Monday, 23 March 2015

Boulderwood Hill Park

Street parking: Deventer Drive, Boulderwood Rise, Cherry Tree Bend
Dogs permitted off-leash, MUST be on-leash through the Royal Oak Burial Park

Boulderwood Hill park is on the west side of McMinn and Grant Parks, all of which are connected via wooded trails through the Broadmead/Cordova Bay neighbourhood, and allow for a longer hike, and some spectacular vantages of the peninsula and city without having to go too far from town.  Its another great example of the ways in which the municipality of Saanich (Parks and Recreation) has been working to create connected greenspaces that promote walking within neighbourhoods.

Boulderwood Hill itself sits at the top of Amblewood Drive in Broadmead, and at its peak, looks out over the Royal Oak Burial Park, but there is also a  larger network of trails and parkland through the hill below, and surrounding the entire acreage of the Burial Park, with a wide range of forest streams, ponds, and up to rocky cliffs and garry oak meadows.


The Broadmead and Royal Oak neighbourhoods actually have a fairly long history in Victoria, despite being considered wild and inhospitable lands at the time.  The lands comprising much of North and South Saanich, were acquired by the Husdon's Bay Company in 1852 via a treaty between the Songhees Indians and Sir James Douglas. Seven years later, 899 acres, most of present-day Royal Oak and Broadmead was deeded to to Alexander Grant Dallas, subdivided only when the Pat Bay Highway was constructed, as it needed to pass directly through.  The larger portion on the east side, about 719 acres of what is currently Broadmead and Rithet's Bog was maintained by Alexander Dallas as "Dallas Farm", until his death in 1891, at which time R.P Rithet purchased the property.

About the same time as the larger acreage was deeded to Dallas, John Heal, one of the original settlers in the area, purchased 135 acres in the area and built a family home at 813 Royal Woods Place (interesting fact - this home also served as a post office in its early days). On his death, the land was divided up and passed to his sons Walter and Harry, and and a portion of this original parcel eventually became the current day burial park.

Walking the trails:

There area few trail loops that can be hiked easily within one to two hours within the larger park. Unfortunately, none of these trails are wheelchair accessible, and some have some quite steep and rocky terrain in spots.

If you are looking for vantages of the city and peninsula, you can go right to the top of Boulderwood Rise, and hike a loop that skirts the top of the hill.  There is a condominium complex right in the middle of the summit, with a wide buffer of parkland and trails on all sides.  There are clear, uninterrupted views out over Cordova Bay and Mount Doug on the east side of the hill, and on the west side, you have a bird's eye view of the cemetery and West Saanich.

Alternately, you can start at the bottom of the hill, from the trailhead at Deventer Drive.  This takes you through the lower forested areas, and up the hill skirting the backside of the sidestreets off Amblewood Drive.  If you follow the trails around towards the west, you will connect up with the trails that make their way into the Royal Oak Burial Park.

You can also make a full loop of the burial park, by starting at the end of Cherry Tree Bend, off Haliburton Road. There is a trail that heads due east, following the northern end of the parkland, where you will see glimpses of the backside of properties off the sidestreets off Haliburton Road, eventually connecting up with Boulderwood Hill park proper at the eastern edge of the park.  If you follow the trails around, to the south, you will find yourself heading back down the hill, through the woods to Deventer Drive, Royal Woods Place, and Falaise Road - some of your hike back will be on paved roads with sidewalk, but at the end of Falaise Drive, another trail picks up for a quieter stroll past the mausoleum and back to Cherry Tree Bend where you started.

On our last visit there, we found THIS curious tiny structure - shrine, memorial? or fairy hut? we're not sure, but it certainly had us stop and take notice.

Flora and Fauna

You will encounter a range of habitats while hiking these trails.  At the lower elevations, there are streams and wetlands filled with skunk cabbage, ferns and fast growing trees such as alder and poplar.  In the fall, you may even see patches of wild mushrooms!

Maples, hemlock, fir and cedar are abundant through the forested areas with their typical understory of salal, sword ferns and oregon grape.  These forests gradually transition to arbutus and garry oak meadows at the higher elevations.  Some areas are overgrown with ivy, but it appears they are slowing being rehabilitated, and spring wildflowers such as fawn lilies, shooting stars, and trilliums can be seen not far off the main trails.

You will also see and hear a wide variety of birds on your hike - on our visits we've encountered flickers and pileated woodpeckers, ravens, and even owls!  You will also see and hear many smaller birds such as nuthatches, finches, and wrens.

As with much of suburban Greater Victoria, this park also shelters semi-wild animals such as deer and racoons, which you may hear, but not see in the denser underbrush.  If you are hiking with your dogs, while they are permitted off-leash on the trails, if they are prone to wandering and getting into trouble, you may want to keep them on-leash to avoid any nasty altercations.


Saanich Parks info on Boulderwood Hill Park\
The history of a Pioneer Family: the Heals of Royal Oak
Goyette Family History (compiled by Rene Carroll, 1999)
An Eclectic History of Broadmead, Valerie Green for the BARA Bugle, 2006
"Broadmead was owned by the Hudson's Bay Company", except from the Broadmead Story, BARA, 2010

All images © 2014 Janice Mansfield