An Earth-Lover’s Haven

By Margaret Swaine | @globaltaster


I love to tell visitors about Toronto’s truly walkable ravine network that winds its way through the heart of the city. The pathways through woodlands, by flowing streams and nature’s wild flora are a haven for both wildlife and humans alike. When the noise and bustle of a megalopolis gets too much and a drive to cottage country isn’t in the plans, a short walk from a subway stop can put you into a protected forest. People bike, walk their dogs, jog and hike the ravine pathways breathing in the fresh air and serenity. The City of Toronto publishes brochures on self-guided Discovery Walks. The one that covers the central ravines, Belt Line and gardens is a marvelous 11 kilometre, three hour, hike that starts at the Eglinton West subway station, goes through the Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the Don Valley Brick Works with a suggested end at the St. Clair subway.

Just behind where I live in south Rosedale is Milkman’s Lane, a wide gravel surface trail near the entrance to Craigleigh Gardens Park. It’s a well marked and tended path that connects to the Don Valley trail network and the Don Valley Brick Works. It takes me only about a 15 minutes walk to get to the Brick Works. (At its peak more than 43 million bricks a year were manufactured for use in the construction of homes and buildings across Canada.) This former quarry and brick plant was converted into a year-round community environmental centre, now known as the Evergreen Brick Works. In 2010, it was named one of the top 10 geotourism destinations in the world by National Geographic.

There so much to do here. There are wonderful meandering pathways through the 100 year-old clay and shale quarry, a16.5-hectare (40-acre) area that has been transformed into a thriving green space with board walks, ponds and wild flower meadows. You can take tours of the former brick factory, a 52,000-square-foot area with the three long tunnel kilns and six single-track drying tunnels. The Kilns building is also home to the Holcim Gallery where large art installations are displayed. Koerner Gardens is a huge native plant demonstration area, with an ice skating trail in the winter.

After a good walk, I like to award myself with a drink and meal at Cafe Belong. The cocktails are delicious and the dishes focus on local, organic, sustainable and ocean wise. I love their lobster salad and bricklayers board of house cured meats.

The Brick Works now has a year round indoor Farmers’ Market on Saturdays but I always just can’t wait until spring when the full summer market opens under the roofed (but not walled) Pavilions (Saturdays May 4 to November 2, 2013). Anywhere from 65 to 85 terrific local organic producers show up with their fresh picked harvest, meats, fish, baked goods and cheeses. The atmosphere is fantastic with live music and the bustle of a friendly crowd. You can eat-while-you-stroll crisp salads, irresistible fries, Mexican-style spiced cocoa drinks, crepes fresh off the grill, breakfast burritos and more. When I’m in town this is my favourite Saturday morning destination.

About the Author

Margaret Swaine has toured the globe many times over as a travel journalist and feature writer. She pens the weekly food travel column “Forks & the Road” for the National Post newspaper, the bi-monthly “Global Gourmet” column for and the monthly spa column “Paradise Home & Away” for Best Health magazine. She is a principal critic and partner with WineAlign and writes their monthly blog on spirits.