The Don Valley Brickworks: Wild At Heart – “Country” in the City

The Evergreen Foundation partnered with many others, including Toronto and Region Conservation, and the City of Toronto, to revitalize and publicize this green space, which has been mostly hidden in the middle of the city for many years. Working together they have made this historic site and wildlife refuge the lovely natural destination it has become.

Evergreen’s plan for the space mainly involves the buildings section, where the original factory buildings are (the wild park section is governed by City Parks) and they aim to create a world-class green centre here. From Evergreen’s website:

Evergreen is raising $55 million to transform this heritage site into an international showcase for urban sustainability and green design.
When we’re done, you’ll be able to experience leading edge ecological programming through community activities, kids’ camps, a farmers’ market, a native plant nursery, arts initiatives, green conference facilities, at-risk youth programs and much more…

They’ve actually re-annointed the space, in fact, by naming it The Evergreen BrickWorks, but I find I can’t get used to saying that, and still prefer the old name: the Don Valley Brick Works.

That’s what the location always was: a quarry and brick factory/kiln which manufactured most of the bricks for houses built in the early part of Toronto’s history. The brick factory functioned until the late 80s.

Highrise apartments peek up from the horizon in places, but you feel worlds away from the concrete when you are strolling on the paths here. Those distant specks of buildings are the only thing to remind you that you are in the middle of Toronto when you are here.

The lily pond wetlands is glorious in the afternoon, the bullfrogs serenade you.

Evergreen’s mission statement: Evergreen makes cities more livable by deepening the connection between people and nature. I think it is terrific that Evergreen has grand plans for the space, but until the full plans are up and running it is already a wonderful place to get a taste of wild nature in the heart of the city.

Redbuds in glorious bloom by the pond. The topography of the area forms a microclimate, which allows more tender shrubs like redbud to thrive.

Red-winged blackbird perches and sings on some park signage. Prairie-fire, a native plant is back lit in the evening sun.

If you have the need to to hear the trill of red-winged blackbirds or the bullfrog singing its song, take a trip here and walk though the trails or the boardwalk. The city is all around, but you can almost forget it when you are strolling through this lovely pocket of wilderness.

A visitor finds a quiet spot to read in the afternoon.

Water is a big feature here, with three ponds on the site, mostly diverted from Mud Creek. Looking over the edge of the boardwalk you can watch large fish in the water or commune with singing frogs. You might be lucky and see a turtle. Signs around the edge warn people not to release pet fish or turtles into the waters.

This pipe is diverting water from Mud Creek into the site–it forms a cascading waterfall down the rocks. The path continues over the end of this waterway by way of stepping stones where the creek water meets the pond.

The eroded bluffs here are a geologists dream come true, exposing years of rock formations. A pathway extends all along the perimeter of the bluffs for a bird’s eye view of the site.

A metal staircase provides access to the site from surrounding neighborhoods, Leaside, for one.

The brickworks is accessible by car, or by TTC. A shuttle bus runs from Broadview Station on Saturdays, and a TTC bus runs from Davisville Subway station as well.


  1. Fap!

    Another place near there I keep wanting to check out but haven't yet is Todmorden Mills.
    Put that on the list.

  2. This place looks like a quite wonderful escape — esp. after reading about those lily bugs, since I grow all the lilies mentioned. We also have serious problems here with both garlic mustard and dame’s rocket. I pulled the rocket out of my garden when I discovered it was on the invasive list. But it is all over my neighbor’s garden which means it will soon be back in mine!

  3. What a delightful garden and inspiring transformation…now if only other cities will observe and learn…I wish was listening! Gail

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