At Home, Part One: Sunday Morning Walk I

The Labour Day long weekend gave the chance to get back to Southern Harbour for a few days. My family re-settled there in 1966 from Red Island, Placentia Bay (but we never accepted the government buyout so that means we still have claim to our part of that place). I lived there from 1966 until 1992 (that’s cheating a bit since it includes the period from 1978 to 1983 when I was really in full-time attendance at Memorial U in St. John’s). I taught in the k-12 school system there (now sadly closed, due to dwindling enrollment) from 1983 to 1992 but moved away in ’92 when I was seconded to the DOE, a position from which I recently retired.

No matter, it is still what I think of as home.

Sunday morning was calm and warm; an ideal time for a quiet walk. The first stop would be the headland near the point of the harbour. To get there you have to walk to the dugout at the end of the old abandoned ball field. Just behind it is a bog. This time of the year it’s particularly lush and beautiful.

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Bogs like this one are common in Newfoundland. The spongy peat beneath the vegetation holds water for a long time and it soaks through shoes so you have to be careful where you put your feet. In August bakeeapples are abundant. Blueberries are almost ripe and, soon, so, too will be the partridgeberries.

Luckily there’s a path across the bog that leads up the hill.

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The Β wind here keeps the trees small. They are hardy, though and just bend with the gale…like the people.

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A short boardwalk takes you over the next bog but at the end of it you’re on your own–too steep for a proper path. Just watch where you put your feet…always good advice.

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Rocky and weathered at the top. No trees here…

sep1-2013-05…but you know you’re by no means the first to step foot on the rock. A survey marker, one of around 6100 in the province, sits near the highest point.sep1-2013-06

Not a bad view, especially this morning.

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Looking East, some of the community is visible, although most of it is built down close to the harbour and is obstructed by the hills. The community centre is closest, just left of centre. To the right of it is the foundation–what’s left of it–of the former Our Saviour King Academy where I started my teaching career in 1983. It was closed in 1997 when school services for five local communities was consolidated into nearby Arnold’s Cove.

Maybe this is a pilgrimage…

I know…things change and we must move on. That does not stop me from casting a sad glance at the spot every time I pass the old school’s location. Every school day for nine years that was my place, my calling. Even more poignant today…

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Turning to the South-East you can see the headland at the point of the harbour. The inlet that just starts at the far left leads to LaManche (not to be confused with the community by the same name located south of St. John’s). LaManche has a shaft mine that produced lead as well as copper, silver and zinc, even some gold, from around 1860-1950. There’s still lots of ore there but lead is no longer a commodity so the community and mine sit abandoned.

The fishermen knew about the lead deposit for centuries and went there through the channel (“La Manche” means “the channel”) to get the lead ore, Galena, which they would smelt themselves to make weights for their gear. My father-in-law told me that his great-grandfather sold the rights to it for a sack of flour and a pair of hard leather boots…

…which he had to walk to Placentia (50 km distant) to retrieve himself.

To the right you can see Placentia Bay and resettled Long Island (“Isle Longue”). My ancestral home, Red Island (“Isle Rouge”), also resettled, is hidden behind the headland. The French inhabited those islands–indeed, the whole bay–from the early 1500’s until 1713. Before that, who knows? There are known archaeological remnants…and many more to be found.

Everything changes….

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Looking Northwest you can see, besides my shadow, the head of Placentia Bay. Almost dead centre, Bordeaux Island divides Arnold’s Cove from Come By Chance. The French called this place “Baie de Carinole.” If you click the image and look closely at the right you will see Arnold’s Cove and, way back, some of the stacks from the Refinery. The Whiffen Head trans-shipment facility for Grand Banks Crude is just to the right of Bordeaux.

The refinery has quite a past. For a time it was the biggest bankruptcy in Canadian History. That was then. Presently it blends awful sour crude (often Russian Residual Crap) with some light sweet crude and makes excellent quality gas, much of which is sold in California because it meets their stringent standards. It changed.

The light, sweet crude from the Grand Banks is transported and temporarily stored at the Whiffen head facility, from which it is sold on the world market.

Over the hills at the far right is the Bull Arm construction facility. It’s presently a fabrication site for the Hebron rig and was where the Hiberna Production Platform was assembled.

Lots of activity and decent jobs, everywhere you look.

Up here, though, it’s just the view, Β and the sweet smell of Newfoundland Summer; a magical blend of conifers, herbs and berries from the bog and, always, the scent of the salt water.

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The walk is not finished. Time to go down by the shore…

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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22 Responses to At Home, Part One: Sunday Morning Walk I

  1. t says:

    I love the pictures you paint with your writing as well as the photographs you captured during your walk. There’s a place in Scotland, the Culag Woods at Lochinver, where you can walk past a bog, up through some woods to a point where the trees get stunted then all but disappear. At the top you can look out over the bay and down to Whiteshore beach. I’ve spent a good deal of time in the Culag Woods and at Whiteshore beach. Your walk brought that place back to me and it has a very special significance. Here’s an idea of what it’s like there http://www.panoramio.com/photo/11654363, quite similar to Southern Harbour. I think they’re both beautiful.

    • WOW–that could be the back beach in Southern Harbour. Newfoundland and Scotland are very similar in a lot of ways. There’s almost a one-to-one match between parts of both places. Like the Scots we, too, are a hardy, decent people…until we get pissed off, that is, at which point…look out! πŸ™‚

  2. Mary says:

    Poignant pictures and writing. Enjoyed viewing and reading very much – went on that pilgrimage with you mentally (But don’t think I ever took that actual walk when I lived there) -Is it is a walk heading out from the school area – not the ‘mash’ behind our house? Yes , it much have been cause for a lot of reflection this Labour Day weekend to walk nearby where you first started your teaching career just as you end that particular chapter.
    Interesting commentary on change also – so much has changed since I was last there!
    Beautiful descriptions of the conifer and berry scent of a Nfld. summer!!

  3. Thanks for the tour of your beautiful backyard. You’ve done this before … posted maritime views that make feel quite land-locked. I must be synesthetic, for reading your words and viewing the pictures brought the smell of salt air to me – isn’t that weird? Your home reminds me of a place from long ago in my history, called Star Island. It’s in the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine (down south in your view) – and where I met Joanna. Thanks for making it possible for me to smell the smells and recall the thoughts. D

    • My pleasure! I’m glad the post evoked a few good memories–they are the best gift life leaves us with πŸ™‚ Maine is not so very different from Newfoundland. The cold Labrador Current (which is half of the reason why we are colder than our European Latitude equivalents) washes past us and dissipates in and around the gulf of Maine. Cold waters mean good fishing! Maine fisherman have often used Newfoundland waters in search of bait. Maine winters are just like the ones in Newfoundland too.

  4. Thanks for the pictures and the writing. Newfoundland is gorgeous.

  5. jennypellett says:

    I love these walking travelogues you do. It looks so calm and peaceful – a place for contemplation, I would say. I could sit there for hours looking out to sea. What are the temperatures like there at this time of year?

    • It was around 20 that day–maybe just a few degrees above ‘average.’ Weather this time of the year tends to be good as long as we don’t get tropical cyclones…which we do. They tend to move north and dissipate over us, blowing a fine gale while dumping all that lovely tropical water all over us!
      Ahhhh but fall is coming…my favourite!

  6. elkement says:

    I love the way you combine these images, your feelings about the scenery with some snippets of history!! I do indulge in nostalgic walks like this at times – so I can relate a lot.
    Do you sometimes realize that you live in an awesome region that most (city) people just see during vacation? I am in a similar position so I could relate to this, too πŸ™‚

  7. Jane Fritz says:

    This is a very special post, Maurice. I agree with everything everyone else has said. In addition, you have reminded us of how our worlds are in continual change. If I read this correctly, in your generation alone you have seen the closing of the outports and then the loss of a community school to dwindling population. In rural NB people are fighting like mad to keep schools open with insufficient numbers of children, but the handwriting is on the wall. And once the community school is gone it’s hard to imagine the community doing anything but shrinking. There’s a lot of social history in your narrative. I’m looking forward to the next part of your walk!

    • Thanks, Jane. You are completely right. It is a sad day, indeed, for any community when the school is closed. Like you said–it is the heart of the community and when it is gone people wonder why, exactly they should remain.
      But we are resilient and we do find ways to work through the problems that are thrown at us…if we take the time to act through our love.

  8. Mjollnir says:

    Nice to see a bit more of your backyard Maurice and I like the wee bit of history and background stuff thrown in too. Lovely place πŸ˜€

  9. Thank you for taking us on this beautiful tour! In addition to the great images your narrative gave the context, both historical and personal. Truly enjoyed reading it – and now look forward to reading the 2nd installment!

  10. It is a stunning view I enjoyed the read and the beautiful pictures too, reminding me to just to stop and breathe in that salty air goodness.

  11. John P. Hickey says:

    I enjoy reading your stories and seeing the pictures of the places I spent time at while growing up in Southern Harbour. I visit the town when I’m back in Newfoundland and thanks to your pictures I get to visit some of the places I haven’t been in years.

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