Learning something is knowledge, but stumbling on something is exquisite and so much more meaningful.
Folks used to grab a bottle of hooch, jump in the ol’ jalopy, and tour the back roads to see the crop progression, what the locals were doing, or just plain have an afternoon of good fun. That was termed a gravel run. Nowadays that’s frowned on by the law – well, I guess it was then too, but…
Today we climb into our comfortable air conditioned vehicles and start out on smooth paved roads as we head toward a pre-planned destination. Such was the case recently when we set out on a ‘widder’s wander’ bound for Owen Sound.
A most scenic and enjoyable route is to take Grey Road 3 up through Ayton, Keady and beyond. We turned right onto Grey Road 18. Anything past Keady was all uncharted territory to me. Kilsyth is a neat little burg. Suddenly I could see finials and square towers rising above the tree line. Immediately I started waving and pointing …..”oh, oh,…gardens!” (now remember I had never been on this road before). “Cement work, he makes his own statues”. I was so startled I couldn’t speak coherently, but I knew exactly what lay before me even though we couldn’t see anything but roof tops and trees.
Rita Bedell, whose family is an Owen Sound name, gave me a puzzled look, but nodded her head in agreement. As we passed the wrought iron gate she quoted the sign, “Open every Day”.
A 1994 issue of a gardening magazine contained an article about a great place close to Owen Sound that was all turrets and towers, finials and flowers, and all done by one man. For 18 years that story has been stuck in the back of my mind as a place to someday find and explore ….and there it was right before me.
Not to be deterred, we continued to Owen Sound where we dined and then drove the shoreline of Georgian Bay and stopped at the original Bedell cottage where we visited with current owner Carrie (Clunas) Smith.
On our return we stopped at 102645 Grey Road 18, commonly known as Moreland Place.
Although it was late in the month for full horticultural beauty, there was plenty to see, and any good gardener’s imagination could quickly conjure up the picture of what it must be like at high season. One could get lost in the gardens – literally. There are tunnels and terraces, hidden vignettes and other secret places with benches. You wander, you back track, you come across an open area of nature’s wild flowers, and then you waltz right back under a cedar arch and up more stairs and more cedar tunnels. It’s an adult fairy land. Off to one side is a cedar maze where the path winds through slim trees tight together and way above your head.
Along the path to the barn, tucked out of the way but easily accessible beside a stone fence, is an English style glass greenhouse. At the small barn door sit pails, forms, tools of the trade and wheelbarrows. Did I mention cement work? There is statuary everywhere – figurines, pedestal balls, finials, curbs around flower beds, steps and inlaid paths.
What’s most amazing is that it’s all one man’s on-going labor of love – fulfilling a dream of his own, coupled with a dedication to his parents.
But that’s just the grounds, there’s also the house to explore. The original 1919 stone house is still living quarters, but a huge castle like addition was constructed in the 1980s. Again this is one man’s dream and architectural plan with most of the work done alone after he lost his main helper, his father. The addition was designed to look historic, and indeed if you hadn’t known any part of the story, it would appear to be a 1900s construction same as the original house.
Most amazing is the circular staircase which spirals up four levels to the top lookout. The banister is one continuous fluid motion right to the top (wow, think about sliding down that one!)
In 1945 Vera and Joe More scrimped and saved to purchase the very elegant stone house. They remained there for the rest of their lives with only son Barry. Father and son built a ‘cute little garage’. With chores and farm work it took nearly a year but that was young Barry’s introduction to construction, and immediately he knew he wanted to be a house builder. For several years he did construct houses and then became building inspector for Derby Township. At home, in his spare time, the younger More was becoming an avid garden designer and the grounds got a complete facelift. More joined the Horticultural Society to learn all he could while he and his father constructed the glasshouse to grow hundreds of bedding plants. The gardens grew larger, became filled with cement work, and were constantly on tour.
The younger More wanted an addition to the main house so that his mother would have a grand place to showcase her ever increasing collections of antique furniture and china. His favorite style was Georgian Regency. That house building project dragged on for 10 years. But it’s a mansion which is on public display and has hosted backgrounds for many photo shoots, wedding pictures and theatrical movies.
Through the centre deep-set arched doorway one sees the spiral staircase straight ahead. On either side are large double parlors with exquisite design ceilings. The rooms are crammed with antique furniture and chinaware. Shelves are virtually loaded with little figurines and knick knacks. Ditto for the second floor and the tower rooms.
Mrs. More had a penchant for nice things and preserving the past. She collected whatever struck her fancy from garage and house sales plus antique auctions. This trait has been passed on to her son who hates to see anything of history destroyed.
Of particular interest is a matching set of teacup china cabinets designed and built by Barry. These tall showcases do not have ordinary straight board shelving, but rather cut work so that each saucer sits on its own semi-circle. Again the china is close together which tends to make it more appealing.
There is so much more to describe, but only a personal visit will help you comprehend Barry More’s philosophy that if you want something badly enough and are willing to make the required sacrifices, hard work can turn your dreams to reality.
The inspirations, new projects, repairs, and upkeep in general are all just like the famous battery – it goes on, and on, and on…