The Woods

Entrance to The Woods. There used to a deep hole in the field on the
 right where we caught tadpoles and frogs. It was filled in by do-gooders and made
into a  nice clean playing field.

The Woods, as we called it, is a  wooded, hilly conservation area close to where I lived in Westdale, the university community in the west end of Hamilton, Ontario. The actual legal name is "Cootes Paradise".  It is a example of Hamiton's commitment to nature preservation.  

old westdale\
 Shopping area of Westdale in late 1930s or early 1949s.
 "The Woods" were a 10 minute walk from here. Streetcars ran down the middle. The Westdale Theatre if still there, the only surviving business from my boyhood days.

It was the wartime years but it didn't stop us  children growing up in a freewheeling independent way( there were no "helicopter parents" in  years).  Not unlike Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, we pretty did what we wanted and went where wanted unhindered by parental constraints or warnings. If there were pedophiles and child axe murderers hiding in The Woods we didn't see any. The only threat I remember is rumors of a wolf running loose in The woods. I remember preparing a make-shift spear with a glass shard for a tip to hunt the imagined beast. 
A wide path or road provides access to The Woods. Cars were banned years ago but I remember them faintly.  A fork in the road took you to the grounds of McMaster University ( then a modest Baptist college) or, turning right, up a steep hill that took you to The Marsh, an extention of Hamilton Harbour.  A small body of water separated this peninsula of land from its tip which we dubbed The Island. Getting across the water to The Island seemed dangerous and fun and always the highlight of a visit to The Woods. There you could each your sandwich and imagine yourself on a desert island. 

peter and
                      ralph portrait
Myself and my brother Ralph when we played in

 the Woods. Note: the picture has been tinted. 

The Woods is still there but to me not nearly as much fun. The conservationists have taken over. Paths we once used as "cowboy and Indian " trails are now cut off to protect the  environment .  Worst for me, you can no longer get to The Island, a fact I discovered on a dis-spiriting visit I paid to The Woods a few years ago. The main road through The Woods appeared to be popular with joggers.