blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, along the St. John River

August 6th

Cable ferry, Westfield Point
"Uptown" at Saint John, during our breakfast at Cora's again, not very early in the morning, we watched the low cloud begin to lift, but had already booked a third night at the Hilton (at the special holiday weekend rate of $119 per night this was too good an opportunity to miss) and decided to drive around in the rental car for the rest of the day, exploring the lower reaches of the St. John River. Come to think of it, I ought to link this post to my River Diary blog.

As soon as we left the coast road out of town the sky above us was clear and blue: no sea mist beyond the immediate vicinity of the shore, and it was turning out to be much finer than forecast. Our first stop was at Westfield Point at a ferry station at the lower end of a wide stretch of river called Long Reach. The two ferry boats in operation here were operated by cables, a local invention from the 1900s. Its reliability is not perfect*, but in normal weather conditions it works fine. Originally, horses used to haul the cable around the drum, but now it's fully automatic.

* That accident report contains some very interesting information about the Westfield ferry, by the way.

Scenery seen from one of the ferries
Around the tourist information building in the car park, from which country music was being broadcast ––"...drifting too far from the shore ..." on fiddle and mandolin, for instance––several historic plaques told the story of this area. French (Acadian) settlers and British Loyalists had settled here, with co-operation from the native population. When the Loyalists arrived after the American War of Independence (ca. 1784) each family was granted an urban plot at Saint John plus a larger plot up-river. We drove through several of these little communities, hardly any of which had shops, lodgings or places where you could buy food, up the west side of Long Reach as far as Nerepis Marsh, the name meaning "place where the eating is good," presumably a reference to the ducks and fish that still live there.

The old church at Kingston
From the marsh, not finding any other ferry in the vicinity of Hampstead (as marked on my obsolete road map of the maritime provinces) and unwilling to drive as far as the bridge beyond Gagetown on this occasion, we did a U-turn and backtracked to the ferry we'd spotted at Evandale. I'd also spotted some parasols there that hinted at a place for lunch between our road and the river––the Evandale Resort, a riverside inn with mooring facilities for motorboats. After eating there we drove onto the ferry, crossing onto a sizeable peninsula between Long Reach and Belle Isle Bay, an inlet of the St. John. We got onto the wrong road, raising a cloud of dust, and had to turn around again. Someone was tending a magnificent vegetable plot on the hillside. Crossing the water on the longest of the cable ferries at Long Point where a spit of sand pointed into the lake we carried on to a place called Kingston––Westfield ... Hampstead ... Kingston: it sounds like a tour of greater London––where we came upon the oldest surviving Anglican church in New Brunswick, Trinity Church, clad in white clapboard siding. We parked for a pause at the General Store which is about as old as the church (1788), selling Irving Oil (as does every other roadside halt in NB), then drove down another country road back around many curves to the Westfield ferry again.

Sand Cove beach
Time to return to the hotel now, we thought, but we took a wrong turn for the third time and ended up at Sand Cove instead, near the Irving Nature Park where you can hammer at the rocks in search of fossils. The part of the beach we walked along had sandy cliffs eroded by rain; in the distance we could see a container ship anchored out at sea.

After another supper at A Taste of Egypt we walked further through the atmospheric streets of old Saint John, through a rough area with pawn shops and liquor stores. In a park square stood a lonely statue of Samuel de Champlain (who named the Rivière St. Jean) that clearly didn't fit with the statues of Thomas Carleton and Sir Samuel Tilley in King's Square further uphill.

People apart, coming together (detail) by Hooper
The former docklands were being gentrified, it seemed, with new waterfront condos for sale and souvenir shops for cruise passengers. There used to be an imposing customs house in this part of town, a fine piece of architecture to judge from the old photos; it had been torn down in the 1960's to be replaced by concrete blocks with no curves to them; what a shame. However, more recent buildings have given the city quite a stylish, modern look, and the realistic sculptures of townsfolk by John Hooper, such as the group of People Waiting outside Barbour's General Store, are great fun.

People Waiting, by John Hooper (plus me)

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