On a weekend afternoon, when other trails are jammed with families, the path in Rithet’s Bog remains deserted except for the occasional runner or bird-watcher.
The crunching of the gravel underneath as you walk the pathway is the loudest sound you’ll hear. Swallows and ducks can be heard in the distance, nearly always out of sight.
“It’s incredibly peaceful,” said Angela Wyatt, a nature photographer. “I don’t run anymore, but I used to run here because it was calm.”
She says she comes to the bog to photograph the redwing blackbird, which has made a home in the trees surrounding the bog.
Nestled along Chatterton Way, just off Quadra Street, Rithet’s Bog is one of the last remaining bogs on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Many were lost as cities like Victoria became urbanized and looked to use any empty space.
The bog, and the Broadmead area surrounding it, were purchased in the late 19th century by Robert Rithet — a one-time mayor of Victoria — to start a farm and raise thoroughbred horses. Bog land turned out to be not the best place to raise horses. Wooden slats were attached to horses’ hooves in an attempt to stop them from sinking into the swampland.
The Guinness family, of Irish beer-brewing fame, bought Broadmead Farm in 1964, and a year later bought the bog land as well, in hopes of a development that never came to fruition.
In 1994, the brewers donated 42 hectares to the District of Saanich. Eight years later, Ducks Unlimited, along with the Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society and other groups, helped cut back the overgrown plants to encourage wildlife and residents to come back.
“After the restoration, you can now see a whole variety of plants and animals,” said Russ Pym, president of the Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society.
The new fight is to keep invasive plants out of the park, to allow the last bog in Greater Victoria to showcase local plants.
What continues to draw visitors, however, is the peacefulness. “I’ve never been here before today,” said Ron Gisin of Victoria. “I’ve driven past here for years but never walked it. There’s no place really like it.”
Next week: A visit to Mount Tolmie