Small Town Ontario, Part 2

(Marlbank, Ontario, Canada)

On our trip to Cobourg, we took the scenic route to get home. What normally takes about 95 minutes of driving ended up taking the better part of the day. However, it was first time for us on most of the roads…and we even visited some communities that we had never seen before.

I’ve called this article “Part 2” because I wrote another post about small towns back in the spring of this year.  While nearly 6 months have passed since then, I’m pleased to report that our travel philosophy appears to be more or less the same:  the best parts were when we found something truly unique to the area.  We ate local food, went to local stores, and didn’t set foot in a single mall.

Former municipal building (now an art gallery) in Warkworth
Former municipal building (now an art gallery) in Warkworth

The drive on Highway 45 northeast from Cobourg was very scenic.  It seemed like the combination of rolling hills and autumn colours got better with each turn, so we drove by a couple of conservation areas without stopping.  We figured there would soon be an even better place to get out and explore in the crisp fall air.  Alas, we waited too long.   The terrain suddenly became more agricultural and lacked the scenic “oomph” we saw between Baltimore and Fenella.   I have no pictures of this segment…only memories.

After a quick stop in Hastings, we ended up in Warkworth.  To Kingstonians, this small village is known primarily as the home of another penitentiary.  However, much to our surprise, it has also attracted a significant number of artists and specialty shops.

Downtown Warkworth, Ontario
Downtown Warkworth, Ontario

We stumbled upon a true cottage industry:  a shortbread cookie bakery where we found an enthusiastic staff stuffing cookies into bags and parcels.  We picked up a couple of bags for later consumption and headed towards our intended lunch destination of Campbellford.  First, however, we passed a ramshackle barn in the hamlet of Meyersburg that hosted a bustling flea market.   Who would have expected an Eastern European deli to be set up in there and selling their own extremely spicy pepperoni sticks?

View across the Trent-Severn Waterway in Campbellford, Ontario
View across the Trent-Severn Waterway in Campbellford, Ontario

Campbellford, like Hastings, is a busy village located on the Trent-Severn Waterway.  We seriously underestimated the size of our meals at the Riverview Restaurant:  after such a massive pulled pork sandwich for lunch, I didn’t really need to eat dinner.  They offered typical diner food, with a daily special of liver and onions and old-fashioned desserts such as rice pudding and jello.

From Campbellford, we drove across sparsely settled countryside to the village of Tweed.  Linked over the years to some post-1977 sightings of Elvis Presley, it seemed to shut down on this Sunday afternoon.   After a brief stop, during which we neither saw nor heard anyone remotely resembling Elvis, we drove down a worryingly isolated and increasingly rough road that finally brought us to the village of Marlbank.

The Moira River at Tweed, Ontario
The Moira River at Tweed, Ontario

Marlbank was at one point a bustling place, but it was bypassed by the provincial highway system and now it appears to have been frozen in the early 20th century.   Non-threatening dogs wandered the narrow streets and vehicles were few and far between.   There were some riveting houses (see photo at the top of this post- it’s for sale!), however, and we did eventually come to a street lined with cars.  The local tavern was holding square dancing lessons and it looked like the place was full.  Maybe this was why Tweed shut down on Sunday afternoon!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we expect to return to the Cobourg area next fall.  In addition to the vintage film festival and perhaps a concert, we will also have some autumn walking to do!