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Guelph Matters

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I stopped the car and backed up. There was a beautiful old home in the foreground, and in the back a former mill which is now a residence.

Countryside jaunts uncover old haunts

One of our guilty pleasures is going for Sunday drives, as they were once known. Crazy as we are, we sometimes take Sunday drives on Saturdays. They’re mostly spring and fall jaunts where we enjoy the beautiful countryside surrounding Guelph.
For the sake of the environment, I suppose I could don spandex, strap on a space-age helmet and bicycle about our highways and byways. Two problems.
First, hunched over a bicycle bucking serious winds and rolling hills and dales does not strike me as fun. Second, me in spandex? I shudder to think.
So, we pile into the car and head for the hills. There is no destination. Therein lies part of the pleasure. You never know where you will end up or what you will see. We’ve explored all directions and discover something new every trip.
We’ve been known to inadvertently retrace our old steps, but many of the sights always seem almost new depending on the time of year.
Our most recent wonderful moment was ambling down the Third Line north of Guelph. The head navigator tells me to keep my eyes on the road. (Apparently I have a tendency to drive in the direction in which I am looking, which I am told is not a good thing.)
Anyway, eyes on the road, I was visually struck by a lush greeness to my right. I stopped the car and backed up. There was a beautiful old home in the foreground, and in the back a former mill which is now a residence.
The homeowner, who was doing yard work, told me that the area used to be a thriving tiny community unto itself called Birge Mills. If we looked hard enough we could find foundations of former buildings.
Today it is being called a ghost town. According to, except for a post office the former hamlet had all the amenities of the times, including a blacksmith, tinsmith repair shop, shoemaker and such.  “Over time, a small hamlet that included a number of small workers’ cottages began to grow,” says the website.
There was also a school in the area and two churches that are still places of worship – Barrie Hill Church and Speedside Church.
So there you have it. Who knew about Birge Mills? Certainly not us. And to think such yarns are all around us in these rural settings.
Such are our road trips. You never know what you might happen across. Even if there is nothing, there’s still the beautiful rolling countryside.
I am a sucker for spring drives, because the sights and sounds offer such hope and promises. Fall treks are equally beautiful in their own forlorn way.
I do feel a tad guilty motoring about, consuming expensive fossil fuels.  However, I did say it’s a guilty pleasure.
I rationalize such jaunts by telling myself that they aren’t frequent. All of which makes them rare treats that are truly relished.

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