Thursday, June 15, 2023

Sheppard Family Heritage Home, Sheppard’s Bush Winter Walk

Walking Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area in Aurora can be very educational. Our every visit is unique. There is always something new to observe and learn, or a different path to explore. Besides nature, there is also the history of the forested land with a beautiful Sheppard family heritage home found on the inside; currently home to Windfall Ecology Centre.

It is hard to believe that the history of Sheppard’s Bush dates back to the late 1700s.

One of these first settlers was Captain William Graham, a British officer serving in the colonies during the American Revolution. He came to Canada and settled on the lot which includes present-day Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area in 1794, with title granted in 1798. At that time Aurora was a predominantly agricultural area and remained so until about 1850 when an urban core started to develop around the Yonge-Wellington area. When the railway came to the area in 1853 growth expanded rapidly, with Aurora becoming incorporated as a village in 1863. By 1866, Captain Graham’s lot was severed and the parcel which is now the conservation area was sold to James Lloyd. Charles Sheppard, one-time mayor of Aurora, purchased the land in 1919 and formed the 81 hectare farm and estate known as ‘Brooklands’ for his son Reg. Edwin Reginald (Reg) Sheppard operated Brooklands as a dairy farm through the 1920s, but ultimately sold part of the property to finance mineral explorations in northern Canada. In 1971 Reg Sheppard donated the land and family home to the Ontario Heritage Foundation (now known as the Ontario Heritage Trust).

Source: Sheppard’s Bush Conservation Area Management Plan (2017), File Type: PDF Pg. 17.


Well, winter walks are much different from summer walks. Leaves can hide so much and the snow on the other hand hides almost nothing. Just look at all the footprints along the paths. People do walk Sheppard’s Bush trails regularly, most of the time not at the same time. Sometimes we do see people, but walking different paths. People walk their dogs. Dogs running off leash; no guessing here when footprints are left behind. Have I mentioned squirrels? Sometimes it feels like they will fall off the tree when chasing each other and jumping from one thin branch to another; but one can definitely observe that speed matters.


And then there is the famous treed path many of us walk through, unfortunately aging like everything else.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, Ontario


  1. Councillors Walt Davis and the late Ron Simmons grew up on Metcalf Street
    close to the railway across from Sheppard’s Bush from the town.They played cowboys and Indians in the bush and found it quite ironic when Mr.
    Sheppard was being honoured for donating the land.There was a tax advantage to market value for such donations so the donor received full value. Their recollection of old man Sheppard was that he set his German shepherd dogs on the kids for daring to tresspass on his property.There was a tramp’s camp on the property during the depression. Men who rode the rails from the west looking for work hopped off the train at that point. They would knock on doors of homes in the neighbourhood, asking for bread in return for doing odd jobs. Ron remembered going with his Dad to hunt rabbits in the bush for food for the family. Walt and Ron went to Church Street School, played hockey together. The Principal organized the rep team. the league was south on Yonge Street and the team travelled with their fans up and down on the street railway. When they won a game,those old cars would rock sideways with the celebration on the way home. The two were volunteer firefighters later in their careers. Walt went
    to work at Collis Leather with his Dad when he left school and was there until he retired. Vic Priestley had him provide supervision for the property after he bought it. The two served Council together later still. We were of an age and they generously shared their memories with me…memories
    I’ve never seen recorded anywhere.

  2. I lived on Metcalfe Street, in the Anglican Rectory. My sister Shelagh (Speers) and I Had many family visits to Reg Sheppard’s bush. Every spring he would invite us to the sugar bush for the sugaring off. He collected the sap and the horse and carriage would bring it to the sugar shack where is was boiled to maple syrup. It was one of my favourite childhood memories. What a kind and generous man he was.


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