I don’t know if Toronto was always a densely packed urban jungle, or if that is the influence of residential construction and condo living in recent years.
But when compared to cities like Sydney and San Francisco, I’ve noticed how thick the urbanisation is in Toronto. The condo skyline reminds me of New York’s, and the constant state of construction is something that all visitors to this city comment on.
So how does a city balance a growing population, with providing adequate housing close to downtown (because let’s face it, a long commute is not worth the price of a large house with a backyard when you already spend 10 to 15 hours a day in the office), and with beautifying the urban landscape?
As mentioned in Art & About in Toronto, there are significant community benefits in beautifying a city – both to tourism and to the inhabitants’ well-being.
Another way to do this is by revitalising discarded or unused ex industrial areas, such as the old brickworks in Toronto.
I’d been bemoaning my Spring rain induced cabin fever – at least when it was minus 30 degrees, I could hike in the snow and stay dry. The ever patient North Nomad found a cluster of rain free days, and searched for an urban hike we could do while our truck was out of commission in the ‘burbs. By his calculations, the Evergreen Brickworks was a 26 kilometre ‘round trip from our condo on the harbourfront.
On this occasion, North Nomad had been doing long work hours with an Australian client, so we cheated and caught the subway from Union Station to Rosedale Station, so that it was approximately 13 kilometres walking to the Brickworks from Rosedale, and then hiking down past the Don Valley River to the harbourfront.
The cheat paid off: not only did our limbs thank us for it, but the scenery along the walk from Rosedale to the Brickworks is beautiful, even in the post apocalyptic grimness of Spring in Toronto.
The Park Drive Reservation Lands is home to a decent urban forest hike along a small river that eventually runs in to the Don Valley River, and takes you along Bayview Road to the Brickworks. The path was popular with bike riders, children sans parents playing and riding, couples on a stroll, and people with their dogs. Though it sounds heavily populated, the walk is so sprawling that we felt to have the parklands much to ourselves right to the point where we pop out at the brickworks.
The Evergreen Brickworks is located right on the Don Valley River in Toronto, and was used as a brick site and industrial quarry for nearly 100 years – from 1889 until the 1980s when most of the usable shale and clay had been quarried. Bricks from this quarry were used in the construction of some of Toronto’s most famous architectural landmarks, including Casa Loma, Osgoode Hall, Massey Hall, and the Ontario Legislature.
The Brickworks also serves many social functions for the community.
It’s popular with hikers like us Nomads. It’s popular with serious lycra clad cyclists. It’s also a great spot for families with small children to play (as we spotted a small child yelling at his father “that’s not FAIR, you’re not ALLOWED to hide there, that’s against the RULES!” Said father was highly amused at his young one’s outburst at his superior hide and go seek skills.).
And it’s a great place for hipsters, hippies, and health food junkies who want to frequent the farmer’s markets that are a regular Sunday institution at the brickworks. There’s also a café which was open even on our visit on Easter Sunday.
The walk back to the harbourfront along the Don Valley is always interesting. I like watching the change in the neighbourhoods from affluent to somewhat dodgy, and then back to urban density.
Do you have any urban hikes that you enjoy? Or revitalised parts of old industrial areas that make y our city beautiful?
Location: Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada M4W 3X8
Getting there: Catch the subway from Union Station to Rosedale Station, or there is a shuttle to and from Broadview Station. If you’re driving, it’s very easy to get to Bayview Avenue, it’s just off the Don Valley Parkway.
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica over at Google+.