A Bridgewater Kind of Morning

For the first two nights of our week in Nova Scotia, we stayed in Bridgewater. It’s a real town, neither overtouristed nor collegestudented, of about 8,000 people. The waterside has industrial-strength ships, and the homes have well tended fronts. I couldn’t resist the colour combination of this house, with matching muskoka chairs, found in the neighbourhood of our hotel:

After a complimentary buffet-style breakfast, I wandered down the street towards Woodland Garden Park, which boasts a large pond, some thickly wooded hillsides, and a chance at spotting Belted Kingfishers. If you squint, you’ll see one in the middle of the second photo below.


The birding was great. I would have stayed longer, but my 90 minutes were up. It was time to meet E.g. and head for the Wile Carding Mill Museum.

Dean Wile’s carding mill, built in 1860, prospered because of his high standards of business ethics. Knowing they would get a better return on their goods, farmers from many miles around passed other carding mills on their way to bringing their fleeces here to be carded. The mill ran until the death of Dean’s grandson in 1968. It’s silent now, except for the voices of visitors and their enthusiastic guides… but with a few adjustments of cogs, Wile’s Carding Mill could run again on its 7-horsepower wooden water wheel.

Carding machine straightened wool fibres for spinning

Florence shows us two qualities of batting

Turning this crank raises the wooden gate which lets in the brook water...

...which turns the water wheel

All right, that was my romantic voice. Our guide, Florence, didn’t stint on her explanation of how hard the employees, all teenaged women, worked here. Twelve-hour days with no breaks (although there was an indoor privy for their convenience). The new hiree’s job of mixing the wool with rancid oil (lanolin, which gums up the machinery, had first to be removed). The chances of fire. The five-minute wait for the water wheel to stop if, heaven forbid, someone got caught in the carding machine. Those drums may look carpeted, but the carpeting is of steel wires.

And yet, the mill never burned. The record of accident-free days was excellent. Young women were able to set aside some money prior to marriage. All in all, Florence’s account of the Wile Carding Mill was a positive one. If you’re interested in 19th-Century history, wool processing, labour conditions, alternative energy, or antique machinery, I highly recommend this half-hour visit. E.g. and I both feel it was one of the gems of our week in Nova Scotia.

(Flat Tony, on the other hand, afraid of becoming Perforated Tony, stayed in the car.)

11 Responses to A Bridgewater Kind of Morning

  1. davehambo says:

    Nice episode about your trip, next!

  2. lavenderbay says:

    There’s more to come, Dave, but I’ve got 20 blogs yet to catch up on first. Hopefully tomorrow…

  3. Jayne says:

    Love the photos, it looks to be a gorgeous part of the world 🙂

  4. Welcome back from holidayville. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your trip!
    We had a similar tour at Upper Canada Village. The ingenuity of early settlers is amazing. Did they mention that the best time to add colour in the weaving process is at the very beginning, when the fleeces first arrive? Thus the expression: Dyed in the wool.

  5. Trouble heard something about “batting” and now she wants to go visit this place. 😉

  6. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Jayne! Nova Scotia has a gentler terrain and climate than New Brunswick or Newfoundland, and a greater population, larger capital city, and more universities than the other Atlantic provinces, hence its greater appeal to tourists: easier to get to and drive through, more infrastructure, more nightlife, and more summer students eager to work as costumed guides.

    Thanks for the language lesson, Barefootheart! I didn’t know that one. The carding mill(s) only carded the wool, and the farmers retrieved it as roving (or batting) and brought it home to be spun (or made into batted quilts). You’ve got me curious now.

    A tuft of wool would be great fun to bat around, James, although I think Trouble would be most content to curl up on a big thick bat of the stuff. (Big clumsy-footed dogs, eat your hearts out!)

  7. Tony says:

    Great photos. What a gorgeous little house, I love it. Can I have it???

  8. lavenderbay says:

    As soon as I’m done with it, Tony. 😀

  9. lolarusa says:

    I love old factories.

  10. Massimosgrannie says:

    No, Tony, you cannot have this house – it is mine. And it is not little – it looks like a traditional Cape Cod from the front but it has a very large addition at the back and so is a substantial home, as is the back garden.

    The chairs were built by my neighbour, who is a brilliant craftsman (his own design if you saw them up close) and we painted the door to match the lavender one (otherwise the door would have remained a rather drab green/grey).

    We retired to Bridgewater 7 years ago – love it. If you want a small town, with real people and 1 hour to a city on a very good highway – lots of wonderful property for sale here (the one across the street is on the market – but not mine!)


  11. lavenderbay says:

    Well, hello, Massimo’s Grannie, thanks for dropping in!
    Don’t worry about Tony, he and his wife are quite content living in Launceston, Tasmania, where it hardly ever snows.
    You have even less to fear of “Flat Tony” who stayed in the car; FT is the e-mailable, printable cartoon image of 3-D Tony that fits into blogfriends’ luggage for vacation photo ops.
    Me, though — umm, no. I could never afford it. I could never afford a Monet or a Group of Seven, either, but viewing and admiration are free.
    Lucky you, to be living in that lovely little town, and having such wonderful neighbours. Enjoy!

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