Saturday, March 19, 2011

More on Mud lake and the Britannia Conservation Area

On Thursday I went to Mud Lake and the Britannia Conservation Area, just west of the Kitchissippi neighbourhood in old Britannia Village.  I posted

It was beautiful but I forgot my camera and also received some questions afterward that I wanted to answer.  This morning I had an hour and a half free time and I just wanted to get outside!  So, I took my camera, and off I went, to Mud Lake, again.

The Lake itself is still frozen though I wouldn't try to walk out on it from the shore.  I think the warm weather has brought an end to what was clearly a well-maintained ice rink complete with hockey nets nearby, not that long ago. 

I didn't walk around the entire Lake but starting from the westerly end of the trail I went a good distance.  The trail was still snow covered, crunchy and wet in only a few places.  It will definately be soggy when temperatures go above zero again so if in doubt, take rubber boots, though preferably ones with treads for the icey patches.

Dogs are not permitted on the Mud Lake trail (though they are permitted on the river trail across the street so read on...)

There were geese on the Lake (though for "better" geese, ducks etc. go to the river) and lots of squirrels and birds in the woods.  I'm no birder but if something were to turn me into one it would be Mud Lake.  Go there and you know it's spring.  

People were even feeding the birds directly from their outstretched palms - a great experience for kids and grown-ups a like.  (You are, of course, not really supposed to feed the birds, ducks etc. but that's another story). 

My bird photos make it clear I need a better zoom....

 After the Lake, cross the street and from the small parking lot on the north side of the road you'll find what I'll call the Ridge trail and the River trail.  On both of these dogs are permitted though they should be on a leash and you should of couse clean up the waste (and watch your step for those who didn't!)

The Ridge trail takes you up a small hill (see left) and along a ridge overlooking the Ottawa River and running parallel to Cassels Road.  There are nice views and more adventurous people than I clearly did some scrambling around for photographs. 

You can get down to the river in various spots - probably every 30 feet or so.  It's a short trail but pleasant and of course bring your birding binoculars and camera.

If you don't go up the hill to the ridge, simply follow the trail down to the river and that is my favorite spot.  Again today there were lots of geese, ducks, squirrels, seagulls etc.  The mix of ice, water, snow and wildlife is beautiful.

Do not go too close to the edge.  It is the river.  The water is cold.  Nobody wants an accident and people are NOT ducks!

These trails are a poignant reminder of the importance of green space in our city.  The ability to visit this type of environment so close to home is priceless. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mud Lake / Britannia Conservation Area - In Spring!

I first went to Mud Lake in October after viewing a post by Andrea at Quietfish  It's a short drive from here in quaint Britannia Village (which I had equally failed to discover unhtil last summer) and today we decided to go there again in the hopes of seeing some ducks.  I had three young ones with me and we didn't actually pursue the trail around the lake as it looked a bit snowed-in at least at one end, and the littlest man probably would not have made it around.

We did however take a walk down a short trail on the other side of the road to the Ottawa River (or at least a small arm of the Ottawa River.  And it was beautiful.  Really beautiful.  It didn't hurt that the sun was just coming through the clouds, or that there were large melting ice formations along the trees standing in the water a few feet from sure.  It was spring weather, slushy but not yet muddy and there were ducks, and geese and seagulls and squirrels and the sounds of lots of birds.  In fact we did even see a cardinal.  Next time, and I wish it could be tomorrow, we will take the camera and the binoculars.  We will also be sure to make our way around the lake.  There's a painted rock there (apparently with a scarey face!) that I want to see. 

In the meantime, I need my camera surgically attached to my right hand.

When near the Ottawa River at this time of year, never get too close.  The water is COLD and little people in particular can easily lose their footing.  Never take a risk.

To reach Mud Lake from Kitchissippi, take Carling Avenuewestward.  Just after you pass the Carling / Richmond Road intersection turn right at Britannia Road (this is before you reach Britannia Park).  Follow Britannia Road as far as you can and then turn right on Cassels Road.  You can't miss Mud Lake which will be on your right.  You can also reach it via the NCC trail but I'd wait till the snow clears a bit more for that.  Great bike destination for the summer though!

The NCC describes Mud Lake and the  Britannia Conservation Area as follows

 "A patch of wilderness in the middle of an urban setting,  Mud Lake is an amazing area of forest and wetlands. Located in Ottawa’s west end, Mud Lake is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, with raccoons, frogs, turtles and foxes, to name but a few. This ecologically significant urban natural landscape is also prime birding territory, with thousands of birdwatchers coming each year to observe hundreds of different species. A walk through this easy-to-access urban jungle provides an exciting escape from city life."

For more detailed information about birds in the area visit the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club at This "5-kilometre stretch of shoreline and conservation area bordering Lac Des Chenes and the Ottawa River represents, without question, the best year-round birding hotspot in Ottawa", they say.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Smells & Boot Liners

As I walked into my sons school today I smelt the smell of, shall we say, "spring", to put it kindly.  This certain scent that arrives in elementary schools annually at this time of year is the product of many, many pairs of boots that have been worn by many, many pairs of feet, walked through many, many puddles and basically haven't been cleaned properly in about 4 months. 

My apologies for generalizing as I'm sure there are those of you who clean them regularly!

In portable classrooms where the shoes are kept inside the same room as the students, it is particularly bad.  Frankly, I'm sure it would give me a headache.  How do teachers deal with this?  Do they have any suggestions?  This will only get worse and I need to try something!

I have briefly scoured the internet (if one can actually scour something briefly) and come up with baking soda, kitty litter and tea tree oil.  Does anybody have tips or solutions to counter this phenomenon?  Are there commercial products that really work??  While of course one can wash the liners they do take a long time to dry.....they certainly would not be ready for the next days wear.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Have you ever visited The Social Learning Centre located at 725 Churchill Avenue near Carling?  It has some great looking programs with a real focus on creativity and aims to provide academic stepping stones for children who benefit from bridging activities between June and September. 

This summer, The Social Learning Centre’s Summer Bridges Academic Camp introduces writing workshops for kids with local author Selena Robins! Come and enjoy a new blend of creative arts, reading wizards and fancy free afternoon activities for children 4-12 years old.

  • Let’s read Canadian Authors.
  • Chocolate making – bugs and slugs.
  • Gardening, flowers, and planting week.
  • Clay, paint, and sketch weeks.
  • Let’s read dungeons, dragons, and fairytales.
  • Comics and cartoon week.
  • Back to basics for school

The camp will run weekly from Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm with extended hours as an option.  The camp is open to children between ages 4 and 12 years and costs $35/day.

For more information contact Tricia Kassotis – Director at 729-1333 or check out the Centre's website at