There's always some theme running through my blog that may not be evident to most readers, but last Monday I wrote about Toronto's newest Harbourfront Park - Sugar Beach. Now I adore sugar and I love a great beach so those ideas simmered with me all week, until it made perfect sense for me to write about my beloved Willows Beach today. Why? Because Willows Beach is the place I frolicked while eating ice cream nearly every day as a child! It holds such a special place in my heart it remains one of the first destinations I visit when I come to town, including this past weekend when I arrived in Victoria to visit my amazing family.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been blessed with an idlylic childhood. From the age of ten I lived with my family in Victoria's charming 'Oak Bay' neighbourhood. Affectionately known as living "Behind The Tweed Curtain" - a tongue-in-cheek reference to its British heritage - it was a convivial village atmosphere with, uhuh, tea rooms with crumpets, sweet shoppes with cadbury flake chocolate and a fish 'n chip stand that wrapped our purchases in, what else of course, but newspaper.
Most days after school I would cycle along meandering paths under gnarled old Garry Oaks and red barked Arbutus trees in the 76 acre naturalized (and rare ecosystem) Uplands Park. Even before one could see the ocean the salt water breeze would tickle your nose and lick your lips. The park terminated at Cattle Point, which earned its name as a drop off point for the long gone Uplands Farm, which occupied the surrounding land from 1860 to 1910. Apparently cattle would be barged to the bay in front of what is now the parking lot to swim and wade the short distance to shore where they were rounded up by the cowboys who lived here. Still to this day this rocky ocean point boasts an abundance of tide pools filled with Starfish, Sea Anemones and little red crabs. I would spend hours playing in the tide pools listening to the waves crash whilst the boating regattas in the distance sailed around Discovery Island. And on clear days there is a spectacular view of Mount Baker from sunrise to sunset.
From Cattle Point a path winds down to scenic sandy Willows Beach. This mile long arc of white sand always has an abundance of driftwood perfect for building twisted fortresses of fun. A little park contains the playground where I practiced my swinging, is home to the annual Oak Bay Tea Party chock-a-block with amusement rides (I loved the Zipper!), and a seasonal tea house and confectionary stand operated by the Kiwanis Club where I indulged my love of ice cream. Beware the seagulls... amidst their screeching they're always on the hunt for unsuspecting passersby...they will swoop down and steal your french fries right out of your tray if you're not careful! Just beyond the far end of Willows Beach is the Oak Bay Marina where I would sail, and a small café that sold small frozen herring to feed the nearly tame harbor seals (and daring seagulls!), which are nearly always splish splashing under the ramp leading to the docks.
If you ever venture to Victoria, I encourage you to venture to Oak Bay's Cattle Point and Willow's Beach. It's truly extraordinary! I am so grateful my parents moved here when I was ten. Lucky Me!