Early autumn is gradually arriving where I live, bringing cooler days, just perfect for long, leisurely walks. If you live in or near Warkworth, you should delight in a walk along its Millennium Trail. Whatever the season, something special is bound to attract you if you take the time to look and listen.
The Council of the former Percy Township, along with community partners, created the trail, saying, “it marks Canada’s entry into the 2000 millennium,” according to signage at the entrance to the trail at the south end of Warkworth’s Main Street.
Depending upon whom you ask, the creek that the trail follows is called either Burnley Creek or Mill Creek – take your pick. As a long-time Warkworthian said, the creek is like a street that changes its name as it changes locations, like County Road 29 becoming Church Street through the village of Warkworth, only to revert to County Road 29 after leaving the village.
During the spring, the trail also changes its name to The Millennium Lilac Trail. Formed in 2009, the inspiration of a local resident has become a glorious area of over 300 lilacs along the north side of the creek. So many varieties! So many colours! So much perfume! Before Covid, buses of tourists came to enjoy the lilacs. I wonder if they would believe the army of local volunteer gardeners who devote hours to weeding, trimming and mulching the bushes or how many of the lilacs are there due to the generosity of local businesses.
The creek is home to fish and a heron who enjoys feeding on them. Otters have been spotted playing in the waters of the Mill Pond. One neighbour, whose home is along the creek, noticed a cormorant considering making her home by the creek. The resident kingfishers had other ideas and made quick work of chasing the intruder from their fishing spot. That same neighbour isn’t thrilled by visits from the beaver who treats her garden as a smorgasbord of delights, planted there for the express purpose of feeding the beaver family.
The creek runs beside County Road 25 before it arrives at the Mill Pond. It passes the children’s playground and a small bandshell, ducks under a bridge on Old Hastings Road and then quietly forms a pond. In the fall, the hills around the pond are spectacularly lovely in their autumn colours, causing wonderful reflections in the almost still waters.
At the far end of the pond, the water crashes over a dam, splashing noisily over rocks and rushing forward on its journey through the village. Then, it returns to a more stately flow past backyards behind Main Street, hiding behind the homes and businesses, until it sneaks under the street only to reappear, heading east on its way to join the Trent Waterway system farther along. And this is where trail walkers can be seen, on any day, in any season, some with dogs, others with children, some jogging along, others strolling, and still others progressing with the help of walkers or wheelchairs. Friends and strangers greet each other in passing, or stop for a rest and quiet contemplation on one of the many benches, placed in memory of a loved one, or to say thank you for helping the community.
Banks of wild flowers trim the trail, everything from jewel weed to Queen Anne’s lace, from daisies to milkweed for monarch butterflies, from black-eyed Susans to goldenrod. Some gardens have been specifically planted with spring bulbs and iris, sedums and peonies. One cautionary note, though: wild parsnip has the bad habit of popping up where it is not wanted. It can cause serious burns to people who touch it. Best to stick to the path just in case.
Part way down the trail is a gazebo with picnic tables where you may shelter from hot sun or a sudden rain shower. This spring, a swallow family nested on one side of a roof joist in the gazebo, while on the other side, a robin built its nest. Bluebirds found the home set up for them closer to the water and could be seen flying in and out. Chipmunks dash about, squirrels play in the trees, and muskrats swim in the creek.
Doesn’t this sound like an intriguing place? You really should don your walking shoes and come for a walk!