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Grant’s Woods – a place of solace for over 100 years

A photo of the Grant's Woods property circa 1933

I am constantly amazed by Grant’s Woods. Every day the forest transforms before my eyes and I see new species of birds and learn about different plants that grow throughout the forest.

For the first time this year, the Couchiching Conservancy is holding a Corn Roast in the Woods, which will take place at Grant’s Woods. Thanks in part to the passion and dedication of the Grant family, the 52 acres of old growth forest outside of Orillia is a safe haven for nature. This property, like many of the properties that are protected by the Conservancy, has an interesting history.

The story of the Grant family dates back about 100 years. Lewis and Daisy Grant moved from England to Toronto in the early 1950s and had three boys and a daughter. They moved to Orillia and bought the rural property in 1909 as a summer cottage and eventually moved in full-time. The land was originally a working farm, so there was a farm house built where the parking lot is today. The Grant family had a strong connection to the forest and acted as guardians of the land. Through their ownership of the property, there was little impact on the forest and as a result some of the trees are over 200 years old.

The family kept apart from the neighbours and were regarded as eccentric. The were very cultured, with a wide range of interests such as languages and arts. They were also film makers and documented days playing in the water at Couchiching Park, and having picnics in the woods. These home movies were restored and turned into a series of DVDs that are now available at the Orillia Museum of Art & History.

There are many remnants of the farm that can still be seen today, such as the Fargo truck which is located just after the bridge on the Trillium trail. It was used by the Grant family and acts as a reminder of the work that they did on the land. Another telling sign are the flowers and plants that grow near the parking lot – lilies, raspberry bushes and lupins – which would have all been planted by Daisy Grant and still grow every year.

As time passed, the property was passed onto the Grant brothers, Bill and Jack. In 2002, after Jack passed away, Bill contacted the Couchiching Conservancy and donated the property. Bill was concerned about what would happen to the forest as he was no longer able to care for it himself. After extensive renovations, the home that Bill and Jack spent many years in was converted into the office of the Conservancy, which was opened in 2004.

The donation by Bill Grant is having a lasting impact on the landscape of Orillia, and for generations to come, families will be able to enjoy the forest. His gift will keep giving. If this donation had not happened, it’s hard to say would have happened to Grant’s Woods.

Today, visitors come to enjoy the peaceful trails of Grant’s Woods year round. It’s fun to see small children running around the gazebo, dogs taking in all of the smells in the air and the many visitors that are captivated by the forest. School groups come to explore to woods regularly and are bursting with questions about the many things they see and sounds they hear.

For years, the Grant family acted as stewards for the forest. You can help to help to be a caretaker for this forest as well. On September 12, we are celebrating this property and raising funds to continue our conservation efforts. Join us for the Corn Roast in the Woods, and you can help to protect this special forest. Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased through the Conservancy or at the Bird House Nature Company. Please contact the office for more information or visit our website – 705-326-1620 or www.couchichingconserv.ca.

Tanya Clark is the Development Coordinator at The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust which protects ecologically sensitive land in the Orillia region for future generations. For more information, go to www.couchichingconserv.ca.