By Robert Alsop, Twitter @RedTruckPro
What’s fall without a view of the fall colours! Being an owner of a ‘54 Ford pickup it was time to take in one more drive before putting the old girl to bed for the winter.
On a sunny October weekend, my wife and I headed for Hockley Valley north west of Toronto to take in the autumn colours. While the Ontario Official Travel Site posted leaf colour at 80% peak for the area, being early fall and lack of a good frost, most of the trees hadn’t taken note, as they were still showing their leafy summer green.
Making our way west through the valley we stopped for lunch in Orangeville at a “Fifties” theme dinner. As we contemplated the map for the afternoon leg of our tour, our waitress declared that Halton Hills to the south is the hot spot for leaf peepers! This being the headwater area of the Credit River, home to popular sport fish including brook trout, I’m sure she had the local scoop on fishing hot spots as well.
We hadn’t brought our fishing poles, but we took the bait and headed south 11 kms to the Village of Alton where we came upon the historic Alton Mill. Recently restored, this heritage site is now home to artist studios, galleries and a café.
The two story stone Aton mill, dam and pond stands as a splendid testament to a 19th century thriving industrial centre. Built in 1881, as the Beaver Knitting Mill, it was used for the production of fleeced-lined long johns sold across Canada. The mill was the longest running water-powered mill on the upper
Credit River system operating until 1982. Sitting vacant, the deteriorating mill seemed destined to be demolished when it was purchased by the Seaton Group in 1989. Together with assistance from the province and the federal Commercial Heritage Properties Incentive Fund, the Seaton Group invested $5 million dollars in restoration. This included extensive restoration of the exterior and interior 23,000 square feet of the building with an official opening in September of 2008.
Touring the several art studios inside, we took the steps down to the lower level housing the restored mill race and water turbine. The turbine room includes an exhibit with the original gears and pulleys to drive machinery. The mill was partially destroyed by fire in 1908 and rebuilt to include a sprinkler system. Here in the corner of
the turbine room sat a dusty Ford flathead V8 engine! (The same beast that purrs under the hood of my truck!). The display takes note of the engine as an early Ford flathead from the 30’s and was used as a stationary engine to pump water through the Mill sprinkler heads. Interesting enough, the starting instructions (hand crank and all) is still posted in case of fire! Attempts at this in the engine’s present state may have started a fire, but fortunately the old Ford had been retired from its duties. Best of all, as a free standing engine, it allowed close inspection and features of an early Ford flathead V8 without leaning over a front fender.
Now I enjoy old engines and the simple ingenuity of early mechanical devices. Turned out the mill with the original turbine machinery and the early Ford V8, had both! Just shows you never know when or where you’ll discover another flathead!
As for fall colours, we weren’t disappointed. Leaving Alton, we ended up at the Halton Hills ski area where the higher elevation had allowed frost to tinge the leaves with brilliant reds, orange and yellows in the afternoon glow of a setting sun.
Fall Colour Reports http://www.ontarioparks.com/fallcolour
Alton Mill Art Centre http://altonmill.ca/
Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/dNqjn