12 (Back) Road Trips in Ontario’s Beautiful Southwest by guest blogger Louise Gleeson

Road_Trip Road trips are a great time to reconnect…
When I hear the words road and trip, I think of rolled-down windows and off-key singing to an endless loop of tunes.

I think of reconnecting to the person I’m traveling with and laughing at old and newly created memories.

When the opportunity to take a road trip through Southwestern Ontario’s - Oxford County came my way, I knew it would give me a chance to reconnect to my past as well.

My childhood landscape was filled with corn fields (I even had my first kiss in one) and barns and silos dotted the horizon of my day-to-day adventures. Visiting tiny towns that are nestled among gently rolling hills, would feel like going home, and it did.

My sister and I decided on a girls’ weekend theme and climbed into our kid-free/husband-free car, where we cranked some retro Barenaked Ladies and hit the road. After a short 90 minute drive from Toronto, we pulled into Coyle’s Country Store to kick off our weekend of window shopping and dining (one of the 12 suggested road trips that you can choose from Ontario Southwest’s website).

coylescollageThis charming pit stop, found on the edge of Tillsonburg, felt like a small-town version of a big city box store. It had a little bit of everything, and we spent well over an hour browsing its aisles. I picked up some journals, stationery and stocking stuffers for Christmas and my sister ended up purchasing a piece of furniture! We also stocked up on snacks from their bulk food area. Honestly, we could have spent even more time there if we hadn’t been on our way to dinner.

NIko_DinnerDinner was served in the heart of town, at the well-known Niko’s Eatery & Bar. We took advantage of the Oxfordlicious set menu (offered across Oxford region to celebrate local ingredients) and filled up on Lake Erie Perch, steak and fresh steamed veggies. Niko’s has a family centered appeal, with Nonna making the baklava each week in the kitchen and that approach can be felt in both the food and warm service.

 

 

elmhurstcollageThe next stop was a highlight for both of us. September and the return to school routines is always welcome, but it also knocks you on your back in many ways. School and extracurricular activities leave little time for relaxation and escape. And the Elmhurst Inn & Spa in Ingersoll was calling to us loudly. From the moment we checked in, we could feel the zen taking over. We settled into our rooms, found our plush robes and headed down to the tranquil spa for an evening treatment.

 

PatinasAfter enjoying a quiet breakfast with bottomless coffee, we took a stroll around the stunning grounds before heading back for another spa treatment (well, can you blame us really?). We were relaxed and ready for some more time on the road. We turned up the vintage Indigo Girls (girls’ road trip must-have) and headed into Ingersoll for lunch and more browsing in local shops.

(Patina’s)

 

 

oldebakerycollage-e1412790851214Do you have a friend or family member whose baking sets your heart aflutter? Now imagine walking into a cozy café filled with that kind of baking. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that we started salivating as soon as we walked through the door of the Olde Bakery Café. My sister zeroed in on the freshly baked raspberry turnovers, which she managed to hold off on until she had lunch. And lunch did not disappoint. This café is home to young culinary talent, including chef, Kate Rine (her food blog is here), whose Portuguese Stone soup was absolutely phenomenal. The food is made in an in-house kitchen, which also features a separate and completely gluten-free baking area. Everyone knows everyone’s name, and you feel like you’re hanging out in a friend’s kitchen having coffee. We need more gathering places like this one.

2roadtrip-e1412791435947After fueling ourselves, we were ready to do some more sightseeing. And to get to our next destination, we were treated to a gorgeous view of those farms I am so fond of. The fall is a perfect time to explore Southwestern Ontario; the sun is bright and the air is crisp, which makes the changing leaves even more extraordinary.

 

 

 

We pulled into a third-generation dairy farm and home of Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, where we were treated to a tour and tasting by award-winning cheese maker and owner, Shep Ysselstein. This family owned business, in an absolutely beautiful area of Oxford County, is an Ontario (and Canadian) treasure. We wandered aisles of new and old cheese, and we learned about the flavouring and textures. It was visually stunning to see the rows of cheese. You can book tours for $5/person as long as there are five people in your group. Not only is it a fascinating learning experience, you will be rewarded with delicious samples at the end.

gunnscollage

walter1-e1412793464939We finally pulled our well-fed selves into the brand new Holiday Inn Express in Woodstock, so we could powder our noses and put on our cowgirl boots for dinner at Walter’s Dinner Theatre in the beautiful town of Bright. Once again, we found ourselves traveling down a gravel road and winding our way through stunning farmlands. We pulled into Walters’ and were surprised by the number of cars and eager theatre-goers. In all my years of going to concerts, I’ve never had an experience like this one. We walked into a converted barn, with all its old-fashioned quaintness, and saw a room filled with tables for eight, clustered around a state-of-the-art stage. We were treated to a homemade meal (buffet-style and perfect for chatting with the other guests) and had the chance to share a meal with a table of strangers. Once again, we were touched by the simplicity and hospitality of being in a place where people want to know your name. The live show (which goes on after dinner) was very entertaining and the audience was delighted. Their schedule of shows changes every year, and it’s recommended that you book well in advance.

If you’re looking for a road trip that takes you down beautiful back roads and helps you discover all that Ontario has to offer, visit the Ontario’s Southwest website for trip suggestions and tips (there are 12 different packages), as well as over 40 deals and special offers. You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but I was gifted the experiences I shared with you, thanks to the generosity of Ontario’s Southwest, Tourism Oxford and the destinations I visited during this road trip. The feedback and photos are my own.

You can also follow Tourism Oxford on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube.

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Roll the Windows Down, Relax, Put some colour in your life and Drive

OakManorFarm That is what I plan to do today, roll the windows down, relax, see the colour of the leaves just starting and drive… Well that is until I am finished an errand for work. I decided that I would travel the back roads of Oxford County to my destination.  I am so lucky that this is part of my job! Today, I need to pick up gift certificates at Oak Manor (north east of the County).

I love my job at Tourism Oxford!

I am lucky enough to live in the country just west of Hickson. I don’t farm, but live on a 3/4 lot surrounded by my neighbours fields of corn, beans, alfalfa, with a maple bush that runs behind our house. You  may have seen some of my wonderful views,  if you follow us on Facebook (Tourism Oxford).

IMG_2533As long as you don’t treat a gravel road like a highway, it is a very pleasant drive.  I puttered up the 10th Line to Cassel side road and turned east towards highway #59 .  Driving along Cassel I took special note of the tree colour which is just starting (about 20-30% coverage so far).  I saw splashes of red and highlights of yellow standing out in the wood lots along the road. Beautiful… especially on this misty morning. I also noted a small shady cemetery and a home that once was an old school.  There is always something to discover on route.

My travels took me through the  village of Tavistock,  east on Perth County Line to the bend where I continue straight and turn right at that corner onto Oxford Rd. #4.  A  paved road with a number of wood lots and road cover that in a few weeks should be a full riot of colour!

IMG_2553I stopped at Oak Manor and fulfilled my mission and also bought some organic whole wheat bread flour, then continued on my way back to work.  As I was driving I was thinking about what to write for this blog on fall colour. I am proud to live in Oxford County and enjoy the wide open views of the farm scape.

I  pull over to the side of the road to take some pictures. I put my four-ways on and stepped out of the car.  I had a hard time seeing the screen of my phone as I was trying out a new panoramic feature,  when a large feed truck stopped beside me. The driver kindly called to me “Mam, are you having any trouble? Can I help?”  A little embarrassed, I told him I was just taking pictures and told him I was fine.  I am sure as he was driving down the road towards me, he saw this woman, standing by a car with hazards flashing,  swinging a phone in the air, looking like I couldn’t find a signal. Ha Ha, it was really nice of him to stop, even though I wasn’t in trouble. I will definitely be passing that bit of goodness on…

Back on the road, I was trying to decide which would be the most direct and scenic route back to work. I turned west onto County Road #8,  then turned south onto the 16th Line, where at the corner you will find the small and quaint  Hebron United Church.

I couldn’t resist stopping at Pittock Conservation Area at Oxford Rd 4,   There is a trail entrance to the east end of the Roth Park Trail.

IMG_2565The trail was lovely, shaded and cool with glimpses of the blue water and shoreline through the branches. It was so relaxing, I had to force myself back to the car and work.

I grew up in Oxford County, and I am fairly familiar with most of the roads, but I am sure there are some that I have yet to discover.  Below are some of my favourite spots to drive or walk.  If you have any interesting spots that you would like to share, please comment and let us know.

Oxford County has so many lovely roads to travel and especially at this time of year.  Here are some of my favorite spots.

Vansittart Avenue in Woodstock, if you enjoy beautiful homes and gardens with tree canopies. I encourage you to take a walk.

A drive to Lakeside in East Nissouri Township where you will fine a small cottage community around a small lake with a small campground and a dance hall.

A drive through Canning to Wolverton.  There is a curvy road that approaches Wolverton from the north, but either way works.

From Bright drive south on Oxford Rd #22 through the swamp. I love to drive slowly through that section.

Just west of the village of Sweaburg is Trillium Line.  If you turn north (right) you will discover the Trillium Trail which will be a relaxing walk and just across the road is Jakeman’s Maple store (Not open on Sunday).

If you travel a little further west on Sweaburg Road to Folden’s Line and turn south (left) to Rivers Road and turn left, it is a nice country road to travel, with century farms along the way including Stonecroft Folk that raises Berkshire pork and is known for their house concerts.

South of Woodstock off of Hwy #59,  you just have to drive down the Old Stage Road. The trees have bridged the road and is beautiful. The name does described the road correctly, it was the road the stage coaches would travel delivering mail to the communities and also a route that the troupes would have traveled in 1812-1814.

Find your way to Gunn’s Hill Road just off of Hwy #59 S, and enjoy the rolling hills of the farms, in harvest time, and discover Just a few fotos, Janice Marshal’s studio and then Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese built on one of their farms. Thursday & Fridays are squeaky cheese curds day.

The Norwich Area has a large Dutch community and Amish as well. You will see working farms, saw mills, one room school houses if you travel west of Norwich on Pleasant Valley Road, Maple Dell Road and Milldell Road and Zenda Line.  You may be lucky and see a few vegetable stands if they have any product left to sell. And if you like quaint stores, visit the main street of Norwich and stop in at the bakery for some goodies.

grist millotterville fallsOtterville is another great destination where there is a waterfall, an old mill & museum and a Black Cemetery.

 

Tillsonburg west of Otterville has a great spot for a picnic lunch at Lake Lisgar.

North of Tillsonburg,  on Hwy #59, you will travel through Ostrander to the Airport Road where on the corner is Coyle’s, a perfect shopping opportunity, and if you are traveling on a Tuesday or Saturday morning a stop at the airport (east of Coyles) and see the Harvards.

Ingersoll is a bustling town and is worth visiting the down town core for shopping at Patina’s and a bite to eat at the Olde Bakery Cafe before you head out on two more of my most favourite roads, from Hwy 19 take Clarke and travel east to Embro Road. At that corner you will discover Leaping Deer Adventure Farm and Market then turn left on Embro Road and then left again onto Karn Road back towards Ingersoll. Both roads are paved and full of rolling hills. Another good spot from Ingersoll is Hamilton Road to Putnam.

Stop in and get an Oxford County map, to help guide your way at the Visitor Kiosk, 580 Bruin Blvd., Woodstock, ON  N4V 1E5 at Hwy 401 exit 232.

Enjoy!

Jeanne Turner, Tourism Oxford

Tourism Oxford, 580 Bruin Blvd., Woodstock, ON  N4V 1E5

tourism@oxfordcounty.ca   http://www.tourismoxford.ca

519-539-9800 or TF: 1-866-801-7368  # 3355

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why You And Your Kids Should Visit A Farm

Connecting Kids with Animals and Agriculture Means Guaranteed Fall Fun

By Hailey Eisen, YummyMummyClub.ca

goat

“Oh, so that’s where corn comes from,” said my 4-year-old daughter as she stared up at the enormous stalks growing at the Leaping Deer Adventure farm

I’m pretty sure my kicorn_0ds believe that most of the food we eat originates from the grocery store, but I’m committed to teach them otherwise. The connection my kids have with the food they eat is important to me. That’s why we shop at farmer’s markets and take any opportunity we can to visit local farms. In July, we took a trip to Oxford County (about an hour-and-a-half west of Toronto) to spend the day at Leaping Deer, the Disney World of farms! This place is awesome—from the 10+ acre corn maze, to the corn cob express train, to the guided tractor ride, to the pig races, and straw slide, there was no shortage of entertainment for my kids. And the best part was, they were learning, almost by accident.

 

LeapingDeer*That’s my husband posing as the deer—he totally got into the farm spirit!

This is why you should take your kids to a farm this fall:

1. They’ll get to see first-hand where their food comes from and how it grows.

The same goes for fruit and vegetable picking! We’re huge fans of apple picking in the fall and berry picking in the summer. Showing kids the work that goes into growing food will hopefully help them learn to waste less and make them appreciate what they’re eating a bit more. At Leaping Deer my husband had tons of questions for farmer Don Budd, who eagerly engaged in conversation with him about the price of corn and the state of farming in Southern Ontario. (The learning isn’t just for kids!)

Speaking of food…once you’re at Leaping Deer, you’re just a short drive from Oxford County’s Cheese Trail, where you can learn about this region’s cheese history at the Ingersoll Cheese & Agriculture Museum (Did you know: in the 1800s there were 98 separate cheese factories in Oxford County?), visit a working cheese factory at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese Ltd., and taste farm fresh cheese at The Bright Cheese & Butter Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Yum!

2. They’ll get to interact with animals, teaching them compassion for other living things.

Spending time with the animals at Leaping Deer was my daughter’s favourite part. Once afraid to even approach an animal at a petting zoo, this kiddo is now fearless when it comes to petting, holding, and feeding animals. We spent a good 20 minutes hanging out with a pair of very eager goats, buying feed from a gum ball-type machine and offering it to them from the palm of our hands. Even my toddler got into it, running back and forth shouting, “Goats! goats!” My daughter had the chance to ask questions about the animals while she held a guinea pig, petted the rabbits, and hung out with the pigs. We then cheered on the three little pigs as they raced around a grassy track in Leaping Deer’s daily pig race—which was adorable and hilarious. Don and his wife Julie, who started this farm nearly 10 years ago, are passionate about education. “We’re parents, grandparents and former 4H leaders,” Julie told me. “We’ve always been teaching, it’s part of who we are.” According to Julie, kids love the animals at Leaping Deer because they’re so accessible. “Letting kids interact with the animals in a hands-on way gives them an understanding of how animals should be treated, what’s required for their well-being, and how they contribute to farm life.”

animals3. They’ll be free to run around in a safe, spacious outdoor environment.

Freedom is something little kids don’t tend to get a lot of. In the city, I force my kids to hold my hand…I’m a bit of a helicopter parent like that. But when we were at Leaping Deer, even my 17-month-old was free to run around on her own. She toddled around in the large grassy field, fell down, and got back up on her own. She checked out all the animals from a distance that she felt comfortable, and even slid down the giant slide into a pile of hay with a huge smile on her face. My big kid went from activity to activity without having to report in to me. She was in her element and it was almost impossible to get her to leave at the end of the day.

farmfun4. They’ll feel really good and develop a positive association with nature and rural life.

Being outside in nature is good for your kids’ health. In fact, according to this study, exposure to nature can reduce stress levels by as much as 28% in children. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods (quoted in the image above), agrees. “Kids experience tremendous stress reduction from even a little contact with nature,” he says. So, imagine what a whole day at the farm will do for them.

5. They’ll get into the fall spirit with everything pumpkins.

There’s nothing that puts you in the fall spirit like a visit to a farm. The entire month of October is the Fall Fun Festival at Leaping Deer. From The Hillbillies Return pumpkin cannon show to, a seasonal owl exhibit, to a make-your-own-creature activity using fall vegetables, there’s lots to do for everyone.

With Thanksgiving and Halloween right around the corner, a trip to Oxford County will provide you with everything you need to get into the fall spirit.

Travel Tips:

IMG_2282If you decide to spend the night and explore more of Oxford County, the Best Western Plus in Woodstock is close to the farm, has nice, modern rooms, a lovely swimming pool, and friendly service. It’s a brand new hotel and conveniently located just off the highway next to a scenic golf course. We were invited to stay the night and we had a great time. The kids love hotel adventures and after a day at the farm and a late-night (read: 8pm) swim in the indoor pool, we all slept soundly.

PicMonkey CollageWoodstock is also home to a delicious restaurant that you must check out if you’re in town. The Oxford Kitchen was opened by a lovely couple, Kevin and Mandy (he’s from England and she’s local to Southwestern Ontario). He’d dreamed of creating a restaurant that served delicious food, was comfortable and welcoming, and that he’d want to eat at. That dream came true this year. Kevin is highly involved in every aspect of the restaurant, from developing the menu to greeting guests. You can tell this is his passion and he’s living it. Oxford Kitchen uses local produce and creates its menu to focus on whatever foods are in season. It’s the perfect way to end a fabulous day at the farm—and to feed a very hungry family!

PicMonkey Collage

For breakfast the next day, before you head out of town, take your family to Dean Michaels Griddlehouse. This cozy, home-style breakfast spot has huge portions, adorable kids’ breakfast creations, and a cozy ambiance that will make you feel like you’re in the country. Like everything else in Oxford County, the service here comes with a smile.

From Dean Michael’s Kid’s Menu

 

For more information and to plan your fall getaway visit www.tourismoxford.ca or to plan a fall getaway in the stunning Southwestern Ontario region visit www.ontariossouthwest.com

*We were invited to visit Oxford County this summer and gratefully accepted the invitation. I’m a huge fan of Southwestern Ontario and have been for many years. It’s beautiful, fun, and close to home—an ideal weekend getaway. All opinions expressed in this post, as always, are my own.

Blog & Photo’s Courtesy of YummyMummyClub.ca. Written by Hailey Eisen.

Hailey we are happy you enjoyed your rural adventure in Oxford County.

 

 

 

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Oxford at War 1814 – Upcoming Event

Looking for an exciting way to spend a weekend? Join early settlers, heroes and scoundrels in the heat of battle during Oxford at War 1814, August 16th & 17th.

Along the Detroit Path, an old Indian trail also referred to as Broken Front Concession (Karn Road, Centreville, north Beachville and Ingersoll) is where history comes to life.

P1060569Historical characters portray the life of real settlers as they defend their settlement against American invaders. Unlike other re-enactments Oxford at War offers three different invasions over two days. Saturday, August 16th at 11am learn about who came marching into Oxford the evening of April 5, 1814 followed by an 8pm showing of the attack of August 28, 1814. Wake up Sunday morning to watch the final showdown at 11am as the Americans and Canadians battle for Oxford on November 5, 1814.

There is something for everyone at this FREE family event! Oxford at War in partnership with the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum and Beachville Museum make history exciting and interactive. Take part in historical cricket matches at the Ingersoll Museum (Saturday) or the Beachville Museum (Sunday). Guided tours of George Nichols’ Black Walnut Tree, the last surviving witness to the War of 1812-1814, horse-drawn wagon rides and earn your feathers with a scavenger hunt on Indian Trails through the woods are just some of the activities planned. With all three battles playing out over two days, history does not repeat but comes to life for a new experience every time.

Being part of an historical battle will work up a mighty appetite! Take cover at Martin’s Tavern along Centreville Pond on Mill Line. Family-friendly and licensed, enjoy fresh fare and libations from local brewery farm Ramblin’ Road and Bru’s Orchards & Winery of Tillsonburg or purchase food and drink from Fo’Cheezy Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Great British Bake, Kokken village café and Todd’s Dogs.

Accommodations are affordable and close by so stay the weekend. Mention you are going to Oxford at War to Comfort Inn Ingersoll and receive a discount. There are B&Bs, motels and more and with free parking and shuttle service you won’t miss any of the action.

More than just a re-enactment, Oxford at War portrays an important part of our local history. It is a powerful message of the resilience of early settlers 1814 castwho would not be defeated and lose their community despite being attacked, burned and pillaged. It is because of the courage and brave spirit of our early settlers that Oxford County is the strong community it is today.

Find out more exciting news and schedule of events at SCHEDULE at Oxford at War website oxfordatwar1814.com

Visit Tourism Oxford for a list of places to stay Where to Stay

 

By Katheryn Stewart-Bruni

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Ingersoll Cheesey Playground on Giver

Rolling in cheese, squishing your way through a whole of brie – the dream of every mouse, right?  That and every child, too.

cheese parkThis dream is a reality now in Ingersoll where children’s TV show Giver and local volunteers just completed a new Cheesy Playground.   Children can crawl through the holes in giant slices of cheese, take a spin on the blue cheese wheel, play in the giant sand box or rest in the shade on a cheesy bench. You can even take a “cheesy portrait” using the giant picture frame by the park.  Naturally, this playground is ideally located in Oxford County right beside the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum.  For families coming to explore the Oxford County Cheese Trail this makes a wonderful stop for a picnic after exploring the museum.

 

GiverP1050191 (Sinking Ship Productions) travels to local communities and builds safe, fun playgrounds working with local children and community groups.  Local children helped build this playground from the creative process to painting.  For this project children also had an opportunity to to learn about the history of cheese and its relationship to Ingersoll.  Giver worked in conjunction with PlayRight Playgrounds a local group that builds playgrounds in Ingersoll. They are also known for their annual family new years celebration FUNomenon and outdoor movie night.

 

Giver’s cheesy playground episode will air on TVO this fall. Be sure to tune in to see the kids visit to the Ingersoll Cheese Museum and Gunn’s Hill Cheese and to watch the local volunteers who made this park possible.  Stop by today and check out Ingersoll’s Cheesey Playground.  Remember to pick up some curds and local cheeses at the museum or along the cheese trail for your picnic.

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Five Family Fun things to do this long weekend!

Everyone looks forward to the Civic Long Weekend which happens to be August 2-4th.  There is nothing like the middle of summer except a perfect long weekend. And the perfect weekend can be done, even in Oxford County.

Staycationing right now seems popular with a lot of people since pennies aren’t stretched as far these days. Oh wait, we don’t have pennies anymore! Let me rephrase that… nickles aren’t stretched as far these days!!!

Well, if you are sticking around or even visiting Oxford County for the weekend and you are looking for fun things for your family to do, I have a few suggestions…

LakeLisgarpool

Splish, Splash, Play at Lake Lisgar Waterpark

If you haven’t discovered Lake Lisgar Water Park yet, you are in for a treat!  Everyone likes to get wet, and this pool is very inviting for all ages with a graduated entry.  It’s perfect for little ones who just want to play in a few inches of water, or for anyone who would just like to wade into the pool without having to jump in or climb a ladder. Of course there are all the fun slides, spray hoses and water activities too. The sparkling water is just so inviting!

Leaping Deer

So much fun at Leaping Deer Adventure Farm & Market

If you love farm animals, big & small, ducks, lamas, pigs and owls or take on the challenge of exploring the Corn Maze, make Leaping Deer Adventure Farm a place to visit.  Better yet, check out their website and have your children click on their sign post at the upper right corner and then on Farmer Budd and see what happens.  Be sure you have your volume on.

 

1dheesepark

What a Squeaky Cheesy place to play!

I have visited the Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum many times and have found the history very interesting, and a little culture never hurt anyone. I am sure you will get the feel of what it was like to go to an old school house, or how they made cheese and see items of yesteryear, but the real treat is the Cheesy playground out back.  Lots of Cheesy play equipment and a cheesy bench or two for you!  Perfect photo opportunity.  Keep it a secret until you get there.

FishingBoys

“I feel a nibble! Do you!” “Nope. Are you sure you had a nibble?”

I remember when I was young, and the picnic cooler was on the kitchen table and my dad was in the garage rustling around, that meant we were going fishing!  Our family did this quite often when I was growing up.  When my dad was young, there wasn’t a ‘fishing hole’ around that he didn’t know about. Well August 2-3, Pittock Conservation Area is having a fishing derby. So, get your fishing gear ready and head on over.  You’ve never fished before and you don’t have a pole?  Well, don’t let that stop you. Call ahead and ask about their TackleShare program and give fishing a try.  You can purchase bait there as well.  Once you hook a fish and reel it in, you will be a fisherman/fisherwoman or fisherkid for life!

Picnic basket

Whats in your picnic basket?

I mentioned picnic basket/cooler above. Picnic’s always bring back special memories, whether it is like the fishing outings or family gatherings, or just a visit to the park.  Oxford County has so many lovely parks with wide open spaces to run, have an impromptu game of base ball, doge ball, throw a Frisbee or a game of tag. There are usually swings, slides and water of some sort, pond, river, or splash pad. A perfect place to create special memories with your family who will look back someday with fondness. If you are looking for parks, and need some yummy  ideas on what to pack for a picnic lunch, see our Tourism Oxford Pinterest Boards for some great treat ideas to pack and how to keep your food safe to eat.  Don’t forget you can take a portable BBQ too!  You can always stop at a bakery  and pick up some sweets or stop at a fresh fruit and vegetables stand or Farmers’ Market along the way.  The combinations are endless. Check out these Foodie stops to load up your basket.

Just remember to gather those close to you, your children, parents, brothers and sisters and include some good friends and have the best long weekend ever!

Created by Jeanne Turner, Tourism Oxford

T: 519-539-9800 X3355   E: tourism@oxfordcounty.ca    Web: tourismoxford.ca and oxfordfresh.ca

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Telus sends customer soaring in a Harvard Aircraft

Soaring through the clouds is a dream for many. Telus made this dream a reality for Ramona, a twenty year Telus customer. Telus arranged a special day for Ramona and her daughter with a plane ride, but not an ordinary plane ride. They took to the air in a vintage WWII Harvard Aircraft at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport.

Shane Clayton, a pilot at the airport, did not realize how big this event was going to be. He was Harvards newman 1originally told it was a small birthday celebration. After viewing truck after truck entering the airport property, Shane realized this was indeed big. The video of Ramona’s flight has gone viral with 1,000s of views.

Telus connected with the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association which maintains a fleet of these vintage aircraft. A group of passionate volunteers restore, maintain, and fly these aircraft. They are a regular attraction at airshows and for visitors to Oxford County. Visitors can enjoy several unique experiences including tours of their workshop, air shows and flight experiences like Ramona enjoyed.

This September for the first time in Ontario, the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association and aviation photojournalist Eric Dumigan, will be hosting an Air-to-Air photo clinic.

Their location also has historical significance, being located at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport, which was once a Royal Canadian Air Force Training Airport. This airport is a popular location with the Harvard’s on site, Scenic Aerial Tours and Ontario’s South Coast Airshows (next show August 23).

You, too, can experience Ramona’s Harvard adventure. Tuesday’s and Saturdays the public can pop by to visit their hangar and learn about the aircraft, or contact them to book or purchase gift certificates for a flight experience.  What a unique gift indeed.

Created by Pamela Stadden

 

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“Amazing Race” for Award Winning Maple Syrup

 

“You have not been eliminated”.

You found it, that one elusive bottle of Jakeman’s maple syrup in a Chinese market, a long, very long way from its Canadian home in Sweaburg, Ontario.

The CBS show Amazing Race Canada profiled this product on last night’s episode, to the delight of Mary and Jakeman's syrupBob Jakeman, owners of Jakeman’s Maple Syrup Farm. Talking to Mary Jakeman, she said “it’s amazing!”

The Jakeman family was approached some three weeks before the broadcast and asked for their approval to showcase their maple syrup products. Papers were signed and the Jakeman family was sworn to secrecy. Mary said it was truly an honour to see our maple syrup on such a popular American/Canadian television show.

The Jakeman’s have been making maple syrup since 1876 when their ancestors George and Betty Jakeman, were taught to make maple syrup by local natives.  Their award winning maple syrup can been seen throughout the word from Disney World to a market in China. Jakeman’s Maple Syrup truly is a Canadian icon.
You can purchase their syrup at themaplestore.com , or visit their shop in Sweaburg Ontario. As you wander the shop you find antique maple syrup tools and their vast array of maple products (including maple sugar).  Their shop is also home to the annual 4H Pancake breakfast ever March.  While there cross the road for a hike on the trail through Trillium Woods. People flock to it every spring to see the white and pink trilliums covering the forest floor.
Read more about Jakeman’s on Oxfordfresh.com.

Blog created by Pamela Stadden

 

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SixThirtyNine Casual Fine Dining

Even more foodies from Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto will be driving down Peel Street in Woodstock to dine at Six Thirty Nine as they are the latest Ontario restaurant to receive Feast On accreditation.

Chef Eric plating in his kitchen with Chef's table looking on.

Chef Eric plating in his kitchen with Chef’s table looking on.

Chef Eric Boyar along with his mother Pauline Bucek had a vision for casual, fine dining restaurant SixThirtyNine when they opened almost 10 years ago. Offer guests a true farm-to-table experience with an innovative menu featuring fresh, local ingredients and to support the agricultural industry of Oxford County.

“My family all had farms and I wanted to maintain that connection,” explains Chef Eric who is a regular at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Woodstock. “I wanted to do something different in the community and work together with our local farmers to feature local products. We list the producers, farmers and suppliers that we use to promote and direct people to where they can get the same products we use for our menu.”

Feast On certification assures local travelers and tourists of a unique dining experience that features Ontario growers and producers. At Six Thirty Nine you can enjoy fresh local produce, artisanal cheeses, beef and trout. “Feast On is all encompassing,” says Chef Eric. ”Aside from being food to table, the criteria includes VQA wines and craft breweries. It is important to us to work in partnership with local farmers, growers and producers. Our guests know they are supporting their local community. The more restaurants that become part of Feast On the better for everybody in Ontario Culinary Tourism.”

Chef Eric’s artistry, commitment to local food and fresh ingredients is making Downtown Woodstock and Oxford County a popular culinary tourism destination with foodies.

The pride of relationships he builds and maintains with community partners such as Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese and Railway City Brewing Company has garnered SixThirtyNine with awards making it a destination restaurant in Ontario.

Tourists on their way to Niagara from states such as Michigan visit based on traveler reviews posted on Trip Advisor where SixThirtyNine is ranked Woodstock’s #1 Restaurant.

SixThirtyNine was awarded Trip Advisor’s 2014 Certificate of Excellence earned through consistent, outstanding feedback from Trip Advisor Travelers

logoThis is not the first time Six Thirty Nine has been recognized for their commitment to local food. Earlier in 2014 they received an Agricultural Award of Excellence for Innovation from the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture (restaurant highlights video). SixThirtyNine also is a proud member of Oxford Fresh, a group of chefs, growers and processors whose mandate to promote regional fresh flavours includes Oxfordlicious, a month long celebration in September of local food and local eating.

“It is nice to be recognized and makes us keep pushing forward to do better,” explains Chef Eric. “It is rewarding to know we are giving people a unique dining experience they enjoy while sharing a common philosophy with the agricultural community.” As SixThirtyNine continues to be recognized and celebrated, the simple philosophy of working together as a community remains at the heart of its success.

Written by: Kathy Bruni

 

 

 

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The Big Cheese

Wagons move slowly when carrying cheese. The wheels of the wagon creak and slide on the stones in the road from the weight of such a cargo. Children will run along at its side amused by this unusual movement of cheese. Six horses must work diligently, careful not to let the wagon over turn. The driver will dispel with a call of whoa or faster, but horses take no warning, nor do children. Cheese is heavy.

This cheese was a cheese like no other and this outing was an anticipated event. Weighing in at 7,300 lbs when it tipped the scales at the James Harris Cheese Factory in 1866, its destination was New York and the World’s Fair. This cheese, though, would not stop there but continue on to England and perhaps impress royalty. There, Oxford County was already becoming known for its cheese and the big cheese was eagerly awaited.

The creation of the big cheese was a promotional stunt, simply, and it was a brave one considering the times. Created at three different cheese factories, this cheese was the pride of Ingersoll. The creators of this project were Mr. Harris, Mr. Ranney and Mr. Galloway, all leading cheese producers in the area.
In 1866, this massive cheese represented everything great about Ingersoll, and subsequently, Oxford County. This area was a leader in cheese production at that time and this message was going to be broadcast to all who would listen. After all, who doesn’t love cheese?

The facts surrounding this cheese production are impressive: 2400 cows contributed milk towards the big cheese, creating the curd took 48 hours and because of the size of this production, it had to be completed at three different cheese factories. The hoop for this cheese was a large one, as well – 7 feet. The Harris Cheese Factory actually had to build a structure beside their factory that would house this massive cheese; this allowed the workers to turn the cheese daily.

Once the massive cheese was created, the cheese took a colorful journey through the streets of Ingersoll to the railway station. All came out to see the departure of this famous cheese. At the railway station, the cheese was then transported to New York where it took part in the World’s Fair. After, the cheese set sail for England, where it was paraded in a similar fashion. Its adventures stopped there, though, and the cheese was sold to a cheese merchant in England.

With that said, Bright Cheese and Butter is celebrating 140 years of making cheese just like the pioneers did. Stop by their original factory & shop in Bright to taste cheese made with whole local milk. Their cheddars are unpasteurized. James Harris and his colleagues would have definitely approved. Travel the Oxford County Cheese Trail visiting artisanal cheese makers, cheese shops and museums celebrating Oxford’s dairy history. Learn about the vibrant cheese history of Oxford County.

Pamela Stadden

An Oxford County resident, historian, and author of the novel Reggie. Part biography part fiction telling the story of Reginal Birchall and the infamous murder trial of 1890.

Big Cheese Portrait

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