If the thought of spending a
few quiet hours relaxing under an elm tree in the midst of a scenic park
appeals to you, then consider a day trip to the lovely village of Ayr.
Lovely is probably the best word I can use to describe Ayr. Officially
still a village with only 3500 permanent residents (but growing), many
of the local area heritage homes have either been restored, or better
still, never let go. As such, the village atmosphere is turn of the
century. A time that harkens back to when Abel Mudge erected a grist
mill in 1824. Throughout the village, gorgeous gardens adorn the front
yards, providing splashes of pastel colours spring through fall.
If this is enough to make you consider spending an afternoon here, you
will find Ayr just of Hwy. 401, a short distance west of Cambridge and
south of Kitchener-Waterloo. Ayr is situated within the Grand River
Watershed System, designated a Canadian Heritage River. The easiest
way to get here is by exiting Hwy.401 at Hwy. 97 going west. Follow
the signs and you will soon arrive at Ayr in North Dumfries Township.
We arrived in Ayr around noon on a Sunday. The downtown is fairly
quiet as most of the shops are closed. It's obvious that in recent
years the downtown has been renovated to support the tourist trade.
Today though, there are only a smattering of tourists here. The village
might fair better with tourists if shops were kept open on Sundays to
encourage repeat visitors as other neighboring towns have done.
Turn of the Century Character
The entrance to Ayr Centennial Park, erected in commemoration of the
Centennial of Confederation of Canada in 1967, is just off Main Street.
A small lake acts as a center piece to the park. One can easily walk
around the lake in no time at all... maybe ten minutes. But you didn't
make the trip to Ayr to rush your visit now.
Take your time and enjoy
all this centennial park has to offer. Take a leisurely stroll with
your dog as many do, or gaze at the varied flowers, shrubs and tress
lining the lake, or simply plant yourself under a tree with a good
book or good friend and take in the sunshine. Watch the ducks and
geese play along the lakes grassy edge. Imagine yourself a romantic
character in a turn of the century country setting.
At one end of the park you will find Campbell Trail. The trail was
dedicated on May 9, 2021 according to the plaque at the entrance. No
other details where given, which leaves one wondering who Campbell is
and why the dedication. Nonetheless, the hiking trail is enjoyable in
its own right, cutting through a short wooden area for about a half
kilometer or so and leading to an untouched wetland bordering on the
edge of the village. Park benches are scattered along the roadside,
looking out at the rugged wetland. This is a favorite stopping off
point for many visitors. Off in the distance, a gaggling of Canada
geese and ducks is heard. Now is not the time to remember you left the
binoculars at home.
Apparently, many visitors to the area
feed the wildlife. Standing along the marshes edge for only a few
moments, we were quickly surrounded by twenty or more ducks looking
for food. Though tempting to feed the ducks with whatever bits of food
handy, this practice should be avoided, as ultimately, this is detrimental
to their natural preservation.
Close by, the sound of rushing water is heard. Thinking a small waterfall
is nearby, we follow the sound across a small bridge to find a dam feeding
a tiny stream. A couple of the local residents are sitting on the rocks
below, leisurely fishing in the rushing waters under the bridge.
Step Back in Time
Closing out the afternoon, we make our way back to Main Street and enjoy
a pot of tea at the Mill Pond Corner Tea Room. Across the street, one can
step back in time with a delicious milkshake or ice cream sundae at
Johnny's Malt Shop. If you're here for dinner, try Rambell's Waterside
Dining for a more traditional meal in a setting overlooking the Centennial
Park and lake.
19th Century Mennonite Stone Meetinghouse
Locate Ayr with MapQuest.
Before making the trip home, we stop at the Detweiler Meetinghouse
Historic Site in nearby Roseville. Devout Mennonites built the Detweiler
Meetinghouse on the current location in 1855. It's the only surviving
stone meetinghouse built by Mennonites in the 19th century Ontario.
Detweiler Meetinghouse Inc, a non-profit association, completed the
restoration of the building in 1999. The meetinghouse is available for
uses that respect the work and spirit of early Waterloo County Mennonites.