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When there’s nature mixed with physical fitness, hiking can turn into a fun and adventurous activity. And there is no shortage of trails to explore in Woolwich and surrounding area – ready to welcome all walkers, runners and cyclists.

Woolwich Township promotes hiking and biking access to 10 public trails totalling more than 80 kilometres. Trail uses in the Township include walking, running, cycling, cross country skiing and snowmobiling where designated.

Volunteers from the Woolwich Trail Group lead organized hikes between March and November for anyone, from seasoned hikers to those interested in trying something new. New volunteers and hikers are always welcome.

The group was formed as a working Group of Woolwich Healthy Communities and has been active since 1992. The group is involved in the maintenance of existing trails and in the development of new trails.

Healthy Communities is a global not-for-profit rural community initiative founded in 1986 through the United Nations’ World Health Organization. It strives to improve the environment, economy and the community. Woolwich County officially joined in 1999 with a vision to preserve any area river or stream, bicycle and walking paths, wild-life corridors, natural areas and trails.

The trails in Woolwich Township offer a variety of contrasting landscapes and are available for public use. “The rural agricultural aspect is amazing. We are so fortunate to have so many trails in Woolwich. We have great people. It’s such a great community asset and at no charge,” a spokesperson for the Woolwich Trail Group said.

Trail surfaces in Woolwich and surrounding areas vary from natural pathways to hard-packed stone-dust/granular surfaces and some paved trails. According to the Trails Group, many trails do cross over private property, but it is the combined efforts of the landowners and other in local trail-building groups who have volunteered time and resources to develop and maintain the trails.

The Elmira Lions Club is one of these groups. It helped built and still maintains the Lions Trail, a 7-kilometre hiking and cycling trail that goes around a reservoir and through nearby wooded areas. The Township of Woolwich has also been involved in trail maintenance since 1999 and continues to manage a portion of the Kissing Bridge Trail.

“We have amazing volunteers The Township does look after some trails and some trails are shared with other groups,” the trail group spokesperson said.

For anyone wishing to visit a trail, they can check the website at healthywoolwich.org for any news, construction or trail changes.

The trails in Woolwich are marked with trail blazes – specific markings which indicate directional information.

The Avon Trail was established in 1975 and is approximately 104 km in length running from the the Village of St. Mary’s to the Village of Conestoga. The natural trail takes hikers along streams winding in and out of woodlands and farmlands. The trail also allows for a visit through the St. Jacobs Farmers Market Area. The trail is shared with the Trans Canada Trail and the Healthy Valley Trail.

The Grand Valley Trail is a marked footpath that covers about 275 km.  The West Montrose covered wood bridge, which is locally known as the “Kissing Bridge,” is a sight not to be missed. It is the last of its kind in Ontario and was designed in 1880 by John Bear. Traditionally, it is known as the place where couples travelling by horse and buggy could ‘steal a kiss’.

The Kissing Bridge Trailway extends 45 km from Guelph to Millbank. The resurfaced former CP railway line is ideal for children learning bike riding, as the surface is level and away from traffic.

This former rail corridor, the Canadian Pacific Railway Line from Guelph to Goderich, was originally built in 1904-05 allowing for transport of goods and passengers to Lake Huron. After it was abandoned in 1990, the province purchased the corridor and since 1997, the County of Wellington and the Region of Waterloo have jointly leased it.

Five volunteer steward groups including the Elmira Lions Club, the Conestogo-Winterbourne Optimist Club, the Guelph Hiking Club, the Linwood Lions and the Golden Triangle Snowmobile Club volunteered to help maintain sections of the line.

The Woolwich Trail Group offers various events and programs to promote healthy lifestyles and the preservation of community trails.

This summer, a new edition of ‘A Guidebook to Woolwich Trails’ will be available. The guide includes historical facts, photos and maps which any hiker could carry along with them during their next hiking adventure.

For more information, visit: healthywoolwich.org

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