By: Jenna Beemer
March Break was always my favorite time of the year when I was in school. It always came at the perfect time, school was starting to drag on, the weather is not ideal and this week long break always helped reset myself. With COVID-19 still affecting how we spend our free time it may be hard to decide what to do during the break. I explored Haldimand County and came up with five fun filled days that are also COVID friendly for you and your family to enjoy over March break. These days are in no particular order, for places visited that do have hours I will include them in the description. Enjoy Haldimand County this March Break.
Day 1: Richardson’s Maple Farm in Dunnville
What says winter fun more than a sugar bush tour? From March 12-18th the Richardson’s Farm and Market will be offering self guided tours through their trails. During this tour you will learn about how sap is collected and the legend of how maple syrup was discovered. There is also an option to sample Canada’s greatest treat of pure maple taffy, which I used to do as a kid all the time. Not only is this a fun adventure it is also educational and is fun for the whole family.
Another option is the family maple experience (running Saturday March 19th & March 26th 2022) which includes a delicious brunch as part of the tour, as well as partaking in learning how to tap maple syrup and other techniques. Each of these tours require you to purchase tickets online and usually sell out fast, so make sure you get your tickets and don’t miss out on this great experience. Purchase tickets and learn more HERE
While at the farm, make sure to check out the farm shop as well where produce, canned foods and frozen baked goods are sold. If you wish for the baked goods to be baked to order, call ahead. I remember doing this tour when I was in elementary school, it is a fun experience and something that I can’t wait to do again.
While you are now in Dunnville feel free to check out some local shops in the downtown area. Sweet Retrospect sells retro candies, and anything sweet you can think of. If you aren’t full from the brunch at the farm, Debb’s Cuisine on Queen is a great place for lunch or dinner and their menu has something for everyone.
Day 2: Ruthven National Historic Park
Norman the Sheepdog
Ruthven Park is home to a beautiful Greek Revival mansion filled with original family furnishings and possessions. The home was built in circa 1865 and was owned by five generations of the Thompson family. The home tours are currently closed due to COVID, however, the grounds and hiking trails are open to the public on Monday through Friday. The grounds consist of 1,500 acres and is situated along the Grand River. There are five separate trails throughout the grounds that you can walk, and explore.
Even in the dead of winter there are large amounts of wildlife to be seen, it is also a very popular bird watching location. Within five minutes of stepping out of my car, I saw two red tail hawks. On the backside of the welcome center there is a whiteboard that will tell you the different wildlife active in the area and on which trails you can see them. Along the trail that I chose to walk I saw numerous animal tracks including; rabbit, raccoon and deer, and it was easy to make a game with my walking partner to try and guess what animal each track belonged to.
Although the mansion is closed to the public for tours it is still a beautiful structure from the outside and made for some amazing pictures. Throughout the grounds of the home you will find numerous plaques with information on the buildings and the family that resided with in.
If the supernatural is something that peaks your interest you will most definitely want to make Ruthven a stop on your March break itinerary as some claim it is one of the most haunted places in Canada. Make sure you do some research on the resident ghost of Ruthven ‘little Bessie’ before you go, and visit the two on site Cemeteries.
After I finished exploring the grounds I was absolutely freezing, I made my way to Cayuga and stopped at one of my favourite places in all of Haldimand, the Carolinian Café. I treated myself to a cappuccino to warm up, they also have soups and sandwiches if you are hungry after your adventure.
Day 3: Baking Prep in Hagersville
Since it is the middle of March, there is an almost guarantee that there will be one awful day of weather, and what better way to spend the day than baking. Baking is my absolute favourite hobby, and we are going to put a Haldimand twist on a classic recipe, brownies!
To gather all of the ingredients, first stop at Baejj in Hagersville (21 King St E), this is a bulk foods store, they also sell pre-baked goodies and I highly suggest grabbing a butter tart before you leave. Our next ingredients will be collected from My Sweet Sweet World, also located in Hagersville (14 Main St. N). I love all things chocolate, and I add this chocolate to almost every baked good I make when I can! Finally make your way to Hewitts Dairy (4210 ON-6) and grab some ice cream to top off the brownies, I got Raspberry Ripple, but you can not go wrong with any flavor.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
1/2 cup of broken up My Sweet Sweet World chocolate
3/4 teaspoons sea salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil or extra-virgin olive oil**
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 scoop of Hewitts Ice Cream
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly spray an 8×8 baking dish (not a 9×9 dish or your brownies will overcook) with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, chocolate chunks, and salt.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, water, and vanilla.
- Sprinkle the dry mix over the wet mix and stir until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it’ll be thick). Bake for 40 to 48 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs attached (note: it’s better to pull the brownies out early than to leave them in too long).
You now have delicious Haldimand County brownies to enjoy. I like to eat mine warm so I wasted no time cutting them up and eating them, and always remember, there is no such thing as too much ice cream.
Day 4: Ron Clark Memorial River Walk & Shopping in Downtown Caledonia
One of my favourite parts to walk in Caledonia is the Ron Clark Memorial River walk, I am always trying to go where I can see the most dogs and this walkway always has a bunch. You can start at either end, up by the train bridge or park behind Haldimand Physiotherapy. The best place to park is behind Haldimand Physiotherapy, there is a large parking lot that backs directly onto the walkway. During your walk you get to see what I think of as Caledonia’s landmarks; the Caledonia Bridge, the Caledonia Mill and the train bridge, all of which make for some amazing photos.
Once you have finished along the walkway it is time to do some shopping in Downtown Caledonia. Caledonia has some amazing shops for you to visit; Just One which provides ethically sourced, goods, accessories and houseware. Second Chance Records, home to Caledonia’s record store both used and new albums, along with instruments and apparel. Bella and Coop, a home décor and clothing boutique that sells unique and local goods. All of these shops are within the same block and can be reached from the walkway as well.
Now if you have been reading along, and if you followed my Christmas shopping in Haldimand County, you will know, no day is complete without a stop for a treat. For this day Jones Bakery was what I had my sights set on all day. I used to go to Jones once a week for lunch in high-school and get a pizza bun and a Belgian cookie, I do not know what the secret ingredient is for their pizza buns but they are the absolute best. Of course there is also selection of penny candy bags which is always a huge hit with the kids.