poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘old road

tough to follow

with 6 comments

In high school, in Nova Scotia, I belonged to a history club.  We did an interesting project in about 1971, tracing the route of an old stagecoach trail through the woods between Lower Sackville and Fall River.  We were able to follow the road since it had been raised above wet ground.  We also found old culverts still intact.  One of the things we made was a relief map of the area, with the hills built up in plaster and the old road marked in red.  The project created, for me, a lifelong interest in old roads.

old trail obscured by a Bracken understory


tough to follow


the old road at the edge

of the hill is tough to follow

no clues, no footprints, no bent twigs


eventually all familiar ways

grow over


a layer of bracken

covers the track

like a cloth over biscuits

at the dinner table


primo-canes of bramble

claw you back

your mother reminding you

to wear your sweater


better to look up

follow  the ribbon of sky

marked by the absence of branches



Published as ‘tough to follow’, Canadian Stories 15 (85), June 2012

Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

November 9, 2012 at 7:00 am

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

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