With 15 picturesque, well-maintained trails dotting the landscape, it's no wonder that Oxford County has long been a paradise for walkers, cyclists, photographers and those out to catch a breath of a fresh air while taking in the region's natural splendour. Detailed in the handy pocketbook - Oxford County Trails Council's Seek and Explore! A Guide To The Trails in Oxford County - the network literally crisscrosses the county north to south. This outdoor attraction draws visitors from the region and beyond the county boundaries throughout the year.
The trail network, attracting walkers, cyclists, cross country skiers, dog walkers and snow shoe enthusiasts, is the ideal way to discover Oxford County from the 19-kilometre Avon Trail for hikers and the sprawling Millennium Trail system to the gently slopping terrain of the Borden Crescent Trail and Tillsonburg Golf Course Trails.
Glance upwards momentarily and you may catch one of Oxford's 321 bird species in full flight, from the Greater White-Fronted Goose, tundra swan and mallard to the ring-necked pheasant, red-shouldered hawk and eastern meadowlark. According to Jeffrey H. Skevington and James M. Holdsworth's Birds of Oxford County, high fliers can be spotted in any of the 12 birding sites from Big Otter Valley to Wildwood Lake. Oxford is home to an intriguing mix of northern and southern birds - most of the Carolinian species breeding in ravines in the Tillsonburg area on the sand plain with the northern species found in scattered wetlands.
On the boundary of the Carolinian Life Zone, Oxford County is a natural meeting place of two major ecological regions in Ontario, with some of the highest levels of remaining wetlands in Southwestern Ontario, thanks to local stewardship efforts.
More than 20 organizations and individuals representing environment, farming, business, planning and government(s) brainstorm regularly for restoring natural heritage in Oxford. One of the most active groups is the Woodstock Cycling Club - a growing organization that boasts a yearly membership throughout the county of more than 100 - including mountain bikers, road cyclists, racers, tourists and virtually everyone in between. Club spokesperson, Ryan Ludington, says all members have one thing in common: "We all love to ride our bikes." Clearly, Oxford County and its trail system is just the place to demonstrate that passion, even in the wintertime when XC ski trails have been set up in the Pines region.
For photographers - whether casual or more serious - the opportunities to capture that perfect digital moment are never-ending. In September, 2002, the very first meeting of the Woodstock Camera Club was held at Carman's foto source (a camera outlet in Woodstock) with 12 founding members and representatives from the Tillsonburg Camera Club. Today - from September to the end of June every year - the club continues as a major force in the Oxford County community.
"We have more than 70 members of all ages from Ingersoll, Woodstock, Paris and some from outside the county, like Brantford and even one person who comes in from London," says Woodstock Camera Club's contest chair Ruth Ann Rule. "It's all those wonderful trails, the historical buildings and the natural beauty of birds, twigs and everything that attract us. We just get in our cars and drive around, down those country roads- there's so many photographic opportunities throughout this beautiful county."
Oxford County is certainly an attractive destination to visit time and again - whether on foot - preferably with camera firmly in hand - or taking the two or four wheel-route.
Geoff Dale is a freelance writer/photographer based in Woodstock, Ontario. In addition to writing for several publications including The London Free Press, the Sentinel-Review, Better Farming and the Transcontinental Media chain of newspapers in Newfoundland, he also critiques plays at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for the Internet-based London Now. He has also written two books on the 50th anniversary of CAW Local 636 and the 100th anniversary of Execulink.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/