Searching for Spring at Cawthra Estate
Words and Photography by Ann Ivy Male
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”― Margaret Atwood,Bluebeard’s Egg
It’s no secret that we have just emerged from one of the longest and coldest winters in years. But now, it appears that even spring is taking its sweet time. Not to worry though, in Mississauga, spring has indeed arrived—you just have to know where to look for it. A few days ago, I decided to dust off the rain boots and head to Cawthra Estate to see if the trilliums were in bloom. Cawthra Estate’s entranceway is south of the QEW at 1507 Cawthra Rd., but once you park the car and start walking along the trail, you quickly forget that a highway of speeding cars and trucks is just meters away.
The 27-acre property, also known as “Lotten,” is named after its location back in the early 1800’s—Lot 10. It is now owned by the city of Mississauga for public use and the house can be booked, through the city, for small functions.
The original owner, Joseph Cawthra, had the house designed to match his former home in Yorkshire, England and it was important to him that the grounds and gardens were created to reflect a natural charm. The city now maintains the grounds as an “Environmentally Significant Woodland.”
As soon as I started walking along the trail, it didn’t take me long to find early signs of spring. Many of the young trees had buds leafing out and new shoots of life were poking through the dark, decaying leaves of years past. The forest was covered with white trilliums and every now and then I’d find the odd red one. Native plants such as Mayapple, wild ivy and trout lily grace the forest floor, however as delicate and vibrant as they were, there was also an eerie sense of loss and destruction surrounding the grounds.
In my search for spring, it saddened me to see that the once dense canopy from the ash trees found in Cawthra forest is now under attack by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). If you live in Mississauga, you are most likely very familiar with this infestation. Many of our residential and wooded areas including Rattray Marsh, Huron Park and Grand Park Woods are severely under attack. The insect with its emerald green hue is a native of East Asia and is believed to have been brought over to North America in packing crates. It has been spreading at a vigorous rate since its arrival to Mississauga in 2008. For now, local and provincial forestry services have an overwhelming task of clearing dead trees and treating healthy ones with a natural insecticide called TreeAzin.
As I continued my walk along the pathways, signs of life and decay were all around me and it struck me that nature certainly is remarkable. It is giving us humans warning signs to slow down our need for mass consumption. Whether we choose to hear it, is another story. In our quest for cheaper goods we have imported a huge monetary expense and environmental threat in the form of the EAB. It is estimated that Canadian municipalities will face billions of dollars in expenses over the next 30 years to deal with this infestation.
On a more positive note however, I did discover that the forest is starting to thrive again with new saplings growing. The trees in the forest are falling and nature is listening, in spite of it all, it keeps showering us with its beauty and renewal—we just have to get our boots dirty and venture out in search of it.
1507 Cawthra Road