easy access for anyone, by boat, car, walking or biking.  Pristine sandy beach shoreline, splash pads for kids, playgrounds, picnic areas, volley ball courts and of course the Waterfront trail.  

The most interesting feature for me any ways today was being up close and personal to the Pickering Power Station which generates enough electricity for millions of homes and businesses in Ontario.  Nuclear supplies electrical needs across the province without having any adverse effects on emissions that lead to smog, acid rain or global warming.  Close by there is also a wind turbine that also generates power to millions.  I find the Wind Turbine a beautiful sight and am amazed by the enormity of it when you're looking up.  There's a picture at the base of it that illustrates by scale by showing you a man in the 'cockpit' of the turbine at the very top.    You can read more about both the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear plants that have been a successful alternative to power in Ontario for over 4 decades.

You can continue along the Waterfront Trail following signs around the Pickering Power Station, along Montgomery Park Road.  You will have all kinds of vantage points of the entire Generation Plant which is completely fenced off and secured for obvious reasons.  Once you head east of Brock Road, you'll get close to the Lake once more, which is where I like to be.  Take a cruise through Squires Beach and stop for a bite to eat at Ajax Waterfront Park and finally a rest stop at Duffin creek to return again another day.

Petticoat Creek Conservation Area (Waterfront Trail)

A quick climb up the escarpment from the Lakefront down below and somehow ended up into a residential area, right about here  .  Didn't take long before a familiar sign was spotted and back onto the Waterfront Trail.  A few minutes away, an old wooden painted sign on top of a fencepost, says "Petticoat Creek Conservation Area".  Here you are a ways from the beach but instead atop of the escarpment looking out onto Lake Ontario.  This particular stretch will take you eastward from Rouge Hill to Frenchman's Bay (now entering into western Pickering).  This portion of the trail is well maintained with beautiful lawns and gardens and resembles very much the beautiful garden landscapes I've seen in photographs from my grandmother's scrapbook from Ramsgate, England.  This is the stuff dreams are inspired by, and I don't think in retrospect my photos have done it justice.  

Followed the trail to the Beachfront Park.  Back again for some further adventures.

Rouge Hill Park and Trail (part of Waterfront trail)

The Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail stretches along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river.  It starts somewhere in southwestern Ontario from Niagara to Grimsby, then moves northeast from Hamilton to Toronto, Pickering to Port Hope, and Coburg to Quinte West.  Further northeast still, it continues from Belleville to Napanee, southeast Kingston to Brockville, and finally northeast to Quebec.

This particular point of the Waterfront Trail starts from the Rouge Hill Park and takes you into an area of lush trees and forest valleys.  Duck, geese, and other water fowl and swamp creatures inhabit this area and co-exist with fisherman, boatman, swimmers, and nature lovers. 

A snake shedding its skin, and leaving it on top of a wooden post gives you an example of some of the things you'll see.  This portion of the Waterfront Trail has paved walkways and easy access to the beach.  But who wants easy? Going off the trails into the woods make for far more interesting adventures and it wasn't look before more private beach areas were discovered!  Abandoned and forgotten, most likely due to the Pickering Power Plant off into the distant horizon this portion of beachfront had picnic benches buried in time, and debris littered the area from pop cans to street signs.

After some quiet discoveries and taking some time to take in the beauty of the Lake, we're back on the tried and true trail continuing eastward towards the Petticoat Creek Conservation Area.

Hermitage Cascade-Ancaster

I wanted to add a post regarding the Hermitage Cascade which is worth going to see while you are exploring the Ruins.

The Hermitage Cascade is one of the 126 discovered waterfalls in the Hamilton area.  She is about 4 metres high, but still lovely, especially after a heavy rainfall. 

As you can see from my pictures, the flow was not that full.  The waterfall is located just behind the gatehouse at the Hermitage Ruins.  If you are interested in reading more about how the infamous gatehouse at Hermitage Ruins, please see Hermitage ruins on this blog.  

To find this waterfall:

Hermitage Ruins-Ancaster

 The day was perfect, but exploring the Hermitage Ruins in Ancaster had me whispering through the wrought iron gates, what happened here?  You could feel the loneliness of the place, even before learning of it's history, the Ruins are aptly named.  
In 1830, at this very spot, there lived a Reverend named George Sheed who built his home here.  Unfortunately he never lived to see his dream come true of ministering his own church because he died before it was finished.  In 1833, a Greek man named Otto Ives along with his wife and beautiful niece took over the property and moved in.  They had hired a coachman named William Black, who fell in love with the niece.  Unfortunately Mr. Ives was a man of status and connections, and therefore denied William permission to marry his niece.  Back in those days, it was important to maintain a certain status and it was considered unwise to marry someone with no money.  As you can imagine, this broke Williams heart.  The devastating reality hit him so badly that he had gone to the gatehouse and hung himself.  :( The next morning when William was supposed to bring Mr. Ives and the niece to town, the carriage never arrived.  Minutes later screams were heard from the coach house where they found Williams cold, body dangling from the rafters.
What makes this story even more heart breaking is that in this era, when someone took their own life, they weren't given a proper burial, because it was considered a sin.  So poor William was given a shallow grave at the nearest crossroads of the mansion.  It is because of this sad tale, that the area is so popular for paranormal activities.   The paranormal society claims that you can hear William crying or seeing him wandering the grounds, sometimes alone or with a woman by his side.  Well I don't believe in that sort of thing, but that doesn't mean I don't believe that others do.  They have their right to believe this, just as I do to not believe.  I just find that his life and the way he died horribly sad. 
The mansion had passed a few more hands and in 1855, Mr. George Brown Leith bought and sold 10 acres to his daughter and her husband 10 years later.  In 1901, Georges youngest daughter Alma Lauder took over the estate.  Alma loved the home so much, she never left it and even after a house party left the house in ruins in 1934, Alma refused to leave the home she loved.  She died at 87 years old, and once again Paranormal activists believe her spirit is still roaming the property.  The only remains of the estate to this day is the old gatehouse and the ruins of the original home. 

Etienne Brule Park

 Etienne Brule Park is part of the Humber River Trail in Toronto, which is about 32km long.  A lot of these trails can be reached by car, bus, subway or even Go Train, so there's really no excuse not to get out and experience them.

The Etienne Brule Park is just north of King's Mill Park, Humber Marshes and South Humber.  It runs from Old Mill Road to Lundy Avenue.  They've made plenty of improvements based on the Humber River Fisheries Management Plan.  The plan is to improve the movement of the fish in the watershed and of course to protect the fish during the early stages of growth as well. 

One of the first things you'll notice entering the park lands is the Old Mill Bridge which has been there since 1793 when Toronto's first Industrial building "The king's Mill" was built.  It's purpose was to supply the wood for the construction of Fort York.    The bridge today isn't exactly the same one, but it was modified in 1916.  One further note about the Old Mill (Inn and Spa) and the Bridge is that they are now designated under the Heritage Act.  Basically what that means in a nutshell is that historically it is documented, protected and never to be destroyed.  

Going even further back to a day of September 19, 1615 when Etienne Brule became the first European to see Lake Ontario, maybe even the first to see Georgian Bay, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  He was the first to live among the native people and learn their ways.  All this at a ripe of age of 20 years old.

Here's a .pdf file on the Humber River Fisheries Mgmt Plan 

Sherman Falls-Ancaster

 Sherman Falls sits pretty right in the middle of a pretty town called Ancaster.  The flow is always good here because its comes from the Ancaster creek where it flows over the Niagara Escarpment.

If you drive, just park on the side of the road (everyone does it) where Old Dundas meets Lions Club road.  Sherman is on your left.  Just a hop, skip and a jump and you're into a lovely forested cove with tall aspens and birch trees.  

If you are fortunate enough to live in Ancaster, its about a kilometer along Old Dundas road, not far from the Ancaster Mill Restaurant.  Canterbury Falls is in the area as well.  There's a hike up above the Sherman Falls as well, but will have to return for that sometime soon. 

Last year some helpers from the Iroquois Bruce trail club replaced the 25 year old bridge that ran across Ancaster Creek with a new one made of Douglas Fir.   It only took them a couple of days to construct it, but members of club volunteer their time and materials to projects around the city to help maintain the Bruce trail and others.  Some of them have ties to Dofasco so they are able to bring tools and equipment in the effort.

Sherman Falls is 17 metres high and 8 metres across.  You'll find excellent directions to get here if you click this:

Updates: As of October 2, 2016: There is a no parking zone by Sherman Falls. 

Old Mill Inn & Spa in Toronto

A very popular venue, the Old Mill Inn and Spa is an English-style Inn and restaurant.  It was originally a saw mill built in 1793.  In 1914, it was owned by R. Home Smith who opened it as "the Old Mill Tea Garden".  Following that the Inn was used as a dance hall for during the Big Band era in the 20's.  More recently in 1983 it was designated as a 'Heritage Property' by the City of Etobicoke (now Toronto).  Currently it is owned by the Kalmar family.  The Spa opened in 2001 with over 47 rooms and 13 suites. The property over looks 2.5 hecacres of parkland surrounding the Humber River making it a perfect spot for weddings, business conventions or a romantic getaway.

When you look at this gorgeous property both inside and out, its not too difficult to imagine that almost 300 years ago the area surrounding the Old Mill, was once used as a fishing and hunting area for the First Nations before the Europeans took settlement here.  By about 1720, the French had made it their home calling a small piece of land the Magasin Royale, was was close to the present site of the Mill.  They used this fort-like property to trade with different native bands.

50 years later, the English came and built homes, using the Mill to cut lumber.  The first homes were built in York, Upper Canada which is now known as Toronto.  There are so many beautiful piece of furniture inside, surrounded by lush gardens on the outside, patios, gifts shops and a chapel onsite.  

see Etienne Brule Trail
see Humber River Trail

Crooks Hollow - Greenville

I had written a little about the history of Crooks Hollow as a developing industrial boom-town in the early 1800's founded by James Crooks, who was a visionary. (see link for Darnley Ruins).

But even long before James Crooks inhabited this land, this historical trail of Crooks Hollow attracted early settlers here as well.  About a hundred years earlier, King George III of England granted some land to some Early United Empire Loyalists who had fled the United States coming from Niagara to the western part of Lake Ontario, shortly before the end of the American Revolution.   


If you want to delve even deeper into the historical past of Crooks Hollow, there are plenty of good reading on the history of the Natives that settled in the area, hunting and fishing in Spencer Creek, that was between 1650-1700's.  During this time there was plenty of feuding  between Hurons and the Iroquouis.  A third tribe emerged as well known as the "Neutrals" because they refused to fight.  Eventually the great war between the Natives ended in and around what is now known as Dundurn Park.  In this battle, the "Neutral" Nation vanished completely.

Present day the historical Crooks Hollow trail is enjoyed all year long and is free for everyone.  The trail is about 1.5 km long and is nestled in a crook of this peaceful and beautiful small town, the Crooks Hollow.