Southwold Earthworks near St. Thomas, Ontario, is a strange serene off-the-beaten path locale you’ll likely have all to yourself if you can find it.
Completely enclosed by a fence, it’s also an ideal dog park.
But don’t tell Parks Canada I said that.
Southwold Earthworks is a free Parks Canada National Historic Site located along Iona Road in Elgin County, Ontario about 20 minutes south of Highway 401. We discovered it on our way back from a weekend in Point Pelee National Park right at the point my dog Victor needed a run.
A little terrier dude can only spend so much time in the car. Plus, he loves history – or the smell of it.
At Southwold Earthworks, history smells about 500 years old. That’s old in Canada, a country celebrating its 150 anniversary this year.
A green Parks Canada sign marks the entrance to the site, and about three side-of-the-road parking spots indicate you can stop here. Behind the historic entrance way plaque, a long grassy fenced walk (great for dogs) flanked by a ravine on one side and a farmer’s field on the other eventually opens up to a circular fenced park.
Gnarly photographic old growth trees provide shade. Picnic tables and metal educational plaques dot the area. (Note: Porta-Potties are the only facilities).
An oval of double grass-covered mounds of earth make this site significant: these mounds were once the base of double palisade walls surrounding a village of about 800 Attiwandaron First Nations people, later called the Neutral Iroquois, who lived here pre-European contact sometime between 1500-1650.
Archaeologists suggest about 18 longhouses existed within these fortified walls and a small stream ran through the village. There’s no evidence the strength of the walls were tested by attack, nor that these people ever met European settlers.
Victor runs the circumference of the oval sniffing through the grass. The site demands a circular meditative walk visualizing a village of many people crowded into this dense forest clearing unaware of how history will eventually unfold. It would be three hundred and fifty years before someone named this land Canada.
Why an oval? Symbolically circular shapes are universal and sacred representations of the universe’s infinite power. Practically, this might have been the easiest way to enclosed the village and keep out potential threats and invaders. Whatever the reason, little beats the serenity of having a quiet wooded enclosure all to yourself and your dog.
And today’s rustic fencing enclosing the entire site sure helps too (even if dogs are supposed to be leashed). Next time, we’ll bring a picnic.
Want to know more about National Parks of Canada sites? Check out National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of Canada (available on Amazon – affiliate link) – a highly recommended book.
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