Spring in Burlington Ontario

Spring in Burlington Ontario
Discover Burlington this Spring

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Excuse for Boredom in Burlington This Summer

When the kids complain, - “I’m bored!  I have nothing to do!” – don’t despair. Local parents can find a wealth of entertaining activities immediately at hand that will be an antidote for those summertime boredom blues.
How about a visit to an authentic native longhouse or a swimming excursion to one of the largest outdoor pools in Canada?  You can visit a farm that has live pheasants and baby piglets or plant veggies in a children’s vegetable garden -  just some of the delights that are right in our back yard. 
And there is engaging summer fun for grown-ups, too.
There’s no excuse for a dull moment in Burlington this summer, as the local attractions serve up some of the best anti-boredom remedies for those the sunny - or rainy - days of July and August.

Bronte Creek Provincial Park

Take the Plunge!
Swimming at Bronte Creek

Consider a visit to Bronte Creek, to get up close with nature and cool off in the giant pool.  It stretches over 1.8 acres and there are grassy knolls around the pool that are ideal for sunbathing.  The whole perimeter section of the pool is shallow enough for the little ones to play safely, and for those who may not be confident in the water or who are not good swimmers, the park can supply, for a refundable fee, properly fitted personal flotation devices for anyone in the family.
Bring a picnic lunch, even a barbeque, and spend the day here.  There are excellent washroom and change room facilities as well as a snack bar for ice cream and cold drinks.

Talk to the Animals
Bunnies by Barbara Orr

On cooler days, or when the kids are tired of swimming and need a break, take them on a visit to the farm!  They’ll enjoy fun and farm life in Bronte Creek’s play barn.  Inside the shady barn, climbing activities, slides and jumps keep kids busy, while outside, they can get pretty close to many live farm animals, including a pheasant in full display, or a slightly scary rooster.  They are cows and goats and pigs and ducks as well as adorable rabbits.  When I took little three year old Lucy to the farm, she was fascinated with the bunnies and the little baby ducklings.  The swings and playground areas were a hit too.

Learn about the Birds and the Bees in the Nature Centre
Bees by Barbara Orr
When the sun gets too hot, duck into the Nature Centre for some hands-on interaction. A recreation of the landscape of Bronte Creek at night keeps Lucy’s attention – each different button she pushes lights up a different nocturnal animal – a fox just emerging from his burrow or an impressive looking owl on a tree branch.
There are turtles, and there are bees – with the complete story of how the hives work and how honey is made.  In another room, children can dress up in a skunk or bird costume in front of the mirror.  

Special Nature Programs for Young Explorers
Bronte Creek's Natural Heritage Education team has created some innovative programs this summer that will delight young nature lovers.  Every day sees something exciting to do. The Nature Centre is open daily, and many of the organized activities start and end here. There are walks and talks that explore the curious life of squirrels - What do they eat? Where do they sleep?  And where do they disappear in the winter?  All the questions are answered in this activity.
At 1 pm on Mondays, there is pond study, where young explorers grab nets and inspect the little creatures in the park's ponds.
Even the wee ones have fun. On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am, there's a 'Tykes’ Hike' for kids five and under, to explore the world of trees, or to learn the difference between a toad and a frog.
Trails and Treks
Hike, bike or roller blade the trails of Bronte Creek this summer to discover the beauty of the natural landscape and enjoy the wildlife - and get some good exercise while you do it. There are four nature trails which connect to many kilometres of footpaths.
Maiden's Blush Trail is a one kilometre paved trail that passes through mature forests and is ideal for taking young children on a manageable walk.  It is also wheelchair accessible.
For a more challenging hike, try Half Moon Trial, a 2 km trail with some steep climbs.
For a guide to the trails, you can download an MP3 audio guide from the park's website.

Howl at The Moon
Even when the sun starts to get low on the horizon, there are still adventures to be had at Bronte Creek.
On warm dark summer nights, head for the park and the chill of a coyote howl. Each Tuesday evening, from eighty pm until about ten, or whenever it gets dark, there are guided walks to learn to do a coyote howl, and hear them howl back at you. Other Tuesday walks explore the life and habits of the white tailed deer that live in the park , with the chance to see them in the wild, along with foxes, owls, and hawks.
Visitors can camp in the park and enjoy nightly activities like sing-alongs, owl prowls and storytelling.

Weekend Fun Around The Campfire
Every Friday night the Campground Amphitheatre comes alive with fun. Park Naturalist Cathy will tell you everything about owls and their nefarious activities after the sun goes down.  Or there may be music from the past, Victorian songs that predate modern music but are easy to sing along with. 
Icy Fingers
For a cool chill, enjoy the Ghost Walks at Spruce Lane Farm every Sunday evening during August.

Check out
www.BronteCreek.org for more information about special educational programs, entrance fees, hours and special events.

Crawford Lake: A Geological Gem and an Architectural Treasure

The Iroquois Village
It is a truism perhaps, but we never fully appreciate our own turf.  That was underlined for me during a recent visit to Crawford Lake.  I have known it was there, have known it was a very special place, but haven't visited since I took my Brownie pack there several years ago.  But this time, when I visited, there was a large group of tourists from China visiting the site and they were clearly enthralled.  They listened, mesmerized, to stories of native legends and native life, respectfully felt the wolf pelts and cured leathers, and smiled with pleasure as they took turns grinding corn and listened as the guides told stories around the cook fire.  It reminded me how special this authentic first nation’s village is. There are replica gardens with native plants – the three sisters, corn, beans and squash - and recreations of village life that help the visitor to understand a little of what tribal life must have been like.
This reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian village is not a living history museum but rather an archaeological site, and that makes it a quite different experience.  There are no costumed interpreters.  Part of one longhouse is an actual archaeological dig site, and visiting children can sift through the sand in certain areas to practice their archaeology skills.
The village is a perfect day excursion for children and adults, followed by a picnic on the grounds and perhaps an afternoon walk around the lake or a hike along one of the many trials.

A  Rare Geological Oddity

photo credit Barbara Orr

The lake is refreshing and beckoning in the summer heat, and the walk around the lake, on the broad wooden boardwalk, is an education in local plant and animal life.  Crawford Lake is ecologically special.  It is a meromictic lake.  A meromictic lake has layers of water that do not intermix. The layers of sediment at the bottom lake remain relatively undisturbed because there is little physical mixing and few living organisms to stir them up, and very little oxygen or chemical decomposition. For this reason corings of the sediment at the bottom of meromictic lakes are important research tools in tracing climate history at the lake.

There are explanatory plaques all around this small but important lake that tell about the lake and the inhabitants that make their homes around it.  There is no swimming and no boating, in order to preserve its ecologically sensitive balance.  But a walk around it is a lesson in the originality of Mother Nature.  It is a quiet and calm place to walk, or to just appreciate the natural beauty.

Green and Accessible
Visitors to the park can enjoy a picnic in one of the shaded grassy areas, or a barbecue.  If you want to leave the park for lunch at one of the little restaurants in nearby Campbellville, all you have to do is show your entrance pass to get back into the park.  Your day pass to Crawford Lake also allows you same day entrance to any one of their other sister parks.  There are also snacks and cold drinks available in the gift shop.
Gift Shop by Barbara Orr

While the conservation area is not completely wheelchair accessible, it is quite good and in the process of becoming totally accessible.  There are all terrain wheelchairs available for both adults and children free of charge on a first come basis.  And in case of inclement weather, there is an indoor eating area in the Visitors Centre, as well as washroom facilities.

Visitors can enjoy a walk through the gardens where indigenous plants grow, with each garden plot displaying an explanatory plaque about the plants.

Hiking trails
There are 18 kilometres of trails which connect with the Bruce Trail.  The trails are well groomed and quiet, perfect for a serene getaway from the business of city life in the summer.

Special Events
On August 21, Crawford Lake will hold an evening event called The Spirit Sings.  There will be sundown hikes, a guest speaker and refreshments.

Notice: The Turtle Clan Longhouse at Crawford Lake Conservation Area is being re-roofed and restored from June 30, 2011 to mid – August, 2011. The longhouse will be inaccessible to park visitors during this time, but the Wolfclan Longhouse remains open.

© Barbara Ramsay Orr, Guest Blogger
Barbara Ramsay Orr is a freelance journalist, author of the Frommer's Guide to the Niagara Region, third edition (2010), Day Trips from Toronto for Globe Pequot and a lifetime resident of Ontario. Her work has appeared in many national and international publications, including Chatelaine, Canadian Living, The Globe and mail and Readers Digest. She is the Local Expert on Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Wine Country for Nile Guides, and is launching a travel app for Niagara Falls and on International Wine and Food Festivals. She has been the food writer for Hamilton Magazine for more years than she wishes to admit. You can follow heradventures, tune in to her tweets @Orracle, or visit her Niagara Falls andNiagara-on-the-Lake Blogs. 

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