July 23, 2008

A View from the Top

As published in The Erin Advocate

Lilly and I enjoy hiking to a place where you can see Erin village in all its splendour.
Have you been up the Water Tower Hill lately? Have you ever?

You don’t have to be a mountaineer to make the climb. Anyone in good physical condition can get to the summit with minimal huffing and puffing.

It’s well worth the effort, providing a break from the everyday ground-level views of the town. The panorama is spectacular, especially if you take the time to observe the details of what lies before you.

There’s a steep path near the end of William Street, but the easiest route is the gravel road to the water tower, accessed via March Street, just across from the Coffee Time parking lot on Main Street. If you look in the long grass at the base, you’ll see a long-forgotten, fallen-down sign that reads “Erin Girl Guides of Canada”.

This start of the Height of Land Trail is not very scenic. On a recent walk I noticed an old couch, a folding chair, a raincoat, a farm gate, pieces of kid’s wagon and a Halloween mask that had been discarded there. But take heart – the trail further up is quite clean.

The landmark water tower is quite imposing when you get up to its base. From this spot, there’s still not much of a view, due to the tall trees, but as you take the trail north, the vista opens up.

It’s the green that really hits you – looking down on hundreds of thousands of trees, in so many textures and shades of green. It is positively Irish.

Looking towards Guelph, you see farm fields, silos and woodlands, with the shadows of clouds scudding across the scenery. There are the back yards of new homes with their trampolines and play centres.

East across the village, many streets are not visible due to the foliage, but there are the churches raising their steeples towards heaven. Other landmarks stand out, such as the red and green Leitch Fuels barn, and the 158-year-old Erin Grist Mill building nearby.

Farther north are the fair grounds and the open water areas created by the damming of the West Credit River. Out beyond the village, the two gravel pit areas are small enough that they do not ruin the rolling landscape view.

Continuing north, there is a path down to Charles Street, then some steep climbs. When you come to the highest point of the ridge, you look down on surprisingly flat fields to the west, then some even higher hills to the north-west. If you look back south, you’ll see that you are at eye level with the top of the water tower.

From this point you can descend through a long, sloping meadow, and come back into the village on Church Street. If you walk further, past the village landfill site that was closed a few years ago, you’ll see golden fields in the distance, contrasted with trees on their borders, as you look towards Hillsburgh.

Lilly doesn’t care much for the view, as far as I know. She prefers chasing dragonflies and sniffing in the bushes, as hound dogs are wont to do.

The sounds of wind and chirping birds in the trees is constant, with occasional hawks and red-winged blackbirds swooping by.

The wide array of wildflowers would alone make the trek worthwhile. There are patches of clover, punctuated with Tiger Lillies and Queen Ann’s Lace. It looks like there will be a healthy crop of wild raspberries this year.

The most striking floral expanses are created by a profusion of bright, yellow Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, and a scattering of Bird Vetch, a flower with small purple petals that hang on one side of the stem.

So get out and enjoy your trail – it provides a fresh perspective on the town.

It could even become a tourist attraction.

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