While figuring out where we should enjoy our family hike today I came across one named “Fairfield Museum and Tecumseh Monument Trail”. As I read that this trail is the only part of the Trans Canada Trail that is directly connected to the War of 1812 I knew it would be a great day to explore this hidden gem.
I will be the first to admit that both my husband and I are history ‘geeks’. We both got our B.Ed in History and well, we have a cat named Napoleon, another named Trudeau, and our dog is named Mackenzie (after Mackenzie-King). I would be lying if I told you our three year old didn’t know who some of the Prime Ministers are and where they are from. We just love history and are only too happy to have it go on to the next generation.
The history of Chatham-Kent is something that I am getting more and more interested in. My interest started when I learned some surprising historical facts about Chatham while I was in school that other friends from here also did not know about. The most shocking part to me was that it was not while I lived in Chatham-Kent when I learned these facts, but was at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo during a Canadian history course. I felt cheated out of not knowing our own history at home, so since that moment I have tried to pay more attention to our local history.
This segment of the Trans Canada Trail is on Longwoods Road between Thamesville and Bothwell. The trailhead is at the Fairfield Museum. I will also admit that we may have driven by the trailhead four and a half times. To the man that was working at the museum I am sure we amused and confused you. While the museum is very nicely located on the Thames River, and there are plaques and signs all around we finally realized that you aren’t able to see the trailhead until you actually get out of the car, thus our drive by’s.
There is plenty of parking here and as we packed our boys in the wagon we were off! Before you get to the start of the trail you are welcomed with a replicated house of the 1812 era and told of the settlement of Fairfield that lived on this land. There were even markers in the ground with names on them which showed where the residents specifically had a house before it was burned down by the Americans during the War of 1812. I thought this part was so neat. Such a way to personalize history and become suddenly attached to a person you never knew existed until that moment. As we headed to start the actual trail we came to the quick realization that this trail is not at all wagon appropriate. It is barely walking appropriate, but we decided to give it a go with each of us carrying a boy.
While it goes down into a heavily treed area along the river the steps are rather dangerous as the wood is falling apart. The trail itself had beautiful views of the river. The sun highlighted the beauty all around us as it shone through the greenery of trees, and flowers. However, it also highlighted the fact that this trail had not been cleared in a very long time. There were branches, and tree trunks we had to try and move around as well as just the usual tall plants and sticks in the midst of the trail. Now, this wouldn’t be so much a problem if we didn’t have the boys with us, but as we did it made it very hard to walk through.
|What blocked our path|
We didn’t get too far in (maybe 10 minutes or so) the trail as it was blocked off by a giant tree that had fallen over and there was no way we would be able to go around it, especially with the boys.
The three year old was quite happy to turn back around on the trail as it meant we got to go by his favourite part- the mud patches. Now these mud patches are by no means the trails fault just the beauty of nature and how it has a great way to make people laugh. My boys thought it was hilarious to see their Dad stuck in the mud. Not just a bit stuck, but a good few inches deep stuck. I was no help as I held the one year old while holding back my laughter while watching my husband holding the three year old trying his best to get unstuck. I am sure the fact I stopped to take a picture instead of stopping to help only highlights how supportive of a wife I can be at times like these.
On our way back up to where we left the wagon we braved the wooden stairs once again and headed to the car. Once again I would like to say to the gentleman working at the museum that we did notice that you opened the museum and we would have loved to go inside however, we were covered with mud and figured you would not want to clean up after us- sorry, definitely another time though!
As we headed back towards Thamesville we stopped at the Tecumseh Monument. There is no actual nature trail here but I would highly recommend it to travellers passing by that need to stretch their legs, or that have a few extra minutes they can add on to their drive. Here you can either stay in your car and drive down a dead end road while reading the many beautiful new signs about the history of the War of 1812 in the area, or better yet, you can get out and walk and read them. There is plenty of space for kids or pets to run and for a picnic. Much like the Fairfield Museum Trail it is a beautiful location just full of history.
I suppose this is where my dilemma is. For such a trail at Fairfield Museum that is in not only a historical location but a beautiful one I was so very disappointed in the trail itself. I am so glad we came and saw the grounds at Fairfeild and highly recommend to everyone to take a few minutes to look around at the history that surrounds us. But at the same time, I am so saddened that what could be a spectacular nature trail is not kept up and looked after. I could honestly say this spot would be an easy favourite of mine if the time and money would be able to go into it that it needs. Perhaps there is a plan to upgrade it that I am unaware of but with so much emphasis at the moment in Chatham-Kent about the anniversary of the War of 1812, I just can’t understand why this trail is in the condition it is in. We should be promoting it as the only direct connection to 1812 battles along the Trans Canada Trail so everyone can walk in the same paths as those that lived and fought there 200 years ago. I’m sure even 200 years ago they had to carry their kids in the mud.