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Looking Back, Looking Down


 McMaster West Campus Parking formerly Coldspring Valley

Royal Botanical Gardens
Gardens’ Bulletin
Vol. XIII, Number III, June 1959

COLDSPRING VALLEY


The people of Hamilton and District have become particularly conscious of helicopters since the recent initiation of scheduled commercial service between Hamilton and Toronto. One of the special attributes is its ability to hover. Let us use this talent through our imagination and hover 5000 feet altitude above an area just to the west of McMaster University. From this height Coldspring Valley looks like a green broadloom carpet with a few moth holes here and there. To the north and south the multicolour roofs of the residential districts of University Gardens and West Hamilton create their pattern. At the western edge of the carpet the green scar of the Ontario Hydro tower line, and to the east the double contoured ribbon of Highway 102 [Cootes Drive] are clearly defined.

Following along on our fanciful flight and reducing our elevation to 1000 feet, we find that the valley is not really as flat as expected, rather it is a wide ravine rising from the level bottom land to the plateau above in steep wooded bluffs. The waters of the stream can be seen glistening through the foliage and we can trace its meandering course through the flats which Coldspring Creek has built over the years by erosion and deposition within this Valley. Now let us disembark and explore on foot.

Travelling along the banks of the stream, it is not surprising to find Willow and Elm growing thickly; it is a location which they find suitable for development. Their size is impressive and the observation that there is some order to their arrangement suggests that many of the gigantic Willows were planted in avenues by the former occupants of the land, the Binkley family. On the dryer parts of the bottomland adjacent to the stream grow Walnuts, Butternuts, Manitoba Maples and a limited number of other trees like Ash and Hickory, but the Black Willow is the dominant plant of the scene. It has been previously mentioned that the bluffs frame the Valley floor. This is the domain of many hardwoods including Oak, Maple, Black Cherry, Beech and Ash. Also here we find Hemlock and Pine. The Pines grow on the drier upper slopes while the Hemlocks like, or at least tolerate, the wetter land at the junction of the flats and the slopes.

The Gardens’ portion of Coldspring Valley is for the most part forest-clad, and very dense at that; but the moth-holes in the carpet represent openings in the trees where shrubs and herbaceous plants find sufficient sunshine to grow luxuriously. Wild Grape, Meadow Rue, Sweet Rocket, Dock, Touch-Me-Not, and Wild Raspberries are a few of the plants growing in these open areas. We may take for granted that the Valley is beautiful and provides many interesting experiences, however, due to the density of the vegetation and the wet conditions prevailing in some areas, trails had to be built to make the land more accessible.


A full description of the trails will follow in future bulletins which will give detailed information. For the present we will consider them generally giving the names and some characteristics of each trail. Erigan Trail, named after an old river which used to flow hereabouts in ancient times, passes though an open area on which a considerable number of shrubs, valuable as winter bird food have been established. Coldspring Path follows the Creek rather closely and passes through a magnificent stand of Ostrich Fern. Transvalley Trail runs north and south from Coldspring Creek to the slopes of the Valley. It passes through Black Willow giants and has at its southern end a huge American Beech scarred by many generations of initials carved into its smooth grey bark. Rim Circuit, as the name implies, runs around the edge of a flat topped hill. The north slope of this hill is clothed in Hemlocks which stand out, especially in spring and fall.

We have been introduced to the Valley by air; it is more practical, however, to consider the terrestrial entrances. These are at the north end of Thorndale Crescent, and at Lakelet Avenue running off Binkley Crescent markers have been erected at these entrances, parking at curbside. We hope that there will be as much enthusiasm for these new trails as there is for those in Hendrie Valley.

W.J. Lamoureux
Conservationist

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