Stories to Tell
Conservation Areas are full of adventure and are just waiting to be explored! There are so many great stories to tell about visits to these natural gems, and we have shared some of our experiences and the experiences of others with you on this page. We encourage you to browse through the stories below and then Step Into Nature with family and friends to create your own ‘story to tell’!
Take A Step Back In Time - Way Back
I love getting to a Conservation Area when the dew is still drying on the grass and no other visitors have arrived. I love it because I get to savour the peace and privacy, that is, if I can convince my kids to keep quiet. I like it even better when we pass a school group on our way out, knowing that, for a time, we had the place all to ourselves. That’s exactly what happened when we visited the Longwood’s Road Conservation Area: we had almost two hours before a kids’ summer camp shattered the solitude. But even though I enjoy exploring conservation areas on my own or with just my family, I recognize that many Conservation Areas fill important educational roles in our communities and offer programming to school boards, individual schools and other community-based groups throughout the year. For instance, Longwood’s Road Conservation Area offers programs in native studies as well as conservation programs and can customize workshops to the needs of a particular group, such as Scouts or Guides.
When we first arrived at Longwood’s Road Conservation Area, owned and operated by Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority and located twenty minutes west of London, there were only a few staff members on hand, which suited us perfectly. We went straight to the Resource Centre where the kids enjoyed seeing the Ska-Nah-Doht museum collection of Iroquoian arrowheads, stone tools and pottery; various native studies displays such as a miniature longhouse; and a hands-on activities room geared especially for children who want to try their hand at traditional Iroquoian games. The kids also enjoyed watching birds flitting around the feeders outside a large expanse of window and putting their minds to work solving a series of environmental puzzles. They particularly enjoyed looking through peepholes to guess which nocturnal animal they were seeing and making animal tracks in the sand. Unfortunately we missed seeing the audio-visual presentation, but we will definitely do that on our next visit.
Next we headed to the Ska-Nah-Doht Iroquoian Village, where again, we shared it with only a few birds and buzzing insects. Drenched in sunshine, the village was quiet and inviting. After winding our way through the palisade maze, we stepped into the refreshing shade of the longhouse to marvel at what it must have been like to live in such a close-knit community and how it might have sounded and looked when it was filled with fifty family members, drying corn cobs and several cooking fires. With our self-guided tour brochure in hand, we explored the grounds within the palisade walls and tried to imagine the village in full force, with people stretching and scraping animal hides, mending fish traps, cultivating the garden, grinding corn with mortars and pestles, drying meat and fish, making clay pots and pipes or stone or bone tools, and even packing food into baskets to store in underground pits for winter. Outside of the palisade walls we were faced with two aspects of Iroquoian life I had never before encountered: the burial area where bodies were placed on scaffolding while they waited to be buried in a mass grave and a v-shaped structure set into the forest that was used to capture deer during autumn hunts.
“Just imagine this village when it was full of people,” I said to the kids as they pounded imaginary corn kernels into corn meal. “Everyone lived right here together all the time.”
“So your friends would be close by,” my nine-year-old observed.
“And we wouldn’t have to go to school,” my six-year-old added dreamily.
“Yes, but you’d have to do a lot of chores instead,” I reminded him.
With our imaginations full of the possibilities of life 1,000 years ago, we headed across the swinging suspension bridge and into the forest to explore some of the hiking trails. We chose to head down the Muncey Trail and across the boardwalk, hoping to see some turtles in the marsh. Although we didn’t find any, we did see a frog hopping along the banks of a small stream and an abundance of Touch-Me-Nots (also known as Jewelweed) which we couldn’t resist touching in order to feel a few high-tensioned seed pods explode between our finger tips. Interestingly, the juice from the stock of the Jewelweed plant is effective for treating poison ivy – which we also saw along parts of the trial. With six kilometres of trails criss-crossing 63 hectares of Carolinian forests, meadows and wetlands, Longwood Roads Conservation Area offers some great hiking over a variety of terrain, including down into and up out of a steep, shady ravine.
Although the Ska-Nah-Doht is not built on an actual Iroquoian village site, it is built according to data collected by archaeologists and the knowledge passed on by First Nations people. The word is from the Oneida language and means ‘a village stands again,’ which is certainly true – only now it is a village of changing faces – young faces eager to learn about the first peoples of Ontario.
Longwood’s Road Conservation Areas offers events throughout the year and in all seasons, including the Moonlight Winter Family Hike, Spring Wildflower Hike, Archaeology Day, Nightwalk with the Spirits and Tastes of Fall. They also offer group camping for conservation-oriented groups and a picnic area with a large pavilion and barbeque. There are more than 250 conservation areas across Ontario and many offer heritage features. To find Longwood’s Road Conservation Area or a heritage village near you, visit www.ontarioconservationareas.ca and type heritage into the search box on the right.
Christina Kilbourne is an avid outdoor enthusiast and writer. She is the author of four novels, including Dear Jo, winner of the 2009 Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award , the 2010 Saskatchewan Snow Willow Award in 2010 and the 2010 British Columbia Red Cedar Award. She lives in Bracebridge with her family and various four-legged creatures.
Standing at the entrance of one of the longhouses reconstructed at Longwoods Road Conservation Area
It would have been a lot of work grinding the corn by hand
Pretending to keep watch for animals and enemies
Who saw the frog hopping to safety?