Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Vantreight Park and Ferndale Forest

Parking:on Vantreight Dr.
Crushed gravel trails are wheelchair accessible
Dogs: permitted off leash (dogs mush be on-leash in the upper playground area)

Gordon Head is steeped in agricultural history, and parks such as Vantreight park are reminders of the many homesteading families that farmed the land in this part of the city in the early days of Victoria.

We spend a lot of time at Vantreight Park, as it is just down the hill from us and on the regular dog-walk route. It is also part of a set of interconnected greenspaces throughout Gordon Head, where one can walk partly through trails and partly through lower-traffic neigbourhoods, right from Arbutus Cove, through to Glencoe Cove, to Vantreight Park, to Margaret's Bay and on towards Mount Doug Park.


In 1884, John Vantreight purchased a fair chunk of Gordon Head - a farm stretching inland from the bluff of Glencove Cove (also called Deadman's Cliff, or North Bay) - as far inland as Tyndall Road behind the large family home that still stands today.
Vantreight Farm at North Bay circa 1890, Saanich Archives

Through the years, this property has gone through a few bouts of development, and during the subdivision of what is now Leyns Road, this piece of parkland was deeded to the municipality.

Through the 1970's and 1980's it contained some playground equipment - swings, and teeter totters - and had baseball diamonds set up where a local baseball league practiced.  As the neighbourhood evolved, baseball was moved to Lambrick Park and Majestic Park, and the diamonds removed leaving the large level field on the lower level of the park.

Park highlights

Today, the park has new playground equipment installed at the upper level, and has a few strategically placed trees and a picnic table.  It remains a popular gathering spot for larger parties looking for a quiet picnic spot, or families looking for a space to kick the soccer ball around.

The lower field is a popular off-leash space for neighbourhood dog owners looking for a place for their pooches to stretch their legs and play.  During warm summer evenings, you can hear bats flitting about, and see swallows swooping and diving across the field, and occasionally see the eagles that nest further down the beach at Margaret's Bay.

Beyond the playground on the upper level of the park, there is a stretch of small forested area, containing Douglas Fir and other native species.  There have been a few fir seedlings planted in this area, to replace a few larger, older trees that have gone down in recent windstorms.  Across Vantreight Road, you step into the more heavily forested area known now as Ferndale Forest.

A few years ago, the municipality created a wheelchair-accessible pathway on one side of Vantreight Park, leading past the playground and onto Leyns Road at the other end. This has become a popular walking route in the neighbourhood year-round.

Kimiko loves to birdwatch in the forest
The Forest portion of this park is currently undergoing rehabilitation and re-wilding.  Volunteer crews working with Saanich Parks staff, are spending time pulling ivy and other invasive species in order to allow the native understory plants to re-establish themselves.  As you walk through the forest, despite the strangling influence of the ivy, you can still see thimbleberries, chokecherries, red huckleberries, wild rose, salmonberries, spirea, trailing blackberries, salal and the occasional saskatoon bush. Expect to see these burgeoning in the next 1-2 years as the volunteer crews work their way through this stretch.

Saanich Parks info on Vantreight Park
History of land ownership in Gordon Head, Saanich Archives http://www.saanich.ca/discover/artsheritagearc/heritage/pdf/ttwalkingtourweb.pdf

All images © 2014 Janice Mansfield