Pond Mills: Kettle lakes and early London settlement

While exploring the streets of my southeast Pond Mills neighbourhood in London, I stumbled across a foot path leading into a wooded area. Always curious, I decided to explore. That decision would soon lead to a surprising discovery.

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The public dock at the north end of North Pond in southeast London, Ontario.

Following the path, I lost sight of nearby houses after a dozen steps. A mixture of wild grasses, thistles and unrecognizable green shoots brushed my legs and arms as I walked. I couldn’t decide if this was just some local shortcut, a dog walking route or a purposely made path. Finding a small, sturdy wooden bridge soon answered that question.

It was a basic bridge made of narrow, sturdy logs about five-feet long, without railings and lashed to a wooden foundation. It crossed a thin swell joining the grassy area I had just left with a small clearing shaded by tall evergreen, oak and chestnut trees. The path rolled gently over a series of hills until dipping back to a second bridge, of similar construction but longer. Then it was a climb up a steep knoll abruptly ending at a road.

Crossing the road, the path continued but plunged into tall long grasses leading to a  muddy trail. Turning left, the path began to sink into ankle deep water. The other direction proved more navigable. The path narrowed and, while muddy on the surface proved firm underfoot. The surrounding vegetation closed over the path requiring some deft swings to clear the way.

The narrow path soon merged with a wider, more trodden path. To the left was a boggy area covered with fallen logs and brimming with water. A hill climbed on the right reaching to the back of a low brick building and the sound of sporadic cars.

Another 200 steps or so and there it was. A wide, open lake. Better yet, an observation dock jutted into the water. I had found my neighbourhood’s namesake, Pond Mills. Specifically, I had found North Pond. It is one of six major ponds, and many smaller, unnamed ones, dotting 200 hectares of land designated the Westminster Ponds / Pond Mills Environmentally Significant Area (ESA), the largest publicly-owned ESA in London.

There is much more to share about the Westminster Ponds / Pond Mills ESA but I will save that for a future blog. For now, I’ll complete my walk of North Pond.

While not much detail about North Pond is readily available it is identified as a kettle lake gouged out by a retreating glacier that created the sprawling Ingersoll Moraine on which it is located. About 20 football fields in size, North Pond is almost round with a wide arm reaching west toward a ribbon of railway track running north/south to connect London and St. Thomas.

Notable is one of the earliest cemeteries in the London region that drapes a small hill on the northwest side. It marks the remains of some of the earliest British settlers who settled in the London region to farm and hunt.

On the south and east sides of North Pond, small, private docks jut into the pond’s dark green waters, extending the lawns of homes hidden by bulrushes, long grasses and shady trees.

A public dock about 20 feet long and eight feet wide, installed by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, provides an excellent lookout over and into the lake. Hundreds of green lily pads shade the south end of the lake, partially hiding a vast collection of tree stumps and branches peering back from just below the water’s surface.

I regularly walk the two kilometers from my home to North Pond through a pleasant, well-tended residential area. In winter, neighbours clear large patches for skating and shinny. In summer, many canoe or cast a fishing line. North Pond provides a scenic destination for a regular walk and to escape an endless parade of city traffic.

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