A better night meant a relative lie-in, albeit that the hound's presence was not aiding sleep. The sun was getting up as I was and the day looked promising.
As happens on these trips, we were very tardy in our morning routine and, by the time I'd walked the dog and we'd both had breakfast, it was almost the afternoon. Mind you, it was very pleasant being in the Airstream as the sun was doing an excellent job of warming it up. With all the blinds open, it was like sitting in a moderately heated conservatory.
Our plan was to visit St Marys properly, so off we set, down the dirt road again. We stopped a couple of times for Mrs T to snap off a few photos and we eventually pitched up in the centre of town and parked overlooking the river. There was a marked trail that flanks the river, so we chose to make our way northwards along it and see where that took us.
St. Marys is famous for both its local limestone, hence its nickname "Stonetown", and it's yellow brick. The river bed was flat limestone and the main bridge across the river was made of the stuff, too, which gave the place a very stony look; Stonetown indeed. We read on a handy historical sign that there had been a small waterfall at this point in the river but in order to produce a good mill race (mills again!) it had been enhanced and now formed a nice arc across both the river and Trout Creek. The mill race was still in place and, true to its name, was racing.
We crossed an old steel bridge into a little park and admired a photograph displayed there of that same bridge, but taken around 1900. The bridge and the town behind it looked pretty much the same some 114 years later.
As we moved around the edge of the park we caught sight of a railway bridge perched high above the river atop a series of limestone piers. I say railway because it so clearly had been a railway bridge but today, people were strolling across it. Always attracted by such things, we made our way to the bridge and found the steps up the steep hillside that gave us access to its deck. Here we found the old Grand Trunk railway between Toronto and Sarnia, closed in the Seventies but re-opened as a walking and cycling trail in 1999. I don't know how high above the river we were, but the bridge afforded us wonderful views of St Marys, and of the rolling hills along the river to the north. The trail was very popular this fine Sunday afternoon and we enjoyed it immensely.
We had intended to walk back into the town but made our way along the old track towards the still working ViaRail track that ferries passengers to Toronto. We were waylaid, though, by an abandoned school. That may sound odd but we do like to look at buildings and try to trace their histories through looking at the obvious additions to the original building. This school was mostly in St Marys yellow brick, but had at least three additions to the original block (the bricks may have matched but the building styles most certainly didn't) and there was a lovely 1970s red brick extension, too, probably a gym. Mrs T Googled the school and found that it had been active in St Marys for eighty years or more, under various names, but had finally been closed in 2010. A local geothermal energy company has purchased the building but nothing had been done to it and the place looked quite forlorn.
From there we ambled through the streets admiring the range of houses and their relative architectural merits. Preserving architecture isn't a strong theme in North America but the good people of St Marys had caught the bug. Whilst many of the houses up on that hill were in excess of 150 years old, some were lovingly maintained, some hardly maintained at all and some had been given full or partial modern makeovers. It's expensive to maintain older houses so I have every sympathy with the owners when they can't restore the building to its original state. However, we ran across a couple of wonderful examples expertly restored houses, in limestone, St Marys yellow brick and some in red brick, all of which did huge credit to the neighbourhood. Indeed, one house had two modern extensions that complemented the original house perfectly, even down to the Cedar Shake wooden shingles on the roof. Wonderful.
Actually, the theme of buildings preservation continued as we found our way back to the main commercial street in town. Here the buildings were largely preserved, and most had little plaques mounted on their fronts to date them and offer a brief history. We were hugely impressed. I doubt that we'd ever be able to afford to live in St Marys but it most definitely appears on our list of favourite places.
Back at camp, we pottered about and sorted out some supper, the sun still streaming in through the Airstreams many windows. First we watched curious film called "Flood". It starred Robbie Carlyle, Tom Courtenay and Joanne Whalley and looked quite promising; we were wrong! It was a difficult subject to tackle (London floods after Met Office bungles warnings), but it was so badly done. It was a UK/South Africa/Canada production and I'm sure something was lost in trying to satisfy those audiences. Then we started to watch a film called "Murder By Decree" which, despite it's stellar cast (James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Quayle) was very low budget and turned into Sherlock Holmes meets Jack The Ripper. The set builders clearly had never been to London, nor even seen any photographs of London, because so poor was their work that I recognised nothing. As I've said before, you live an learn. You won't be surprised to learn that we didn't get to the end of that one.
The third early night in a row beckoned (it was still cold) and we set our minds to thinking about breaking camp in the morning. Rain was in the forecast; not ideal but there's not much we can do about it. I just have to hope that the Toadmobile's somewhat worn front tires are going get a grip on the lovely wet grass when we want to get moving. Here's to hoping...
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
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