poetry and prose about place

snippets of landscape – evidence of old roads

with 20 comments

This week, we drove to the south-west corner of the province and spent a little time at the Ganong Nature and Marine Park, at Todd’s Point near St. Stephen.  The area is managed by the Quoddy Futures Foundation and is the former property of Eleanor and Whidden Ganong (Whidden Ganong was President of the Ganong Bros. candy factory in St. Stephen).  The property is beautiful and good for the soul.  We walked through the fields, identified wildflowers, listened to the birdsong, and were returned to a simpler time.

The fields along the path were yellow with Buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) and the largest population of Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus Crista-galli L.) I have ever seen.  The flowers of the Yellow Rattle were bright yellow, but the inflated calyx was tinged with red, giving the field a stippled glow (for more information on Yellow Rattle, see my post for August 3, 2011, ‘along the country road #1’ ).

Yellow Rattle among the field flowers… the fused sepals are tinged and veined with red

The Buttercups were everywhere, but concentrated in certain areas of the field.  One area in particular seemed to mark the path of an abandoned road.  The Buttercups have found some aspect of the old road to their liking.  Perhaps the soil is compacted and they have a competitive ‘edge’ on the other plants.  Perhaps the hidden track provides some alteration in the water regime or a place where certain types of seeds concentrate as they are dispersed.  Perhaps there are subtle differences in the soil chemistry.

an abandoned track marked in Buttercups… the red tint in the foreground is from the reddish coloration of the Yellow Rattle

Years ago, I visited a property where the roadway to a back field was clearly marked with Bluets (Houstonia caerulea L.).  The owner of the property said he thought they grew there because he always took his lime in an open cart back to his fields, and enough had spilled to make the way especially attractive to the Bluets.

Perhaps you will have a look in your landscape for wildflower clues to past activities.



Invitation to Tea


in the afternoon,

I huddle over tea

and watch

the road


an old road,

rarely used –

walks scarcely part

the tangle of fern


I scan the woods,

I love the look

of ancient trunk

and horizontal green


and always,

in the corner of my eye,

the road


overgrown –

a narrow course of saplings


the sameness

of maturity


I watch



but the road is abandoned –

cart-tracks worn

to rivulets,

culverts buried

by fallen leaves,

rusted oil tins,

depressions in the mould



©  Jane Tims  2012

20 Responses

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  1. Just found this post. This is fascinating – I shall take more note on my next walk. Love the poem too.



    July 18, 2012 at 5:55 am

  2. Never even thought or considered that paths or ancient activity could be marked out like this – it’s incredibly poetic – I’ve only noticed the dull dry grass where paths used to be…



    June 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

  3. Very cool that the buttercups seem to trace a road! Things change, in surprisingly short periods of time.


    Watching Seasons

    June 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    • Hi. I am going to see if I can find other examples of vegetation tracing out the patterns of human existence. Jane


      jane tims

      June 19, 2012 at 10:34 pm

  4. I too am called to old roads. Love the buttercup image. such abundance. Lovely work.



    June 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    • Hi. When I was in High school, one of my teachers had us research the location and find an old abandoned stage-coach route. I loved the project and I have loved abandoned roads ever since. Jane


      jane tims

      June 19, 2012 at 6:43 am

  5. Thank you for this new insight, Jane. I had never thought about concentrations of wildflowers as being clues to past human (or other) activity. I’ll carry that new viewpoint with me from now on. And lovely poem.


    Jane Fritz

    June 17, 2012 at 8:43 am

    • Hi Jane. Thanks! Just one more way to look at our ‘natural’ world! Jane


      jane tims

      June 18, 2012 at 7:21 am

  6. Great images and poem Jane, loved the post.



    June 17, 2012 at 4:40 am

  7. On our outing last Saturday the path to the cabin was marked with wild strawberries! It was curious how they grew only in the path creating a center isle.



    June 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    • Hi. I think there are lots of examples out there! Thanks for this example… a tasty one later in the year…. Jane


      jane tims

      June 16, 2012 at 5:54 pm

  8. I love it! The plants keep telling stories, long after the original action has ceased. Wonderful!



    June 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    • Hi. It’s what you tell us all the time with your stories about the weeds! I think the concept extends a long way into the past… I know they use aerial photos in archaeology to see what past is revealed by the landscape. Jane.


      jane tims

      June 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      • Thank you Jane. Our world is certainly so fascinating! I’m glad we can see at least a portion of the wonders.



        June 18, 2012 at 1:28 am

      • Hi. As you have pointed out, those weeds are wonderful!!! Jane


        jane tims

        June 18, 2012 at 7:24 am

  9. Lovely poem and images, Jane. I wondered about the reddish glow in the fields when we were driving through the provinces. And the buttercups! They seem to be having a good year everywhere. I haven’t paid attention enough to see if there are patterns to their growth. I will do that now. Thank you. 🙂



    June 16, 2012 at 7:31 am

    • Hi Robin. I am so glad you were able to see New Brunswick first-hand!!! Jane


      jane tims

      June 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

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