Searching for Spring at Cawthra Estate – Mississauga Life

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.


Cawthra Estate 
1507 Cawthra Road


Seasons of Change – Kariya Park (MIssissauga Life)

Seasons of Change: Kariya Park

Kariya Park winter AIM pic2

Words and photography by Ann Ivy Male

“In the woods in a winter afternoon one will see as readily the origin of the stained glass window, with which Gothic cathedrals are adorned, in the colors of the western sky seen through the bare and crossing branches of the forest.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reflecting upon my visit to Mississauga’s Kariya Park in the spring of last year, I remember the pale pink petals dropping from the cherry trees, filling the air like the delicate snowflakes of winter.

And speaking of winter, it certainly has been a challenging one thus far. The polar vortex continues to bring frigid temperatures and the now-infamous ice storm of December caused power outages and tremendous damage to our city’s trees. Nevertheless, if you take these inconvenient realities out of our Canadian winter and come to appreciate the sheer beauty of this season, then you might revel in the calm, serene surroundings that Kariya Park has to offer.

With this in mind, I bundled up and went back to the park to capture its splendour, now blanketed under snow and ice. It was evident to me that Emerson was so insightful with his descriptive words of winter being a “stained glass window” on the sky. The snow on the ponds, pathways and bridges was the perfect backdrop for the shadows cast by “the bare and crossing branches of the forest.”

There was noticeable damage to the trees but no doubt with time, nature will put the pieces back together. Kariya Park was quiet, almost lonely—a far cry from that spring day with families walking along the paths, taking pictures and feeding the ducks. I must admit though, it felt good to walk around in solitude knowing with certainty that in a few short months, the snow in the form of cherry blossoms will return once again. If you are looking for an outing this winter, dress warm, grab a tea or hot chocolate and head to Kariya Park to experience our city’s natural “stained glass.”

Check out Ann’s winter/spring Kariya Park photos below!

Kariya Park winter AIM pic1

Kariya Park winter AIM pic3

Kariya Park winter AIM pic4

Kariya Park winter AIM pic5

Kariya Park winter AIM pic6

Kariya Park winter AIM pic7

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Kariya Park

A Japanese Garden in the Heart of Mississauga

  • Words and photography by Ann Ivy Male


Spring is upon us and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom at Kariya Park—a Japanese-styled garden inspired by Mississauga’s twin city, Kariya, in Japan. When you walk through the garden gates of this beautiful park, you forget where you really are: it’s rush hour, and Square One’s parking lot is full, cars and buses along Burnhamthorpe are speeding by and the “Marilyn” buildings stand tall in the distance. However, inside the park the only sounds you will hear are those of a gentle water feature, mallards splashing in the pond and children laughing under the pale pink cherry trees.


Kariya Park, which officially opened on July 7, 1992, was a collaborative project dedicated to preserving a kindred relationship between the two cities. Both cities shared landscape design ideas in constructing the park, and in 2001, Mississauga Park opened in Kariya, Japan to commemorate the twin cities’ 20-year relationship. In Mississauga Park, a 7.5-acre area,  you will find elements representing both Mississauga and Canada featuring “a large metal maple leaf sculpture, a log cabin constructed washroom, eight rocks with Canadian native petroglyphs, a replica of Mississauga’s Civic Centre and a sculpture of a bear in a canoe called The Water Road.


In contrast to this, back in Kariya Park, a stone tsukabai basin, hand-carved by sculptor Fumio Naito, is used for cleansing your hands. A variety of specific Japanese-inspired foundation plants and trees are spread throughout the park including Redbud, Sweetgum, Ginkgo, Tree Peonies, Katsura and Japanese maple. Later in the season, a display of Kariya’s official city flower—the delicate lavender-hued Iris Laevigata or rabbit-ear iris—will be one of the first sights greeting visitors as they enter via the gatehouse on Kariya Drive. Any budding Van Gogh would be inspired to bring along a canvas and paint to capture this beauty.


Another feature to look out for in the park is the Friendship Bell: a bronze bell hanging in the pagoda, with images of iris flowers around the perimeter and an inscription reading “By welcoming the new century, this bell is produced as a symbol of everlasting friendship between the City of Mississauga and the City of Kariya.” The bell, which was cast in Japan, is rung on ceremonial occasions. Also found on the bell and around the park is a symbol of a wild goose (Kari) about to take flight and a figure 8 (Ya).



Now, a Japanese Garden would not be complete without a Zen Garden—a place to encourage inner peace, reflection and tranquility—and you will find this garden just beside the main pagoda. The pebbles in this rectangular space are raked into patterns and glisten when the sun shines on them: I cannot think of a more serene place to sit and drown out the bustle of the city in the background.


Mississauga never ceases to amaze me. Who knew that in the heart of this vibrant city, you can escape in seconds and be transported to Kariya, Japan and experience its natural beauty through this symbolic expression Kariya Park offers to us all.

To view pictures of Mississauga Park in Kariya, Japan, visit:

Kariya Park is open to the public seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., through the entrance on Kariya Drive just off of Burnhamthorpe Road east of the Mississauga Civic Centre.

For more information on Kariya Park, contact Parks Operations at 905-615-4100.

A Sweet March Break at the Sugar Shack


sugar shack 1 (crop)

Words and photos by Ann Ivy Male

As many families get back into the groove after March Break, it’s good to know that in Mississauga, things are just gearing up at local farms, conservation areas, the Bradley Museum and other places, all for the production of one of the sweetest treats nature gives to us: maple syrup.

For my family, March Break would not have been complete without a visit to the Sugar Shack at the Jack Smythe Field Centre—a good friend (Marc) is an instructor there and he encouraged us to visit. It’s run under the Peel District School Board and is only open to the public during March Break, but it serves kindergarten to Grade 12 throughout the school year. The Jack Smythe Field Centre offers a variety of outdoor education programs such as: tree, bird, insect and stream studies; orienteering; snowshoeing through the forest and maple syrup making.

ann with chickadeeIt was a balmy –8°C when we visited last week. We were greeted by Marc and he pointed us in the right direction towards the Sugar Shack. We enjoyed a walk on the trail and passed the chickadee stand where the small birds will literally eat out of your hand (if you’re patient). The kids peeked into the shiny tin buckets on the trees which were already filling up with sap. We eventually arrived at three distinct demonstration areas.

The Legend of Maple Syrup
Our first stop was a traditional First Nations tepee found nestled amongst the trees. We stepped in and met Catherine, who happened to be tending to a small fire inside the structure. The interior of the tepee was warm and cosy, set up with straw bales for seating. There was a hollowed-out log filled with sap, simmering from the hot rocks placed inside the log—this is how the First Nations originally made their syrup.

tepeeLegend has it that Iroquois Chief Woksis and his wife, out of happenstance, discovered the sweet secret inside the maple tree. Every evening, after hunting, the chief would throw his tomahawk into a tree.

One morning, his wife came across a birch bark vessel that she used to collect water for cooking. The vessel was left beneath one of those trees—a maple tree—and the gash left behind from the tomahawk made the perfect spout for the sap to flow out of the tree and into the vessel.

That evening, Chief Woksis was overjoyed with the taste of the sweet stew his wife prepared for them, and he asked why it tasted so special. She told him that she hadn’t done anything different and she simply used the water he collected for her. The chief stated that he forgot to collect water that morning and soon they both realized that the “sweet water” came out of the maple tree. Today, thanks to this fortunate discovery, we continue to enjoy this magical maple treat.

sugar shack 5 - The Pioneer Station with Marc (crop)Pioneer Station
The next area was the Pioneer Station. The tripod structure was built with logs and ropes to hold a large cast-iron kettle. Marc explained that the early settlers learned so much from the First Nations about how to tap trees, collect the sap, and boil it down using traditional methods. In time, the Europeans took it a step further to produce larger quantities of syrup. The iron kettle held about 60 liters of sap and boils away over an open fire. If left long enough to boil, the water content would eventually evaporate and what’s left is concentrated maple sugar—an essential commodity for the early settlers.

Did you know that it takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of pure maple syrup? Maple syrup is one of Canada’s most valuable natural resources: it’s full of nutrients and antioxidants, and it tastes amazing! We also rank number one in the world when it comes to producing and exporting the amber-coloured liquid.

Inside the Sugar Shack
Our final demonstration area was the Sugar Shack itself and things were really steaming inside! We sat up on benches overlooking the large stainless steel evaporator. Sarah, our instructor, said that on some days, it’s so foggy inside that it makes for the perfect “maple steam facial.”

She goes on to explain the process of how modern-day maple producers have honed their craft. “Today, trees are still manually tapped using spiles (the metal spouts inserted into the trees) and buckets, but many producers also use blue tap lines to extract the sap more quickly and efficiently.” Once a large quantity of sap is collected in holding tanks, it’s then poured into the industrial evaporator to cook. Finally, it flows into finishing pans for the producer to determine the grade and quality of the maple syrup.

sugar shack 7 - The industrial evaporator inside the Sugar ShackSarah was kind enough to let us sample some of the sweet, sticky syrup after the presentation. So tasty! She also informed us that the ideal temperature for sap to flow from trees is –5°C at night and 5°C during the daytime, which means that as our days get warmer into spring, the birds will be chirping loudly and the sap will be flowing abundantly!

I explored the Jack Smythe Field Centre with my kids, and for a few moments I felt like a kid again myself, back at school on an awesome field trip!

With this in mind, why not venture out this spring with your family and enjoy one of the many events offered around Mississauga and the local maple syrup festivals yet to come?

Jack Smythe Field Centre
14592 Winston Churchill Blvd.

^ Instructors Rob and Sarah

sugar shack 3 - Jack Smythe Field Centre (crop)


Mississauga Life – Spirit of the City