Meadowlily Woods Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) is located in east London near Commissioners Road and Meadowlily Road, east of Highbury Avenue. The Meadowlily Bridge (c. 1910) at the foot of Meadowlily Road provides pedestrian access to the ESA from the Thames Valley Parkway trail system.
The publicly-owned portion of the ESA covers 60 hectares. The site contains marshes and floodplain woods along the Thames River, old fields, shrub thickets and mature woodlands on higher, rolling land, and some active and retired agricultural fields.
To the west of Meadowlily Road along the Thames is the Meadowlily Nature Preserve, owned by the Thames Talbot Land Trust. The public is allowed to hike the trail through the preserve.
The map on the reverse side shows the access points and trail system. The main access point is on Meadowlily Road not far from the river. About 4.6 km of trails loop through the ESA on gently sloping terrain. The managed trails are marked with yellow blazes painted on the trees.
Over 60 archaeological sites are documented in the Meadowlily area, especially on the Ingersoll Moraine. These sites span the entire 11,000 years of prehistory and include everything from camps to villages, and sites where other objects have been found.
In the early 19th century, private homes for commissioned officers were built along the east end of Commissioners Road. One such house was built in 1848 on Park Farm. This farm was sold to the Fraser family in 1908. Portions of the property were used for farming, but the wooded areas were protected by Harrison Fraser, who tended the area until his death in 1982. At that time, the City of London obtained his land. The Park Farm estate has been maintained and its future use is under review.
Shaping the Landscape
Meadowlily Woods is situated within the valley of the Thames River. The Thames Spillway was carved by meltwater from the receding glaciers, 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. The water cut through the Ingersoll Moraine, which had been deposited by glaciers. Over time, three distinct terraces were carved into the moraine’s north-facing slope by the erosive forces of the Thames River. From the river’s floodplain, the ground climbs steeply for 10 metres to a broad terrace covered with rich loam soils. A more gradual slope rises to the upland, which is covered with clay soils. The terraces have been cut through by 10 to 12 intermittent streams that have cut gullies, some of which are more than 10 m deep. These ravines have created a varied topography.
The site contains a mix of wetland and upland forest species. In the bottomland along the river, Basswood, Hackberry, willow and dogwood dominate, while cattails and marsh plants grow in and near the water. In summer, colourful wildflowers can be found including Blue Flag (iris), Evening Primrose, Turtlehead and Great Lobelia.
The upland areas are dominated by Sugar Maple (some over 100 years old), American Beech, Black Cherry, Red Oak, Eastern Hemlock and Yellow Birch. In the spring, the woods are carpeted with a variety of flowers, including Red and White Trilliums, trout lilies, hepatica, Bloodroot, violets, Spring Beauty and Wild Ginger.
The cool, north-facing ravines provide the right habitat for Eastern Hemlock and Yellow Birch, which are unusual species for this region, and over a dozen species of ferns. Skunk Cabbage also grows in the wet seepage areas.
The meadows and young woods are full of asters and goldenrods in the fall.
Over 110 species of migratory and breeding birds have been observed in the Meadowlily Woods area. Due to its large size and location along the river, the forest supports forest interior and area sensitive species such as Pileated Woodpecker and Ovenbird. Other nesting species include Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, four species of woodpeckers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and American Goldfinch.
The animal life is typical of the London area with Raccoon, Coyote, Eastern Chipmunk, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer, Grey Squirrel, Woodchuck and Beaver.
The many wet habitats are home to Green, Wood and Leopard Frogs, Spring Peeper, Eastern Redback Salamander, Midland Painted Turtle, Eastern Gartersnake and Dekay’s Brownsnake.
The meadows provide nectar-producing flowers for butterflies and moths. Giant and Tiger Swallowtails, Hickory Hairstreak, Clouded Sulphur and Spring Azure are among the species recorded in the area. Dragonflies, damselflies and many other species of insects can be found by the river.