Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A week in Huron County

Driving through Huron County last week, I was struck by the vast expanse of pristine farm land - the farms were evidently thriving and well-kept.  We didn't see a single broken-down barn in a week of cruising, while it's a much more common sight further east in Ontario.  I was able to get some nice shots just snapping while the car was zipping along the highway.

The windmills were kind of eerie, especially when they seem so out of place, almost surreal, in the farmland
I had never thought corn could be photogenic, but after seeing miles and miles of  robust crops, I had to stop the car on the shoulder to capture some of it

Our first stop was Goderich, which has a farmers' market every Saturday morning.  We were totally bowled over by the town, truly one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, as it claimed.  The Courthouse Square, where the farmers' market is located, is a unique octagonal shape with streets radiating out from it.  It is a hub with unique character, atypical of small Ontario towns. The courhouse (below) was built in art deco design in the 1950's.  Upon checking the history of Goderich, it appeared that John Galt, the man behind the town planning (yes, there was actual town planning!) was inspired by the 1st century Roman architect Vitruvius, who had inspired Renaissance architects and planners all over Europe. No wonder it looked good.

Courthouse Square with the art deco styled Courthouse in the centre
We were in luck - the annual Celtic Arts Festival was in town and with it, scores of international artists, including the group RUNA, Jeremy Kittel and his band and the fabulous Irish traditional group TEADA, among others.  It was our first experience with live Celtic music and we found it really enjoyable, particularly the exciting buildup to the reels.  We heard some outstanding fiddle and guitar playing at the Sunday afternoon concert.

And there was more music when we got to Grand Bend beach!  But Grand Bend was a comedown after Goderich.  It's really a seaside town with the required "strip" of tourist traps - but the clientele was young and there were lots of them - guaranteed success.  But I like the boardwalk and the lighthouse (see picture at the end) and the tourist crowd ensured a range of restaurant choices.  We had an excellent dinner with outstanding service at a restaurant called "F.I.N.E." on Hwy 21 in town.

Grand Bend Beach

St. Christopher's Beach in Goderich is much quieter than the Grand Bend beach.

Two hours to the northeast of Goderich is Owen Sound and just outside of it is Inglis Falls.   It's a pretty fall to look at but also looks like one that's fun but dangerous to climb.  We held our breaths as these two kids and their mother braved the stepped rocks and climbed all the way to the top from the base.  A slight change in the waterflow would have been disastrous - said she of the chicken heart, who opted for safer activity like hiking the Bruce Trail beside the river.

We managed to get our hike in before the rain arrived promptly late in the day as forecasted. And what a storm! Our lakefront cottage was pounded all night by wind and rain.  Having lived in brick or concrete all my life, I have to confess I was a little worried by the flimsiness of the cottage.   While it was fun to watch the rough waters from atop the bluff, I definitely wouldn't want to be in the midst of it.  But it was exciting to capture on camera after the rain.

Perfectly okay snapping away on the Goderich beach, unlike this brave soul who took advantage of the surf to perfect the art of kiteboarding, unfazed by multiple slips into the icy waters

Rainy day activities included the interesting Huron County Museum in Goderich, with its special music collection and collection of farm machinery.  It was here that we learned all about salt mining and the fact that Goderich has the world's largest salt mine under the lake. Who could have guessed that beyond that blue Sifto building at the mouth of the Maitland River, is a salt mine that extends the size of the entire town of Goderich into Lake Huron, and this is only the mined part of the salt deposits which are so extensive under Lake Huron and Lake Erie they could be mined for hundreds of years to come.  A short video in the museum showed us the mine and the mining process.

Huron County Museum, Goderich
A hair perming machine from the first half of the 20th century

Monster machines from the farms
45 minutes to the east is the North Huron Museum in Wingham, Alice Munro's hometown. Needless to say, they have made the most of the Alice Munro celebration, including building an Alice Munro literary garden with a self-guided tour of all the old Alice haunts in Wingham. There is an interesting Barn Dance Museum in the basement of the museum with memorabilia from barn dances and performers from the last century.  

Not to be missed is the Blyth Festival Theatre a few minutes south in Blyth - great Canadian plays all summer, including a very touching one we attended - St. Anne's Reel.  The Queens Bakery across the street from the theatre has the best tea biscuits ever.

North Huron Museum, Wingham

Huron County after the storm
When the sun came back, we were able to do more sightseeing, taking in the spectacular view of the Maitland River from the old CNR trestle bridge, which in itself is quite picturesque.

Old CNR trestle bridge (Menesetung Bridge)

Looking towards the mouth of the river, you can see the Sifto salt mine buildings
A cormorant waiting for some action in the river

Life is never dull in front of the lake - an ever changing sea and an every changing sky...

And ever changing sunsets...

Grand Bend lighthouse

Next post: Lake Huron Sunsets


  1. Testing since Betty said she cannot post, posting as anonymous but really am hg. When I press Publish or Preview, I have to prove I'm not a robot, either use picture or voice numbers. Can you see me now?

    1. Yes, I can see you now. Thanks for testing.