Crothers Woods. It’s just around the corner. But until Leaside Life asked me to write about it, I had no idea what, or where, it was. But once I had discovered it, I realized why it had never been on my radar.
There are no flashy signs directing people to it, it’s not a place where massive public events are held, and no one I know ever talks about it (and, if I do say so myself, I know quite a few people). But now that I’ve experienced the woods, I get it. Frankly, I’m not that eager to talk about it either. But alas, I must. And for you who spend time there, I apologize. Your little secret is about to be exposed.
Crothers Woods is 128 acres of urban paradise with a fascinating history. The woods are named after George Crothers, who until 1979 operated Crothers Caterpillar, a heavy equipment dealership, on the land on which the Redway Loblaws now stands. While there are no clearly defined boundaries, the woods basically run from Redway in the north to Pottery Road in the south, and from the Bayview Extension in the west to the Millwood Bridge in the east.
The most commonly used entrance is from the back of the Redway Loblaws parking lot. Other entrances include a parking lot on Pottery Road just east of the Bayview Extension and on the extension itself just south of Nesbitt. There is also an almost-hidden set of 194 stairs just feet from the intersection of Millwood and Redway.
Crothers Woods is a place where runners, walkers, hikers, and cyclists have access to approximately 10 km of dirt and gravel trails set among woodland, meadows, and wetland.
In the northwest corner of the woods sits the Sun Valley Trail, named for the Sun Brick Company, which operated on the land from the early 1900s until 1939. The land was then used as a landfill until 1965, and was subsequently covered with top soil. The land has now reverted to a beautiful forest.
Directly south of Sun Valley sits Cottonwood Flats, home in the early 1800s to a mill, then to an insulation factory, and a site for the city to dump snow until 2009. The site is now home to a songbird meadow, a one-acre fenced-in area used to attract and provide natural habitat to the almost 30 species of birds found in the woods.
Crothers Woods has been designated an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) because of its rare and extensive variety of flora and fauna.
With their challenging trails, the woods are hugely popular with mountain bikers. Alex Legum, a mountain bike instructor who has ridden the trails for many years and who works as a volunteer with trail upkeep, advises that both those on foot and on wheels be extra alert. Thanks to the twisting trails, cyclists can appear with very little notice. Legum suggests that walkers not use headphones and that those with dogs keep them on leash.
My tips after exploring the woods? Strap on a backpack and bring along water, sunscreen, bug spray, and your phone. There are no signposts to direct your travels. So, when you come to two roads diverging in the woods and you are as directionally-challenged as I am, don’t necessarily take the one less travelled. Don’t be ashamed to pull out your GPS. If it means you end up in the flats, down by the Don River, or in a wooded oasis, it’s more than worth it.