Cyclists are no stranger to Woolwich and Wellesley townships’ rural roads.
Woolwich Cycling has put together a number of routes which highlight different aspects of the area and help riders break out of their regular routine, like the 33.6-kilometre general store tour.
That cycling route starts at the head of the Kissing Bridge Trail in Elmira then heads north to Floradale, runs by the Hillcrest Home Baking, then to the southwest corner of Yatton past Yatton Home Baking, out to the Wallenstein General Store, then southeast to Hawkesville by Sunnycrest Home Baking, then all the way to Three Bridges Road and north back into Elmira.
“I think the initiative comes from the concept if I was a visitor to Woolwich Township I might show up at the township office or as time goes on here, the township website, and look where would be some interesting places to go visit on a bicycle ride that would be considered somewhat safe,” said Patrick Gleeson of Woolwich Cycling.
He says they tried to figure out what route made the most sense by connecting the dots between the similar businesses.
While he hasn’t rode the route for a few years, he recalls it’s not too challenging for someone who bikes a lot like himself, but would be a good challenge for less frequent riders.
He says they’re always trying to be advocates for safe cycling in Woolwich and these touristy-type routes are another way to bring in more riders. They’re also trying to be proactive about future development by communicating with the township. Barnswallow Drive is slated to be rebuilt in 2018 and they’re asking the township what their plans are for facilitating a safe cycling environment on that road.
They haven’t added any new routes in the past year, but he said it’s something they should review again.
He’d like riders who try the routes to gain an appreciation of Woolwich countryside life, something the Waterloo Cycling Club makes good use of, as evidenced by packs of bikers on the rural roads on any given night.
“All the cycling clubs coming out of Waterloo are up in Woolwich here and Wellesley, that’s their playground for cycling. Definitely we support those activities,” he said.
They need to update some of their routes online as development work was recently done on the Kissing Bridge Trail at the Wallenstein Feed Mill. He acknowledges a lot of people want to see that trail developed more. And that’s likely going to happen.
The 740-kilometre Waterfront Trail which started in Toronto and went east of Montreal, later stretched west to the Windsor-Sarnia area.“There’s a push now to put it to Goderich and then they would come in basically, what they call the G2G Trail, which is the Goderich to Guelph Trail and we’re right here in Elmira. If we can get a tie in you’re going to see people come south and coming to Kitchener-Waterloo. So there’s a push that way and I think you’re going to see some future development in that area,” Gleeson said.
Alice Martin, who runs the Wallenstein General Store, says they always see an increase in customers in the tourist season, though they’re not necessarily cyclists.
“We see them going past sometimes. Sometimes they drop in for a drink, they would come up from the trail. If they’re elderly folk on the trail going for a bike ride they would definitely drop in for a drink because you basically have to go around this corner anyways with the mill activity going on,” Martin said.
She says the store is busy lately and they didn’t really have a slack season this winter because of the mild weather. They didn’t see a lot of tourists, but they had plenty of delivery orders and local business to keep them occupied.
“I think it’s probably split half and half, especially in the summertime, tourists or people from the city – lookers I could call them. They always buy a little bit of something, but they’re here looking not with an item in mind. They come out with some stuff, but the locals would come with a purpose in mind,” Martin said.
Tourists typically stop just to see what an old-fashioned general store looks like, since they’re hard to come by these days.
“What is unique about it is that it has everything, all the way from office supplies, groceries, dishes, clothing, footwear, post office, all the way through to hardware and fence posts. That’s what the general store theme is, it’s got everything a person would need,” Martin said.
She says customers are often surprised when they find out they’ll order in products for them too. She remembers six or seven years ago someone was looking for a cabbage shredder, which isn’t a request they often get, but she ordered it and got it to the customer.
“In this area with no other stores within walking distance, for the horse and buggy people, it’s mostly because of the horse and buggy people that we’re here. And also because this store has also been a general store, way back when it started in 1906, and being it’s in the horse and buggy community it’s been essential,” Martin said.
The hardware aspect of the store has done well too because there’s a lot of farmers in Wallenstein and they can pop in quickly rather than going to Elmira or Linwood.
“It’s a totally unique store, so somebody coming out of the city, maybe Toronto, this is a totally different experience to come to the Wallenstein General Store or the Mennonite-type bakeries. We build on our strengths,” Gleeson said.