Kirkup Woods, more than 100 acres in north Bradford, has been added to Simcoe County Forests.
Decades before the Japanese made "forest bathing" a popular pastime, the Kirkup family was forest bathing, drinking from bubbling springs, skating and even skiing on home-carved skis in the forest on their West Gwillimbury farm. They tapped the maple trees for sugar, and picked and preserved bushels of thimbleberries – their fruit for the winter.
Now the 104 acres of bush, half of the original farm property, has been purchased by the County of Simcoe. It consists of woodlands, with streams, valleys and significant wildlife habitat.
The other half of the property, with its rolling acres of agricultural land, was purchased by Doug Van Luyk, a third-generation Holland Marsh farmer and long-time board member of the Holland Marsh Growers Association.
The Kirkup family farm was started in 1921 by Robert and Mary Kirkup and then taken over by their son Douglas and his wife Gladys Moriarty Kirkup. Douglas and Gladys lived on the farm until their deaths in 1991.
At the inauguration of the Kirkup Woods on Sept. 13, 2017, Bradford Mayor Rob Keffer spoke about the important role the Kirkup family has played in the community. As a rooster crowed far away, Keffer said Doug Kirkup had preferred horse-drawn farm equipment over tractors and became known as the Potato King of Bradford. Gladys was well known by many local families because in addition to raising the couple's five children, she taught at nearby schools.
The forest that was the home of the Kirkup family now will be open to the public for everyone to enjoy.
"It holds a lot of nice memories," says Paul Kirkup, the youngest of the family's five siblings. The inauguration was also attended by his sisters, Shirley Smith, Carolyn Kirkup and Katharine Binks, and by Marilyn Kirkup, widow of the eldest son, Jack.
In a news release, Simcoe County said Simcoe County Forest is the largest municipally owned forest in Ontario, growing to more than 32,700 total acres with the acquisition of the Kirkup Woods.
"This acquisition is significant as it adds Simcoe County Forest acreage in the southern portion of the County, an area that continues to see significant growth and development."
Public access to Kirkup Woods is located at 2175 Line 13, Bradford, and is marked by a Simcoe County sign. There is a small parking lot.
Photos: Cover: Kirkup Woods. Above, from left to right, Bradford Mayor Rob Keffer, Katharine Binks, Shirley Smith, Paul Kirkup, Carolyn Kirkup, Marilyn Kirkup.