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Outdoor spaces you’ve never been

Photo of a path in a forest
Image Credit: FSU Publications Department

London is known as the Forest City for a reason. Before roadways and residential buildings, this area used to be home to a vast sea of forests, valleys, wetlands, and more. While our urban city continues to grow, there are still a variety of green locations left to visit, some more well known than others. With natural beauty waiting, it’s time to find the best this city has to offer!

Kilally Meadows

A multiplex of habitats. From woods to meadows, to swamps, Kilally Meadows is a naturalist’s dream. Rich in diverse wildlife, look for Belted Kingfishers by the water, Midland Painted Turtles basking in the sunshine down by the river, and beaver dams farther downstream along the Meander Creek. Complete with 10.3km of managed trails, this network of paths is located between Adelaide Street and Highbury Avenue.

“Many species of wildlife, especially birds, call this valley home, including Mallard ducks and Belted Kingfishers.”

Sifton Bog

Not as well known and located in the city’s west end, the 41.6-hectare Sifton Bog is home to a boreal swamp and Carolinian forest. With 2.8km of trails, and a newly refurbished 370m long boardwalk, the Sifton Bog has been a site of “fascination and controversy” since its “discovery” by local naturalists in the 1870s. Archaeological remnants found that the bog was once used by Indigenous peoples for food, materials, medicine, and hunting grounds. Later, in the 20th century, Black Spruce trees were sold for the Christmas season. Just off Oxford Street West, past Hyde Park Road is where this acid peat bog resides.

Lower Dingman

While still within city limits, Lower Dingman covers 20 hectares of publicly-owned lands in southwest London. Complete with 1.6km of flat, managed trails, the sections are said to offer “picturesque views” of Dingman Creek. Back in 2005, the City of London and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) removed the Alsop’s Dam to improve water quality and fish habitat. Supporting a variety of warm water fish species, including minnows, sunfish, and bass, the trail is also home to Red-spotted Newts and Bald Eagles. Don’t let the name fool you, a ride down Deadman’s Road, east of Westdel Bourne, is where you’ll find the access point for the trail.

Longwoods Road Conservation Area

Just 30 minutes west of London, in the Mount Brydges area, are 63 hectares (155 acres) of Carolinian forests, wetlands, and Caradoc sand plains all combining to make the Longwoods Road Conservation Area. 10km of available hiking and cross-country ski trails, bridges and boardwalks are also available on the grounds. Mixing educational opportunities within the beautiful surroundings is the Ska-Nah-doht Village and Museum. The longhouse village represents Haudenosaunee life 1,000 years ago. Complete with artifact and conservation displays, there is also a spot for bird and wildlife watching in and amongst three group camping areas. With pavilion and picnic spots available, it’s one of the many great places around London to get lost in nature.

Medway Valley Heritage Forest

More on the educational side of things is this forest terrain near the Museum of Ontario Archeology. For anyone looking for a solid workout, this path is rolling with several steep climbs in 10.9km of trails that overlook Medway Creek. Many species of wildlife, especially birds, call this valley home, including Mallard ducks and Belted Kingfishers. More than 43 species of fish have also been discovered within the creek. For easy access, start at University Hospital, by Western University, head to towards the end of Windermere Road.

Westminster Ponds/Pond Mills

About 60 per cent of all plant species known to Middlesex County can be found here. It holds five large kettle ponds, including a beaver pond surrounded by a mix of lowland and upland habitats. The kettle ponds were created 13,000 years ago when large portions of ice were left behind by retreating glaciers. These ponds now hold a diversity of habitats with over 200 recorded species of birds, including Great Horned Owls. European farmers first settled in this area along Commissioners Road in 1810. However, various archaeological digs discovered artifacts from First Nations campsites dating back 4,500 years ago. With 11km of managed trails, and 200 hectares of land, these ponds mark the largest Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) in London. Commissioners Road East, near Victoria Hospital, is where you’ll find the access point to the trails.

This is just a taste of what our Forest City has to offer. Hopefully you’ll keep this list in mind when thinking about hiking a scenic trail or taking a woodland adventure. Nature’s calling here in London, and it’s time to stretch out our legs and get ready to explore.