Geolocating Myself In The Landscape of Grand-Pré

In keeping with my less thinking and more making goal for Making Learning Connected this year, I woke up and saw it wasn’t raining, so I hopped on my bike and off I rode to take some pictures of the Landscape of Grand-Pré for the sixth make cycle of #clmooc this year which is to GeoLocate Your Space. I’m also letting go of my need to do things sequentially and jumping in since I figured I’d be racing the rain and get some exercise too. The US National Park Service is facilitating this final cycle, and while I’m not in the US, in Canada we have Parks Canada and I’m lucky to also live in a province that has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (and I’ve visited all three).

This morning I went for a bike ride around one of my favourite areas which happens to intersect with the UNESCO World Heritage Site Landscape of Grand-Pré. Rich in history, the first people of the area, the Mi’ kmaq, settled here for over 4000 years, established trade routes and used the fish, fowl, and medicinal plants to survive and thrive. French settlers reclaimed farmland from the sea with a series of dykes built in the 17th century. The settlers called the region (which encompasses the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) Acadia and they became known as Acadians and traded and lived with the Mi’kmaq people.

The building of the dykes and the draining of the land used an ingenious low-tech solution with the tides (which are the highest in the world) draining the land. A simple wooden valve would let water drain out at low tide and would close as the tide rose. Around Grand-Pré this resulted in over 1,300 hectares of farmland that is still used today. By 1755 the area was under control by England and most of the Acadians (over 14,000 people) were expelled and lost their homes and land. The British resettled the land with New England Planters began farming on the fertile land and maintained and expanded the system of dykes.

One of my favourite bike rides goes through the dykelands which are still active farmlands with cows, fields of corn, and other things grown there. This morning I took a shorter and more direct route, pausing first at one of the new signs for the Landscape of Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage site and then going to the view park (which has a webcam which I didn’t realize until later and then saw myself when I rewound it!). One of the best parts of living in the Annapolis Valley is the way that the geography is clearly visible. When I start out on a bike ride from the Ridge Road I can see where I’ll be going further down. In the distance I can see other places where I’ve been as well. When you’re in the Valley you can look up and see landmarks on the mountains around too, so it’s fairly easy to figure out where you are.

Most of the time while riding my bike the focus is on moving. I love it when I take a long ride and my feet never touch the ground, but that means I may not pause and just see things as I pass them by. So this morning as part of this challenge for #clmooc I slowed down a little bit (while keeping my eyes on the rain-filled clouds in the sky). After surveying the dykelands from the view park I went down to the Grand-Pré National Historic Site interpretation centre (which wasn’t open yet as I was early) and took a few pictures there (and practiced a bit of my French with a tourist from New Brunswick who was also early). Then I biked along the side of the Historic Site on the road which leads to the dykes (which isn’t technically a trail, but lots of people bike and walk dogs there).

I stopped and took some pictures of the cows in the field there and they looked at me. Then I continued down the road and saw a deer carefully watching me further down the road. As I approached the deer slipped into the bushes and I saw a squirrel scurry across the road as well. Then the road winds through a cornfield on one side and a field lying fallow on the other. Then you meet the dyke wall and while I usually just continue along the road, today I rode up onto the dyke to take some pictures there. It’s beautiful seeing the ocean and Blomidon in the distance with the grass growing tall along the top of the dykes (and the root system is an important part of solidifying the dykes as well).

Continuing back on the road I paused again when I could see the town of Wolfville in the distance with the buildings of Acadia University above the trees that are all through the town. The final leg of the journey was along the trail beside the abandoned railway line, beside the town library which is in the old train station, and then onto the street and up the hill to my house. A lovely, leisurely ride exploring my town with some fresher eyes on a cloudy morning

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