Now from our perch on the historical hillside, we lookout in the direction of the Grand River with views uninterrupted. Langdon Hall was envisioned in the 1890’s, just as the country houses built during the Guided Age along the Hudson River had been in New York. Through the awakening woods is a remarkable prospect that can be best seen at this time of year, the season between winter and spring, with an openness that comes with clear conditions. Hikers can seek shelter from the spring winds by entering the shadows that filter over the White Trail, which temps them downwards on the hillside’s slopes. There in the woods, we find another world.
The woodland world is damp and cool, but on a blustery day when the wind is caught in the high branches you are sheltered in the world below. The tall trees run in the hollows or along the levelled landscapes and down the stream that traverses through the hillside to the valley below, their influence is profound. Moss grows green on tree roots, bird tunes long to be identified, below wildflowers and following ferns push upward after the skunk cabbage leaves are unfurled in the damp grounds.
In April wild garlic pushes up through the leafmould, tiny green spears quickly unfurling to bask, shiny in the spring sunlight – daring to be foraged. Further along, pockets of miniature wildflowers white like a snow patch appear before the tiger lilies, May-apples, jack-in-the-pulpits and trilliums. Then with a little luck, wild morels might be spotted enticing you to enjoy them with the first fresh asparagus in butter!
Life starts early in the woods on the hillside, as “it needs to in order to steal a step before the canopy of leaves closes over and plunges the woodlands into darkness for the summer.” Deer trails mark desired lines into new wood greenery, wild sorrel, shade and security. Watching growth come to life in the woodlands is done today as it has over 100 years when Eugene Langdon Wilks envisioned building his summer home on the hill.
In the 1800’s settlers to Blair clear cut the woodland easily and unceremoniously, where it leaned over the hillside onto the pastures and fields along the Grand River. Shelter, food and cattle were the most important considerations. RARE Charitable Research Reserve has started to re-wild the pastures and fields below over the last decade along the river landscapes where Homer Watson painted living in Doon around the turn of the century. In 1898, Eugene Langdon Wilks chose originally to site Langdon Hall atop the hillside with the desire of the same view bordering on the Grand.
As the spring transforms into summer, the gaps will fill in through the woodlands and the long views will slowly disappear. This woodland world will grow just as seasons before. Looking forward to sharing soon.
Mary Beaton & Bill Bennett