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Stratford Walk 2: history and houses

Like my Stratford Walk 1: the lake, this walk begins at the County Court House. It was built in the Queen Anne Revival style in the late 1880s. The same architect was responsible for the nearby Stratford Jail — or Gaol, as it appears on the building itself.

Still serving its original purpose as a jail.

Between the court house and river lie the Shakespearean Gardens (I posted about them here). The gardens are dominated by the chimney of a mill destroyed by fire in 1910; the ornate chimney top is a giant bird house with 24 dwellings (“des res” indeed!). In the background is the spire of St Joseph’s church across the river.

St Joseph’s church and Dufton Mill chimney.

Still on the theme of tall pointy buildings, this is the City Hall peeking above the trees. Doesn’t it just radiate civic pride?

This is Stratford’s second City Hall, built in 1900. The first ws destroyed by fire.

The street in front of the court house and gardens leads to the Huron Street bridge (the feature image at top), which is the only double-arched aqueduct road bridge in North America still used for vehicle traffic. It gives a good view west along the river to part of the Shakespearean Gardens and an island linked with a bridge.

Turn west once you’ve crossed the bridge and meander along the bank for a different view of the Gardens.

Shakespearean Gardens

Farther along the river, a rail bridge appears between trees. “CN” stands for Canadian National [Railways].

“CN” is easier to see in the reflection.

Turn around and come back east, passing the stone bridge. From the river bank you can see the island bridge framed by an arch of the stone bridge.

Wander a bit farther and you’ll come to this white pergola at the west end of Lake Victoria (the lake was created by damming the river). The first pergola on this site was built in the early 1930s, and was swept away in 1937 when the Avon and Thames Rivers flooded. I think this one was built as recently as 2010.

Just past the pergola you can glimpse a sign telling you the lake path is “unavailable” at this point.

You are not welcome beyond this point.

Near the pergola is this plaque detailing the history of the city.

Much younger than its namesake in England, but with a solid Canadian history.

Time to cross the river again, past the court house and down the residential streets. It may seem strange to find a railway running behind the houses, but as you read in the founding plaque, the railways played an important part in Stratford’s economy and growth. They are less prominent now but you can still hear the long echoing note of an engine’s horn as the trains wind their ways past houses and across streets. I always get the train between Toronto and Stratford.

You’d never know this was the middle of a city of 30,000 people.

I have always loved old houses. To me, they have so much more character and charm than modern buildings. The notable houses in streets to the southwest of the court house were built in the second half of the 1800s, in a range of styles such as Queen Anne, Italianate, Gothic — even Ontario and something called Neo‐Classical Salt Box House. I followed two self-guided walks downloaded from the city’s tourism website (the source of my descriptions), and stood in front of houses trying to spot details such as “bay window with a neo‐classical pediment on the porch” and “stained glass transom window and sandstone lintels”, bargeboards and corbels and pilasters. Many of these beautiful houses are designated Heritage Homes.

Verandahs are a common feature, and these ones all look like lovely spots to while away an hour or two.


Doors and gateways offer glimpses of hidden gardens.

Statues are popular.

The sad-looking building below is known locally as the White House. In my younger years it was rundown and faded yet nonetheless retained traces of its former glory. Then a few years ago when I visited I was amazed to find it restored and gorgeous, operating as possibly a B&B. According to the walk notes, “Built in 1866 as a Regency Cottage; the second storey was added, as was the large portico, by the Walsh family. It remained in the family for several generations and was recently restored.” The text must date from the few years the building enjoyed its restoration, because it looks pretty grim right now.

A beautiful building in desperate need of love.

This Gothic triple‐gabled house (now a duplex) is clearly loved and well cared for. It dates to 1867.

And finally, an 1892 Queen Anne building made in buff brick.

No ice cream to finish off this walk, I’m afraid!

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Stratford Walk 1: the lake

Perth County Court House in Stratford

The walk begins at the Perth County Court House in Stratford

Are you confused? Do these photos look nothing like the Stratford you know, that lovely medieval English market town that gave the world William Shakespeare? That’s because this Stratford — and this Avon River — are in Canada, 130 km (80 miles) west of Toronto. And it also has a strong Shakespeare connection, which we’ll get to.

From the court house, the path around the lake is about 5km. I like to do this walk when I visit Stratford. My maternal grandparents moved to the town in the 1970s, and my parents in the 1990s, so I’ve made quite a few visits since I was a teenager.

This is a pretty, leafy, landscaped walk with not a hill in sight.

If you don’t fancy walking, there are watery alternatives.

Art in the Park has been a feature for years.

Amusing garbage cans, though I’m confused by the bee theme.

This lovely bridge has been the spot for many, many photos over the years.

Approaching the bridge

Looking back at the bridge

Here is the Shakespeare connection I mentioned. In the early 1950s, Stratford local Tom Patterson drove the establishment of a theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare. On July 13, 1953, English actor Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival, a production of Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York.” For the first four seasons, performances took place in a concrete amphitheatre covered by a giant canvas tent on the banks of the River Avon. The permanent theatre that followed (photo below) deliberately echoed the look of a tent. (source)

The Festival Theatre

The festival now runs from April to October and in addition to Shakespeare it presents a variety of theatre including musicals and contemporary drama, in four theatres. (My mother and I saw “The Music Man” in August last year, when I took these photos.) Famous actors who appeared at Stratford include Maggie Smith (1976 to 1980) and William Shatner (seasons 2, 3 and 4). (This short interview with Shatner has some interesting photos of the festival’s early days).

This statue of Shakespeare is in the garden behind the theatre.

Back to the path now. Near the theatre is where you’ll find the largest numbers of swans and geese. They definitely have right of way.

At the east end of the lake you can look back to see the spire of the court house over the trees.

Time to cross over and head back on the other side. There are some inviting spots here for just sitting and watching the world or having a picnic.

This is the path opposite the theatre.

William Hutt was described as “Canada’s great classical actor” when he died in 2007. I remember seeing him as Falstaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor, 40 years ago. (I can’t believe I’m old enough to say that, but according to a review in the NY Times it was indeed 1978.) That’s more of the court house peeping over the trees, and you can see a number of bright orange pedalos on the lake by the shore (something else I remember from 40 years ago!).

At this point, you must walk across the bridge because the path that continues around the west end of the lake has been closed.

Here you can see why it’s “unavailable”: rich people not wanting riff raff walking in front of their houses. I certainly remember walking there in the past. Time for some “reclaim the ancient rights of way!” agitation by the people, I think!

I know Jo likes cake at the end of her walks, but as much as I like cake I do gravitate towards ice cream after a walk. 😉

Stratford Walk 2: history and houses” is now live.

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Framed

I like the way a window’s frame lends mystery to an image: this is what you see, no more. The frame is a boundary beyond which lies the unknown, or at least the unseen. These are my entries for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Window.

Key window, Chinese Garden, Sydney.

Key window, Chinese Garden, Sydney.

One open shutter, Tordi Gar, India.

One open shutter, Tordi Gar, India.

Near Stratford on Avon.

Near Stratford on Avon.

Through a porthole, Galapagos Islands.

Through a porthole, Galapagos Islands.

Santa Catalina convent, Aerquipa, Peru.

Santa Catalina convent, Aerquipa, Peru.

A champagne winery near Reims, France.

A champagne winery near Reims, France.

Me watching the setting sun colour the Opera House, Sydney.

Me watching the setting sun colour the Opera House, Sydney.

You can’t get there from here

This post is my first entry in Cee’s Which Way Challenge — and, sneakily, it’s also my second entry in Travel Photos Monday. Two challenges for the price of one! All the photos are of signposts I came across while ‘rambling’ — a delightful English word for putting on walking boots and getting close to nature.

The Cotswold Way: quintessential English countryside.

The Cotswold Way: quintessential English countryside.

Coming down from Beachy Head, on the way back to Eastbourne in the distance.

Coming down from Beachy Head, on the way back to Eastbourne in the distance.

The 'Lost' Gardens of Heligan: not so lost any more!

The ‘Lost’ Gardens of Heligan: not so lost any more!

A lock near Stratford-upon-Avon. I was living in London at the time, and the train took a lot less than the 85 hours this sign says it would take by canal boat!

A lock near Stratford-upon-Avon. I was living in London at the time, and the train took a lot less than the 85 hours this sign says it would take by canal boat!