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Ottawa sundial trail



This sundial trail is dedicated, by permission, to Her Excellency Diana Fowler LeBlanc.

Ottawa has a number of interesting sundials, and the trail takes you round the most interesting parts of the city to see them. The trail is best done by bicycle; the city is well served with bike trails, and there is a very good bike rental service called RentABike at the back of the Chateau Laurier in the city centre. They will give you a cycle map of Ottawa too!



Return to the Rideau Canal. You can cycle down either bank; the far (east) bank is slightly shorter. Ride about 6.5 km to the lock at the far side of Dow’s Lake. From the west bank by the lock, take the road from the far left corner of the car park. This goes straight across Prince of Wales drive at some traffic lights. After 200 m. turn right at a T-junction. You are now passing through the grounds of the Central Experimental Farm. After a group of buildings on your right, you reach a -junction at the top of the hill. Turn right at the top of the hill, and after 100 m. turn right into the car park for the Central Experimental Farm. There is an ornamental garden on your left, and in it a memorial sundial to W T Macoun, D.Sc. who was the first Dominion Horticulturist, and held the post from 1910 to 1938.

The first sundial is between the Parliament Building and the Ottawa River. There is a cliff-top walk with panoramic views of the river, with a number of statues to notable figures in the history of Canada. Only one of these statues commemorates two people - it is at the downstream end, and is a memorial to Baldwin and LaFontaine. Just next to it is a nice horizontal dial commemorating Colonel By, who founded Bytown as a construction camp for the building of the Rideau Canal; Bytown later became Ottawa, and was chosen as the federal capital of Canada because it was on the border between Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec), and avoided choosing either Toronto or Montreal! It also had the advantage of being much further from the border with the United States, and thus less at risk from an American attack.

Return to the Driveway and turn left, retracing your path back to the T-junction and a little beyond it, where you turn right into a road which becomes Observatory Crescent. This leads up to Carling Avenue, and, just before you get there, you will see the buildings of the first Dominion Observatory with its verdigris copper dome. Just outside it is a most interesting floral sundial. The hour lines are the concrete divisions between the wedge-shaped beds, and the gardeners continue to do an excellent job in planting suitably different and interesting plants in each segment. The gnomon, however, is in a very sad state - it has been bent in at least three places, and is no longer capable of casting a straight shadow at all!

Now, you retrace your path to the lock on the Rideau Canal. If you feel reasonably energetic, continue on the east bank of the canal a further 1.5 km to the Hogs Back Falls. There are two tunnels under the Hogs Back Road to take you safely to the east bank of the Rideau River which again has a bike track along it. This track passes through a variety of landscapes, laced with occasional main roads, and after some 10 km you reach the Rideau Falls where the Rideau joins the Ottawa River. On your right is the handsome mansion of the French Ambassador, and in front of it, the Max Florence memorial sundial, a large cube of granite with a hemisphere scooped out of its top edge to form the dial plate of a sundial. Max Florence sent his life savings to Premier Pierre Trudeau in 1975 to say thank you for the blessings he had enjoyed since emigrating to Canada, and the money was put towards making this very unusual and interesting sundial. There is also a large sphere representing the globe with lines of latitude and longitude and an eagle on top. It Is a memorial to Commonwealth pilots,

At this point, you can divert to see Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor-General.

Cross the Rideau Falls on the Sussex Drive bridge (and probably get mist droplets from the falls all over you). Continue along Sussex Drive to the Royal Mint on your right. Opposite it is an excellent traditional French corner sundial on the Sister of Charity Convent. It has declining dials on the two adjoining faces of the building.

Continue on down Sussex. When you get to the new National Gallery of Canada on your right, it is worth heading towards the Ottawa River, keeping the gallery on your right, to the Major Hill Park. There is a statue of Champlain, the explorer, using an astrolabe (though I am told he is not doing it quite right!). Also in this park, there used to be a noon cannon set off by the sun focused through a magnifying glass, but there is no trace of it now. Any news of what happened to it would be appreciated.

After you have returned your bicycles, there is one further sundial which is worth visiting, but it is best done by car or bus. It is at the National Museum of Science and Technology , and it is hoped that it will shortly be exhibited in the front area of the Museum, so you do not even need to pay to see it. (You can find out whether it is on exhibit on (613) 990 2804. (However, it is well worth going round the museum for all the fascinating exhibits they have). From downtown Ottawa, visitors would take #86 (Elmvale) bus (or less direct but more frequent #85 (Baseline)) to Elmvale Shopping Centre. One can also use buses on the transitway to get to St. Laurent Shopping Centre (e.g. #95 (Orleans)) and then take #85 (Bayshore) or 111 (Baseline).

Acknowledgement: this sundial trail built on foundations kindly suggested by Roger Bailey of Walking Shadow Designs in Canmore, Alberta. Roger is a frequent visitor to Ottawa, and enjoys exploring the cultural traditions and gnomonic science of sundial design and construction.

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