I feel like a school kid let loose with friends on a summer holiday. I’m with fellow writers Judy Ferron and Brenda Tate and we’re headed up to Clare. First stop: The Farmer’s Market at Belliveau Cove. Within minutes I’ve bought two pieces of folk art painted on driftwood from Hika Wagner for the grand sum of $5 each. No, that’s not a typo. Look closer at the photo.
After watching Hika paint an image on a boy’s arm, I sidestep to the next table where I notice lots of items enclosed in plastic bags. A miniature hand-made tea set catches my eye. “How sweet,” says I, thinking this would be great gift for our twin grandkids. “How much?”
“One dollar?” I repeat, certain that this package cannot be only one dollar.
“Yes, one dollar. Everything on this table that’s in bags is only one dollar per bag. My granddaughter is going to England this week so this will help her along.”
“Good Lord,” says I, handing over four quarters. The seller grins, adding, “That’s my name. Jeanne Lord.” We laugh and yak for a bit. I ask for her email as it sounds like she has a house full of stuff (and she’s a potter to boot) so I’m already planning a future visit.
At the next booth, I meet Klaus Heinze who moved here a few years ago after falling in love with the Acadian joie de vivre in the region (in general) and Mi’kmaq/native spirituality (in particular.)
Klaus sells everything from drums and rattles, to drum sticks and clay pipes … and he actually makes some of them.
He’s an affable guy with dancing eyes who loves to talk. I share the story of attending a workshop close by years ago and how I made my own drum. Although the drum is great, the drum stick I made is not, so I spy—and buy—one made by Klaus. Already I’m looking forward to the Blue Moon Drumming session that’s going to be held in the region at the end of this month. So is Klaus.
Eventually I find my friends and we head down the road to Point-a-Major. On the way, we spy a huge abandoned old building which I suspect was a schoolhouse at one time. I so wish we could have found a way inside. We peeked in where we could. (Brenda’s photo). Great setting for a piece of fiction!
Next stop: Major’s Point Historic Site. Here’s the story: in 1755 life became unbearably difficult for the Acadians living in Port Royal. Pierre “Piau” Belliveau escaped in his boat with his family.
They landed on this site, along with over 100 other refugees. The winter was grim and took its toll. It is believed that many died. Their remains are likely resting in this area.
In the spring of 1756, fearing their whereabouts would become known, Pierre and the survivors set sail across the Bay of Fundy, venturing into New Brunswick.
Twelve years later, in 1768, Joseph Dugas and his family returned and settled in Clare. By 1774 there were about 30 families between Saint Bernard and Church Point. This cemetery served the community until 1790.
The chapel that’s here today was built in 1892. I love this spot and have visited often. Another thing I love here are the paths that lead to the ocean (Piau’s trail) and a boardwalk that leads back to Belliveau Cove where the market is located. Someone has a sense of humour as they’ve gussied up a huge piece of driftwood with fishermen’s gloves, jugs and buoys. It looks different every time I visit.
We then moved on to Grosses Coques and a place called The Trail. Well now, I’d read about this on Facebook but had no idea what it was all about. John Browning and Marilyn Ouellette have created something in the bush along the coast is downright magical. The Trail (# 2583, Highway 1) is full of winding paths with approximately 300 buoys of all manner, shapes, sizes, colors that are clustered in themed areas.
Close the entrance, a sign says, “Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is not.”
As we come around a corner in the thicket, I see a tree that’s laced up, down, and around with stones that have holes in them. “It’s said that a stone with a hole through it contains the wisdom of the ages and the soul of the earth. Keeps bad spirits away” John says. Further along we see a Halloween theme here, beach glass hanging from limbs there, while another tree is loaded with bait bags (and a sign that says “Old Bag Hangout.”) On and on it goes.
John and Marilyn had over 300 people visit last year (and this number will likely double this season) yet get this: nothing has ever been stolen or vandalized. In fact, many people leave tokens of appreciation, or bring things to hang in the trees. Neighbour James Comeau even built and installed an outhouse on The Trail, and a giant chair.
Is there a fee to go on The Trail? Nope. Imagine that. But John does like to frame people. Meaning, before you emerge from the woods, he likes to take photos which he then posts on his FB page.)
Here we are, picture-perfect. By the way, John is also an artist, as well as a collector of folk art and native baskets. Could have spent hours visiting, but already we were late for a date at Church Point.
After grabbing some clams and a burger at Chez L’Amie Ice Cream, we meet with Denis Comeau at the visitors’ centre (Rendezvous de la Baie) for a daytime tour of Le Petis Bois.
Heading to the trail’s entrance, we pass in front of the administration building on campus. Denis explained how the university started as Collège Sainte-Anne under the direction of Eudist priests. Although a fire destroyed the college in 1899, everyone rallied to rebuild. It remained under religious governance until 1971 when a layman president was appointed and its name changed to Université Sainte-Anne.
Denis pointed out how it’s also touted as Canada’s greenest university and has some incredible projects on the go. For example, most of its hot water is heated by solar panels and in another year or so, it will be 100% sun-sourced. Fuels for heating are generated by bio-mass, another innovative technology which also creates jobs in the region.
Our walk takes us through Le Petit Bois, a series of criss-crossing paths in what’s referred to as an Acadian forest behind the university and church. Denis says, “Acadian forests are the lungs of North America. They include a variety of trees, shrubs and marshlands, and lots of bird and wildlife activity.”
Currently the paths are kept up thanks to summer students. Depending on what paths you take, you can walk for 15 minutes or two hours.
To think that these paths have been used for well over 100 years gives me goose bumps. And what a thrill to know that Le Petit Bois is open to the public—anytime of the year.
You can get a guided tour for $5 or pick up a map at the visitor’s centre at Rendezvous de la Baie and do a self guided tour.
There are lots of places to sit and take in the view, including a stunning kiosk with benches on the edge of the marsh facing the ocean.
Heads up: I just read a press release outlining funding for a major project which will include an observatory for astronomical observation and sightseeing, camping facilities, and trail signage. Whoop!
Another amazing piece and fantastic photos. I want to go there! The NS Dept of Tourism should hire you!
Yes, NS Tourism could get some mileage out of these! Would love to be on their payroll. Hmmm. Hope someone is paying attention. haha.