How many people in this world can honestly say they feel blessed to live where they do because of the road they live on? Probably not that many, so for this reason, because I am one of the blessed, I want to share with you my reasons for feeling this way.
I live in Victoria Beach on a sliver of land running parallel along the mainland of Nova Scotia, which is separated by the Digby Gut at the entrance to the Annapolis Basin. To reach the nearest town of Annapolis Royal, or to anywhere in the province, I must travel on the only road which links us — Granville Road — supposedly the oldest road in Canada since it has Port Royal, the oldest settlement in Canada.
Living here for 10 years has morphed into thousands of trips along this road. Yet, I can honestly say that I am never bored by it. In fact, following its twists and turns running smack dab between the North Mountain on one side and the Annapolis Basin on the other can actually provide a very uplifting experience for me.
From the time I leave my house in Victoria Beach until I reach my destination in Annapolis Royal, Granville Road — or “my road” as I like to call it — will have taken me through six communities. Victoria Beach, once a thriving fishing village with a fish processing plant, lies at the end of the road at the tip of the narrow strip of land shaping the Digby Gut. It’s followed by Port Wade, then Karsdale, Port Royal, Granville Beach, and finally, Granville Ferry.
All of them are unique and play a part in nourishing my physical, mental and spiritual needs.
On a physical level, I am conscious of mountain and water all around me as seldom does my road take me far from either one. It may momentarily stray away from both, but in their place it presents me with a myriad of colour from the trees and other foliage.
Moreover, I adore looking at the various types of architecture exhibited by the abundance of old homes, some dating back to the early 1700s. The houses that were lucky enough to fall into caring hands have been restored to their former glory, while others have been deserted and are falling into ruin.
The oldest house is a Connecticut Salt Box, built circa 1730, located in Granville Beach. Restored to its original state in the 1960s by Robert Patterson, an avid antique dealer from Toronto, it is now a museum. Open every summer it displays the owner’s many Georgian treasures, including an outstanding collection of Chippendale furniture.
On an intellectual level, my road presents me with a past which is rich in history dating back to the very earliest settlers who came to this area in the early 1600s. They called the area Port Royal, which was then a large tract of land extending from what is today the town of Annapolis Royal to the present day community of Port Royal 10 kilometers away.
Those of you who were born and brought up here know that this area was first sited by Samuel de Champlain in 1604. The following year, he and Sieur de Mons built the Habitation as a meeting place for the settlers, making it the oldest settlement in North America, beating out Jamestown, Virginia, by two years and Quebec by three.
These two French explorers, along with the help of the gifted poet, Marc Lescarbot (who wrote and produced The Theatre of Neptune, the first drama ever written and produced in North America), were the reason for the settlement’s success. Thus, was born the Order of Good Cheer, a social club which not only kept alive the spirits of the men who accompanied them, but still exists today.
With such history at my doorstep, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to drive by it almost every day.
Second to Port Royal in historical significance would have to be Port Wade, which was at one time a thriving port where some of the province’s most venerable sailing ships were built. For a short while it was noted for exporting iron ore to other parts of the world.
Today, it is home to one of the province’s many fish farms.
The little community of Karsdale, next door to Port Wade, has its fair share of lovely old homes which have attracted people from other parts of Canada and the United States. They are attracted to not only the low real estate prices, but also the opportunity to test their renovating skills. Karsdale can also boast of a quaint old Anglican Church and graveyard dating back to the mid 1800s.
From Karsdale, my road continues to wend its way to Granville Beach, where you will find a dairy farm and peach orchards always available for sale in late summer at a nearby fruit stand. Today’s farmers have the early Acadians to thank for their fertile land. They found a way to not only retain the high Fundy tides but to keep the salt out — a practice which is still used today.
Granville Ferry, the last village on my road before crossing the causeway leading to Annapolis Royal, is the largest village with an abundance of stately homes and old block houses hugging both sides of the road.
“The ferry,” as it is commonly referred to by those who live there, was the undisputed centre of the shipbuilding trade that flourished during Nova Scotia’s “Age of Sail.”
Yes, my road not only feeds me physically and mentally, but also spiritually. In the past, I expect the many little churches along the road did a great job of feeding the souls of its inhabitants. However, today some of those churches have closed and those that haven’t are facing dwindling congregations.
But another kind of spiritual teaching reached this area in the 1970s when a branch of Buddhism, known as Shambala, found a special energy radiating a feeling of peace all along the road which they claim aptly reflects the teachings of Buddha. The result is a small but active Shambala centre in the town of Annapolis.
When I moved here, many people I met often referred to our road as “magical.” I was curious at first and couldn’t help wondering why.
Now I understand. The physical beauty given to us by nature, a rich history left to us by those who came before, and its special energy which has drawn many of us here, all contribute to its magic. For me, my road is a special friend who never fails to inspire me every time I travel on it.
This article appeared in the Chronicle Herald, Nov. 16, 2016