CYCLING IN BEAUTIFUL RURAL ONTARIO
by

Giorgio Zanetti

Last updated: April - 2012
a road on Amherst island
A ROAD ON AMHERST ISLAND

            THE TOURS

FAUSTO COPPI GINO BARTALI




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    Some trips were inspired by the very useful booklet: "Biking Guide to Eastern Ontario" by Gary Horner, publ. by Outdoor Press, Markham, Ontario - 1992.

    GENERAL NOTE: The informations contained in these sections are based on personal observations at the time the trips were made and therefore may not be up to date. To be used for general purpose only.

    HAVE A SAFE BIKING SEASON



    GANANOQUE - HOWE ISLAND

    WHERE: Gananoque is about 30 Km. East of Kingston. Howe Island is situated in the St. Lawrence river between Kingston and Gananoque.

    MAP OF THE ISLAND by GOOGLE MAP
    DISTANCE: The tour is about 35 Km. long; 15 Km. are on the island. From Gananoque you can also go onto the 1,000 Island Parkway to Butternut Bay 45 Km. away.
    GETTING THERE: From Highway 401 exit no. 645 or take Highway 2.
    NOTES: On the island there is only one small country store. Both Pitts and Pickett's ferry keep crossing back and forth during the busy season, otherwise as needed (ten minutes crossing); cars pay $1.50, bicycles $.50; it stops at: 12:30-1:00; 3:00-3:15; 5:45-6:00

    Hwy 2 is busy but has wide paved shoulders all the way to Kingston. On the island there is very light traffic and the roads are in fair condition; terrain is flat; pioneers’ cemetery; Roman Catholic limestone church built in 1858.
    ROUTE: From Gananoque take Hwy. 2 West bound towards Kingston; on your left at about 3 Km. you'll find the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum and the Grass Creek Park. Continue along the rolling road to the Pitts ferry 12 Km. away. Once on the island you can explore the side roads or follow County road 22 to Gillespie's Point. At this end the Pickett's ferry with the same set up as the previous one, takes you across to Bishop's Point in ten minutes. From here Hwy. 2 is about 2 Km. away by following County road 37 which has no shoulders. At the intersection turn right back to Gananoque.
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    WOLFE ISLAND

    WHERE: Wolfe island is situated at the east end of Lake Ontario in the St. Lawrence river across from Kingston.

    MAP OF THE ISLAND by GOOGLE MAP
    DISTANCE: About 90 Km. by following Hwy. 96 and 95.
    GETTING THERE: Highway 401, exit 617, South onto Divison St. to downtown Kingston; the dock is situated at Ontario and Barracks St .
    NOTES: The island has 1,300 inhabitants all year around, doubling in the summer months. Highway 95 gets very busy WHEN the ferry form Cape Vincent (U.S.A.) docks at Pt. Alexandria on the South side of the Island; otherwise traffic is light. The crossing takes about 25 minutes; on weekends it gets very busy at the dock. Check the ferry schedule so you can better time your trip. In Marysville there are general stores, a gas station and hotel, but not much outside the village. The terrain is basically flat.
    ROUTE: One July midweek morning, my wife and I took the 7:45 ferry to the island, the waiting area was almost full; we biked to the dock from my sister in-law's place, just 15 Km. East of Kingston.

    At about 16 Km East of Marysville, there is Block Christ Church built in 1862 with the pioneers' cemetery in the back. The eastern tip of the island, Port Metcalfe, is 26 Km. away. After returning to Marysville we took the 15 Km. trip to port Alexandria, and a few side trips along the road on our way back; you can take the packed gravel road that is parallel to the 95, for a more restful ride. We returned with the 5:30 crossing. Yes, Wolfe Island is a nice and fulfilling whole day excursion.
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    AMHERST ISLAND

    WHERE: Amherst island is situated in Lake Ontario just west of Kingston.

    MAP OF THE ISLAND by GOOGLE MAP
    DISTANCE: About 55 Km. if you ride along most of the roads on the island.
    GETTING THERE: From Highway 401, exit 593 south to Millhaven, then West for a couple of Km. on Hwy. 33 for the ferry to Stella. The ferry leaves main land every hour at 30 minutes past the hour (first ferry leaves mainland at 6:20 a.m. then 7:30, 8:30 etc.) and leaves Stella every hour on the hour; fee is $3.50 for cars or $1.00 for bicycles only.
    NOTES: This is one of our favourite places to bike about. The roads are all packed gravel except the ones leaving from Stella which are paved for a short distance. The area is basically flat in the East/West direction and rolling in the North/South direction. Hardly any traffic, very quite, almost out of this world. There are limited facilities on the island so be prepared; we picked up a topo map of the island from the general store (Glenn's); there also is a small restaurant.

    This island is aptly named the Gem of Lake Ontario.
    ROUTE: From Stella we started the tour by following the coast clockwise. We also noticed a few garter snakes (dead and alive) on the roads. Often the road is but a few meters from the water; it was rather exhilarating hearing the sound of the surf and the sound of the wheels on the gravel mixing together. We also spent over half an hour watching a young donkey "nagging" an older one browsing in a pasture with sheep scattered all about. Yes, the older one lost her patience after awhile...

    Some of the island points are on private property others are accesibles by the public, but they all are worth exploring.
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    CAMDEN EAST LOOP

    WHERE: Camden East township is situated 25 Km. NE of Kingston.

    MAP OF THE AREA by GOOGLE MAP
    DISTANCE: 57 Km.
    GETTING THERE: Using Hwy 401 exit no. 611 in Kingston and follow Hwy 38 to Harrowsmith, 16 Km. away.
    NOTES: Traffic is mostly light; roads in fair to good conditions; rolling terrain with a couple of not too difficult climbs.
    ROUTE: Once in Harrowsmith we park our car on a side street off the main street near a church. Backtracking on the main street we take the Eastbound road to Colebrook.

    After crossing the bridge over the Napanee river we turn right towards Moscow on County road 6. At the time we went through Moscow we saw fields and fields of alfalfa in bloom; the colour and the sweet smell was just amazing.

    At the intersection with no. 14 weturn left towards Enterprise where on that day there was the local fair in full swing (lots of traffic on the road going there).

    At Enterprise we abandon no. 14 and take a side road on the left that goes near Camden lake; here we are about halfway.

    At Centreville on County road 4 we go left all the way to Camden East and pick up no. 1 Eastbound to the pretty village of Yarker.

    From here there are two options back to Harrowsmith; one via the no. 1 and 4 to Star Corners then no. 18 to Harrowsmith; the other via Colebrook by keeping left and once in Colebrook rest at the little park with a beach. Harrowsmith is 9 Km. away.
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    my millstone

    TOUR OF THE 7 MILLS

    my millstone
    WHERE: In Grenville County, 70 Km. south of Ottawa.

    START AND FINISH POINT IS THE VILLAGE OF MERRICKVILLE. Or see option 2 below.

    USEFUL LINKS:
    DISTANCES
    &
    OPTIONS:




    ACCOMMODATIONS IN MERRICKVILLE

    CONNELL ROSE B&B - NEAR SPENCERVILLE

    B&B's IN EASTERN ONTARIO

    ACCOMMODATIONS IN GRENVILLE COUNTY

    Listed below are 2 of the many possible options.

    OPTION 1 [101 Km loop - 1 day]

    Merrickville is the start and finish point.

    ROADS TO FOLLOW : County rd. 15, County rd. 21 to Spencerville; backtrack on County rd. 21 to County rd. 18 and follow, after Oxford Mills follow County rd. 25, then follow County rd. 23 to Merrickville.


    The tour could be easily divided in two days to allow time to explore the different sites.

    OPTION 2 [101 Km loop - 2 days]

    Day 1 [42 Km.]: Start the tour from Spencerville, via North Augusta, with overnight in Merrickville.
    ROADS TO FOLLOW : Follow County rd. 21 to County rd. 15 to Merrickville.

    Day 2 [59 Km.]: Merrickville, Andrewsville, Burritts Rapids, Oxford Mills, Bishop Mills, Spencerville.
    ROADS TO FOLLOW : From Merrickville follow county rd. 23, Actons Corner rd., and after crossing County rd. 43, onto County rd. 25 to Oxford Mills, County rd. 18 to McRoberts Corner, County rd. 21 to Spencerville.
    GETTING THERE: From Ottawa: Highway 416 to Kemptville where you exit and follow the signs for County road 43 to Merrickville.

    From Highway 401: exit #705, between Brockville and Prescott, and follow the sign for County road no. 15 to North Augusta and then Merrickville; 35 Km. from highway 401.

    For option #2 follow Highway 416 to Spencerville.
    NOTES: Roads are generally flat (some rolling occurs mainly when going in an east/west direction) and in fair to good condition. Traffic is mostly light.




    HISTORICAL

    POINTS OF

    INTEREST

    ALONG

    THE ROUTE:
    1) MERRICKVILLE

    The jewel of the Rideau river.

    In the village there are a few public parkings, lots of stores (craft, antiques, etc.), a few eating establishments and accommodations including B & Bs.

    William Merrick built his first log house on the north bank of the river in 1794 (other sources refer to 1791). Merrick was a millwright by trade and by 1800 he had built a dam and a sawmill at the falls on the Rideau river, in the course of years he added two grinding mills and a carding mill.

    The old stone mill that still stands on the river bank, just east of the bridge on Highway43 was originally Merrick's first mill. His sons William and Stephen added an annex for a woollen mill, one of the first in Ontario, and remained in operation until 1954.

    Colonel By built the largest blockhouse on the Rideau Canal system to protect them from the Americans. The blockhouse, which is now used as a museum and can be visited, originally housed 50 men and related goods.


    2) NORTH AUGUSTA

    The four Bellamy brothers (Edward, Samuel, Chauncey and Hiram) came from Vermont around 1820 and added a grist mill, then a distillery, a pot and pearl ashery and a general store.

    The stones of the first grist mill (said to be the first of the township) were taken from a quarry in Brockville "with great difficulty".

    Initially called Bellamy's Mills it changed the name to North Augusta in 1839 when the post office was opened.

    The grist and flour mill changed hand in 1877, bought by the brothers Edward and Thomas Eyre. Thomas eventually took over the milland installed the roller system of making flour, specialising in the "Strong Bakers" brand.

    NOTE: This type of flour was first manufactured in the 1860s by extra high grinding and gradual reduction. It was darkish in colour containing a high percentage of gluten and colour found in the outer layers of the endosperm.

    The mill changed hands many times, but it continued to grind grist for farmers until 1965.

    After crossing the bridge over the Kemptville creek, turn right onto Main Rd. and shortly after right again on Mill St. The remains of the mill pond and the mill's foundations can still be seen on the right.


    3) SPENCERVILLE

    Spencerville mill in autumn
    David Spencer founded the village after discovering the South Nation river on a hunting expedition. In 1811 or 1812 he built a cabin on the south bank of the river and later he built a dam and a sawmill and eventually a grist mill. Once in the village, at the "T" intersection of County road 21 and Spencer St., turn right; the mill is just down the street on the right before the bridge. At the "Village Pantry" you can get soups, sandwiches, etc.

    The mill is presently undergoing restoration under the auspices of the SPENCERVILLE MILL FOUNDATION and can be visited during the summer.


    4) BISHOPS MILLS

    In 1840 Chauncey and Ira Bishop built a sawmill and a shingle mill, on the land granted to them for their services as loyal militiamen in the war of 1812.

    A dam was built across the Little Creek, or Middle Creek, as it is known, and produced a ratherlarge mill pond; in later years a grist mill was added.

    The mills were built of frame construction, two stories structures with cribbing underneath to allow the water to flow through. Because these mills were made of woods, unlike other in the area, there is no trace of them once they fell in disuse.

    At one time however, the picturesque mills were subject of painting and postcard, and a picture of them is said to exist in a back issue of some historical journal.

    Once in the village follow Mill st. The millrace, or canal, used to divert water through the mill, clearly marked on the official map of 1885, is still visible, although much grown over.

    5) OXFORD MILLS

    Between 1840-1842 Asa Clothier built a log dam, a frame sawmill, a small log house and a partial section of the stone grist mill.

    Eventually Richey Waugh bought the mills, put on an addition to the sawmill, completed the grist mill and put in the machinery for grinding.

    The sawmill was destroyed by fire in 1900 and never replaced. In the 1800's the grist mill ran night and day, turning out as many as 120 barrels of flour a day.

    In 1961, the Federal Department of Public Works, ordered the demolition of the old mill because it was claimed that it was deteriorating rapidly. It was taken down in spite of the protests and petitions to try to save it.

    All that is left is the "mill race" at the east side of the dam easily visible from the bridge over the Kemptville creek on the main road.

    The Brigadoon Restaurant, situated nearby, is a good place for a meal.


    Old photo of the mill .

    6) BURRITTS RAPIDS

    Stephen Burritt founded the village in 1793. Terence Smith, of Smith Falls, built in 1830 a three storey frame mill known as the Grist Mill and it grounded the farmer's grain for many years. It was torn down in 1951.

    In 1871 the village had a population of 400, with two sawmill, two shingle mills, a grist mill, and a carding and fulling mill.


    7) ANDREWSVILLE

    Proceeding towards Merrickville watch for a small sign-post reading "Nicholson's Locks" (4 Km. from Burritts) pointing to the ghost village on the shore of the Rideau river of Andrewsville. From County road 2 the sign reads "Andrewsville" and is much larger.

    Andrew Rufus built his shingle mill and dam about 4 Km. downstream from Merrickville in 1843 and a grist mill in 1861.

    The mill had a capacity for grinding 500 bushels of #EEE4CA per diem. For several years, the flour ground at this mill had secured the first prize at the county and local fairs.

    Shortly thereafter a post office was established and the town named after its founder. The mill was eventually purchased by Thomas Cook in 1869.

    Once a thriving village, the population had slipped to only 50 by 1900.

    Now only the ruins of the mill and dam can be seen in addition to some original houses in various states of repair. Nearby there are two lock stations (18 and 19) of the Rideau Canal system.


    . HISTORICAL REFERENCES

    All historical descriptions and references were gleaned from one or more of the following:

    a) McKenzie, Ruth. Leeds and Grenville: their first two hundreds years. McLelland and Stewart Ltd. Toronto/Montreal, 1967.
    b) Various authors. "All Around The Township". Stories about Oxford-on-Rideau for the Bicentennial Celebrations. August 4-5-6, 1984 at Oxford Mills.
    c) Horner, Gary. Bicycle Guide to Eastern Ontario. Outdoor Press. Markam - Ontario, 1992.
    d) Felicity L. Leung. Grist and Flour Mills in Ontario. Ministry of Public Works - Canada; 1976. Reprinted by SPOOM - USA, 1997.
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    PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY

    WHERE: South of Belleville and sprawling into Lake Ontario.
    DISTANCE: A) From Picton to Little Bluff there are approximately 25 Km. (50 Km. return)
    B) The loop from Picton around Cressy Point is approximately 65 Km.
    C) The Sand Banks loop is approximately 65 Km.
    GETTING THERE: There are four main points of entry:
    1) From HWY 401 through Trenton via HWY 33 Southbound.
    2) Through Bellelville via HWY 62 Southbound.
    3) From the east past Napanee exit 566, via HWY 49.
    4) Or via HWY 33 west of Kingston, along Lake Ontario all the way past Adolphustown and then take the ferry (free) across to Glenora. This route is not terribly fast, but the approach to Glenora by ferry is very nice.
    NOTES: To enjoy this delightful area (this is our favourite) one should stay a few days and take advantage of the many Bed & Breakfast available throughout the island. This area is famous for apple cider and, along the roads, you will find many charming and excellent farm stands selling homegrown products. On weekends, during the summer months, the main roads (and the ferry) get busy. Most of the roads are in good conditions and are paved but some cross roads have packed gravel.
    Some roads have steep hills.
    ROUTE:
    PICTON - LITTLE BLUFF (50 Km. return)

    One of our favourite trips is to the "Little Bluff" park on County road 9, on Long Point. From Picton, take County road 17 and after about 7 Km. turn left down to Black Creek. Just before the village there is a cemetery; in the village you'll find the "Black River Cheese Company" in operation since 1901, with a store where you can buy their very good cheese and home made ice cream.

    Continue up on County road 13 all the way to the intersection with County road 9, which you will follow on your left, past the Mariners' Memorial Museum; 15 Km. after Black Creek, a sign will direct you to the dirt road on your left that goes in a short distance to the bluff. Here you can walk around the edge of high cliffs or take the path down the long and secluded half-moon shape large pebble beach. Once we watched a beautiful sunrise here.

    From Little Bluff you can also keep going to Long Point (12 Km.) where there is the now closed light house; this point is designated a National Wildlife Area (Prince Edward Point) well worth the extra effort.

    On the way back you can go by the quaint village of Milford by taking County road 9 on the left just before the Mariners' Memorial Museum. In Milford there is the Millpond Conservation area and the old mill (not in operation); also interesting are the falls (often dry) just up the hill from the mill where we have often sighted a couple of great blue herons.

    Make sure to stop for a bite at the Milford Bistro [note added July 2009]

    Take Road 17 or the more relaxing Old Millford road to get back to Picton. This deviation will add about 5 Km.


    PICTON - CRESSY POINT LOOP (65 Km.)
    *** TEMPTATION LOOP ***

    The second trip is about a 60 Km. loop around Cressy Point that takes you by the not to be missed Lake on the Mountain. We did this tour counter clockwise, so that towards the end we could rest by the cool shore of Lake on the Mountain.

    In either directions there are a couple of steep and long hills at some point in the tour; we found ours at about 4 Km. from the lake - not counting the one a few kilometers back. From Picton take County road 8 down to the Waupoos (which means rabbit in the local aboriginal language) road to the end on Pleasant Point where the no. 8 connects to County road 7 on the north shore of the point; from the Lake on the Mountain, instead of taking the sometimes busy 33, you can follow a packed gravel backroad to Picton (i.e. the Chuckerry Hill rd.)

    Before you turn west bound on no. 7, an interesting detour is the road called Cressy Bayside Rd. that takes you to Pleasant Point (extra 10 Km. total).


    This tour is full of "temptations" : you can get fine food at The Duke of Marysburg Pub, further down the road you can taste local wine at the Waupoos Estates Winery, and still a bit further there is cider tasting at the County Cider Company and finally more food at The Inn - Lake On the Mountain Resort.

    On County Rd. 8 you will come across the Rose House Museum, built in 1804, and if you can, take time to visit and see the interesting artifacts.


    PICTON - SAND BANKS LOOP (65 Km.)

    The third trip is approximately another 65 Km. loop around the Sandbanks provincial park. From Picton down the backroad to Cherry Valley, then take County road 10 and then 24 to visit Point Petre; backtrack to Cherry Valley then take County road 18 to Salmon Point across to West Lake and visit the sandy beach; in West Lake visit the Lakeshore Lodge picnic area.

    The return trip to Picton will take, via County road 12, to the very charming Bloomfield (lots of interesting shops and old houses); for your bike needs you will find, at 225 Main street, the very helpful staff of the Bloomfiled Bicycle Co. For a slightly longer but more relaxed route back to Picton you don't have to take the often busy 33, but can navigate your way through the backroads.
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    MANITOULIN ISLAND

    WHERE: Lake Huron, south west of Sudbury.
    MAP OF THE TOUR
    MAP OF MANITOULIN ISLAND by GOOGLE
    DISTANCE: A loop of 30 Km. from Providence Bay around Mindemoya Lake.
    GETTING THERE: On the Transcanada Highway 17 via Espanola onto Highway 6.
    On our one day visit we took the toll ferry (1.75 hrs. crossing) from Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
    NOTES: It is said that Manitoulin island is the world's largest freshwater island (160 Km. long and between 5 and 80 Km. wide) and that Lake Manitou the world's largest lake within a lake. Booked the crossing on the first ferry of the day; after docking at South Baymouth, we drove to Providence Bay and started biking from there. We timed the return for the second last ferry of the day, just in case. The roads we biked on had long and somewhat steep climbs. On the back roads traffic was very light or non existent . During our brief visit, we liked what we saw, so we are going back for more.

    MANITOULIN ISLAND
    ROUTE: Parked the car at the public parking in Providence Bay near the sandy beach and started up on 551. We toured the Mindemoya Lake in a counter clockwise manner. This is a very relaxing and unspoiled area. At Dryden's Corner we bought some delicious local honey.
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    OTTAWA - L'ORIGNAL

    WHERE: Following the Ottawa river East of Ottawa.

    MAP OF THE AREA by GOOGLE
    DISTANCE: 96 Km. return.
    GETTING THERE: Starting from Clarence 37 Km. East of Ottawa; take Hwy 17 East and 4 Km. after Rockland turn left towards Clarence.
    Another starting point could be from the South Nation River Provincial Park just 15 more Km. past Rockland. From here the tour is about 66 Km. return.
    NOTES: Roads are generally flat and in fair to good condition. Traffic is light except through some built up areas.
    Nice vistas along the Ottawa River.
    ROUTE: We parked the car not far from the ferry that goes to Thurso. It was a beautiful early Sunday morning. We pass through Wendover situated just before the South Nation river joins the Ottawa river.
    When we get to Hwy 17 (very busy) we walked the bikes over the steel bridge using the left sidewalk and then we continue North bound on the road just passed the bridge at Jessups Falls. On the South side of the highway there is the South Nation River Provincial Park with picnic tables and outhouses.
    For the next 7 Km. the road is a bit rough (cracked old asphalt) till we reach Treadwell where we follow County road 24. Just before reaching Lefaivre we have a very nice view of Montebello on the other side of the Ottawa river.
    We are about 18 Km. from L’Orignal whose origin goes back to the middle of 1600. When entering the town by crossing a bridge over Mill creek, keep left and follow the road till you see a park with picnic tables for a well deserved rest.
    We returned the same way in the afternoon and as the day went by a stiff breeze from the West rose off the river. It was hard pedaling all the way back. Winds tends to get stronger as the heat rises so keep this in mind especially on this trip since the direction is basically oriented East/West.
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    my millstone

    GIRO IN BICI DEI 7 MULINI

    my millstone


    Il venticello non tirava in poppa, tirava invece di prua. Nel nostro caso dovrei dire di petto. Di petto perchè non eravamo su di una barca, ma in bicicletta. E anche se l'espressione è applicabile al gergo delle attività nautiche, io la uso spesso quando andiamo in bicicletta, per incoraggiare la "mia gregaria", mia moglie, quando preannuncio che il vento si sposterà, misericordiosamente, alle spalle dopo l'ennesima curva. Ma le mie previsioni metereologiche sono ormai ignorate, per non dir beffate, a causa della mia pessima pronosticazione.

    Merrickville, dove era il nostro traguardo, non era troppo lontano.

    Sulla nostra destra si snodava la bella vista sul fiume Rideau, e l'acqua, nel suo lento, impercettibile movimento, dava una certa frescura alla tranquillità del caratteristico paesaggio rurale. Ma la brezza pomeridiana, in verità non troppo forte, rendeva la pedalata laboriosa, considerando che la distanza totale, fatta seduti in sella, si aggirava ormai sui novanta kilometri.

    La giornata alla fine di giugno era bellissima. Con un cielo terso e l'aria mattutina, tiepida e salutare, ci "imbarcammo" sulla bici per eseguire il giro ad anello dei sette mulini che avremmo trovato lungo l'itinerario. Avevo concepito questo percorso durante l'inverno, esaminando una mappa su cui erano indicati i numerosi mulini costruiti più di un secolo fa in Ontario. Mi saltò all'occhio una certa loro concentrazione nella zona tra Merrickville e Spencerville, un'oretta di macchina al sud di Ottawa.

    Pedaliamo solitari lungo le strade di campagna, su cui il traffico è in maggioranza dei casi molto basso, con l'alternarsi di boschi e prati, paludi e campi coltivati. Ci accompagna il suono monotono delle ruote della bicicletta sull'asfalto mescolato al ronzìo di quando la catena è a riposo. Siamo pervasi da un senso di libertà infinita. Vorresti pedalare per sempre. Il paesaggio non è monocromatico e offuscato come quando si sfreccia veloci in macchina, al contrario, si snoda gradualmente. Ora passi davanti ad una piccola chiesa di campagna, ora davanti ad un cimitero con le lapidi ormai smussate dal tempo, più oltre una vecchia scuola abbandonata; ora davanti ad una fattoria dove abbaiano i cani (fortunatamente legati), ora sotto l'ombra rinfrescante di un filare d'alberi, poi, per lunghi tratti, in pieno sole. Ora senti il canto delle rane e dei grilli, ora il canto di vari uccelli; più in là vedi una serpe attraversare la strada, e ti fermi per far sicuro che passi sana e salva; viaggi in compagnia delle farfalle o delle api che fanno finta di seguirti, senza sforzo, per alcuni metri.

    E poi ci sono gli odori. Odore dell'erba tagliata nei prati, che no non è lo stesso odore dell'erba tagliata intorno a casa; questo della campagna ha un marchio tutto suo; odore delle giovani piante di granoturco e la fragranza effusa della terra lavorata; odori di paludi che alla vista sembran morte ma invece sono pullulanti di vita nel ciclo inalienabile ed arcano di madre natura. E ancora i guazzi dei colori, dai verdi svariati delle culture e dei boschi che fanno contrasto ai fiori selvatici lungo il ciglio della strada e nei prati incolti; qui il giallo delle rudbeckie, più in là le sfumature blu della cornetta, della cicoria e dell'erba viperina, seguite dalle bianche margherite e dal fiore delicatamente ricamato della carota selvatica, nate lì per caso senza intervento umano. È una semplice e squisita litania che ti riempie di pace.

    Scenari che ristorano lo spirito ed il corpo, nella sintonia dei ritmi confortanti dell'aperta campagna ed il movimento cadenzato dei pedali.

    Si parte da Merrickville, un gioiello di paesino lungo il canale e il fiume Rideau, e che fu onorato come il più bel paese del Canada nel 1988. La prima casa fu costruita nel 1794 (altre fonti acennano al 1791) da William Merrick, un mastro costruttore di mulini. Dopo aver sbarrato il corso del fiume, costruì una segheria vicino alle cascate nel 1800; seguirono poi due mulini per macinare cereali e un'officina per cardare; più tardi i figli aggiunsero una filanda per la lana, una delle prime in Ontario, che rimase in operazione fino al 1954. I resti di pietra del primo mulino sono ancora visibili vicino al ponte sul fiume Rideau. Interessante è la visita alla casamatta costruita nel 1832-33, per difendere la chiusa del canale da eventuali attacchi.

    Lungo l'itineratio, seguito in senso antiorario, si incontrano poi i seguenti villaggi e i loro mulini:

    • Il mulino di Augusta fu costruito nel 1820 dai quattro fratelli Bellamy che erano arrrivati dal Vermont. Nel 1877, un'altro proprietario, installò un nuovo sistema di rulli per macinare il grano, con cui era prodotto il tipo di farina chiamata "Strong Baker"; questa farina che era molto apprezzata, aveva un colore scuro, con un livello di glutine molto elevato. I pochi resti del mulino e della diga sono ancora visibili lungo il fiume Kemptville.

    • Il mulino di Spencerville in autunno - gz/2004 Il mulino di Spencerville (foto a destra, veduta autunnale) fu costruito da David Spencer nel 1811 ed è uno dei pochi la cui struttura è stata salvata; da alcuni anni è in fase di ristrutturazione, ed è visitabile durante la stagione estiva. E anche se gli ingranaggi sono adesso silenziosi, tuttavia, una volta entrati, è facile immaginare tutta la sinergia che creavano le varie pulegge e le macine quando erano in moto.

    • A Bishop Mills, nel 1840, Chauncey and Ira Bishop vi costruirono una segheria ed un'officina per le coperture dei tetti in legno. Più tardi aggiunsero un mulimo a farina. I mulini erano piacevolmente situati lungo il ruscello chiamato "Little creek" le cui acque passavano sotto le strutture per azionare le ruote. Erano soggetti ambiti per le cartoline e dai pittori. Purtroppo oggigiorno l'area è stata invasa da piante e arbusti, ma se uno osserva bene può ancora intravedere il canale usato per convogliare l'acqua sotto i mulini.

    • A Oxford Mills, verso il 1840-42, Asa Clothier costruì una diga con tronchi sul fiume Kemptivelle, una falegnameria, una casa, e una sezione del mulino. Completato poi dal nuovo proprietario, il mulino funzionava notte e giorno riuscendo a generare 120 barili di farina in 24 ore (un barile conteneva 88 kg. di farina). La falegnameria fu distrutta da un incendio nel 1900; il mulino fu demolito nel 1961 su ordine delle autorità federali, ignorando le proteste degli abitanti, in quanto, a loro parere, era troppo dissestato e quindi pericoloso per il publico.

    • Il villaggio di Burritts Rapids fu fondato da Stephen Burritt nel lontano 1793. Nel 1830, un certo Terence Smith di Smith Falls, costruì un mulino a tre piani usato dai numerosi agricoltori della zona. Fu demolito nel 1951. Nel pittoresco villaggio, che praticamente si trova su di un'isoletta, si può ancora ammirare la piccola ma attraente diga. Nel 1871 il villaggio contava 400 anime, due falegnamerie, due officine per le tegole di legno, un mulino per la farina, e un'officina per la follatura e cardatura della lana.

    • Su questo itinerario si incontra anche un villaggio fantasma. Infatti a pochi kilometri prima di Merrickville si trova il villaggio, praticamente sconosciuto, di Andrewsville; quando passi in macchina neanche te ne accorgi. Fu Andrew Rufus a costruire, nel 1843, uno sbarramento sul fiume Rideau per far funzionare l'officina per le tegole di legno. Aggiunse il mulino nel 1861, capace di fornire 500 staia di farina al giorno. La farina di questo mulino aveva ricevuto, per parecchi anni, il primo premio per la sua qualità superiore, nelle fiere della contea. Arrivarono poi un maniscalco e un negozio generale. Per parecchi anni c'era un viavai di carrozze, e gli affari andavano bene, ma dopo che fu costruita la ferrovia, l'industria ne subì gli effetti negativi, e dovette trasferirsi, cosicchè il villaggio morì lentamente. Nel 1950 contava ancora 50 persone, ora del villaggio non rimangono che poche case, pochi resti del mulino e la diga.

    Eravamo partiti da Merrickville verso le otto di mattina; ora l'orologio segnava le due e mezzo pomeridiane; la meta non era che a 4 kilometri. E anche se il vento non era mai stato in "poppa", anche se stanchi, nondimeno eravamo soddisfatti di aver completato questo piccolo, grande giro nell'amplesso di un piacevole paesaggio, sfogliando affascinanti pagine di storia.



    Articolo pubblicato nel periodico "L'Ora di Ottawa" maggio , 2004.
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