New Brunswick is 90% covered by forest, the highest coverage of any state or province in North America, and the landscape is rolling due to the many rivers, brooks and creeks that cut through it. As a result, good farming areas are difficult to come by, unless you happen to have a fertile river valley to use as a basis. The Sussex area fits the bill perfectly, with many farms dotting the countryside in and around the town.
This view taken from Church Avenue, on top of one of the valley walls bordering Sussex, shows the typical surrounding landscape. In this case, the view is east toward Sussex Corner and up the smaller Parlee Brook valley which eventually feeds into the Kennebecasis River. There are some nicely sized hills out that way and the 2nd photo shows a long ago view from one of them, a rocky outcropping known as 'The Bluff'. The Boy Scout camp I went you as a youth was located just below it and, as youngsters are prone to do, I sometimes biked out here with my friends where we would wade in the brook while catching Lamprey eels with our hands (a quick grab behind the toothy mouth was the trick!). The 3rd photo is a more up-to-date view of me and some of my former classmates atop the Bluff, taken in June, 2007 on the 40th anniversary celebrations of our high school graduation.
Today this area is popular for the Poley Mountain ski resort, only a 15 minute drive from town. It has a quad chair lift and various grades of slopes, plenty of equipment for rental and a nice lodge featuring a stone fireplace and serving food and alcoholic drinks.
As mentioned in the Intro, Sussex came into being because of the construction of the European and North American Railway, the final section of which was completed through the area in 1860. The idea was to tie into the New England railway network so their goods could be shipped to the major ice-free port of Halifax in the days before ice-breakers were available to keep today's frozen route through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River open during the winter months. In the end, the desire for an 'all-Canadian' route from the east to the west led to this small railway being taken over by the Intercolonial Railway, whose mandate was to make this happen - this being one of the conditions stipulated by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when they agreed to the formation of Canada in 1867.
This lovely old train station was built in 1903 as part of that Intercolonial network and eventually became an important part of the Canadian National Railway network. I remember the big steam locomotives hauling long lines of freight cars stopping here in the 1950s as they replenished the water in their boilers from a large water tower beside the tracks and they also took on more coal as necessary. The importance of Sussex as a railway stop diminished with the introduction of diesel engines by the 1960s and even more so later on as railways lost out to air travel. Today, the only trains running through Sussex carry potash from the nearby mines to the port of Saint John.
It was from this station that I took my life-altering train trip in 1972 to Moncton and then onward through Quebec to London, Ontario where I received my 2-week 'indoctrination' before heading off for Zambia, the first time I had ever left North America. Today, the station is used as the Sussex and Area Tourist information centre and has a very good ice-cream shop inside!
Back in the days before globilization, when Sussex was famous for its Golden Ginger Ale (soda to Americans, pop to Canadians) and dairy products, I think there was some serious money floating around the town. Although this photo shows quite an ornate house downtown beside the present-day Town Hall, most of these Victorian-era houses were located on the hillside street of Church Avenue - quite a bit further away from the rumbling railway tracks!
Even today, this nicely treed street with its 1860s-era (and later) mansions perched above the town has an air of elegance to it. The other photos show just a few other examples of some of the architecture you may experience if you take part in the 'Sussex Walking Tour' as outlined in their free tourist literature map.
During my time in Sussex and still today, Broad Street seems to be quite a busy spot. This is a very short street with shops along only one side, since the railway runs down the other side of the street. It starts as a branch off Main Street and only runs a few hundred feet before it ends at a small 'island' that can be circled to head back again (or you can continue further past into the residential area on other town streets). Today, there are numerous small boutiques, a bank, drug-store and travel agency located along Broad Street.
The large brick building in the 2nd photo, opposite the island was formerly called 'The Strand' (the local movie theatre) during my growing-up days in Sussex. I remember enjoying many movies there but I only wish the price was still 30 cents!!
It is a shame the havoc that introduced diseases can wreak as they travel here and there in the world, infecting things that have no immunity to their effects. Such is the case with Dutch Elm Disease, a plight that has severely affected Elm trees world-wide. Both of my 'home' towns of Sussex and Fredericton have been severely ravaged by the disease, requiring their once Elm-lined streets to be stocked with new varieties of ornamental trees.
From Wikipedia: "Dutch elm disease is a fungal disease of elm trees which is spread by the elm bark beetle. Although believed to be originally native to Asia, it has been accidentally introduced into America and Europe, where it has devastated native populations of elms which had not had the opportunity to evolve resistance to the disease. The name Dutch elm disease refers to the first scientific discovery and study of the disease in the 1920s in the Netherlands; the disease is in no way particular of the Dutch Elm hybrid. Dutch elm disease was first noticed in Europe in 1910, and spread slowly, reaching Britain in 1927. This first strain was a relatively mild one (which) was isolated in Holland in 1921...and this discovery would lend the disease its name.
In 1967, a new, far more virulent strain arrived in Britain on a shipment of logs from North America, and this strain proved both highly contagious and lethal to all of the European native elms. By 1990-2000, very few mature elms were left in Britain or much of northern Europe....More than 25 million trees died in the UK.
Dutch elm disease reached Eastern Canada during WW2, and spread to Manitoba in 1975 and Saskatchewan in 1981. In Toronto, Ontario, as much as 80% of the elm trees have been lost to Dutch elm disease, and many more have fallen victim to the disease in Ottawa and Montreal and other cities during the 1970s and 1980s. Alberta and British Columbia are the only provinces that are currently free of Dutch elm disease."
It was during the 1970s that the Elm trees really began to die off in New Brunswick.
As its population grew with the coming of the railway, Sussex was incorporated in 1895 and shortly thereafter became a town in 1904. Obviously, this had been seen coming because this majestic 'Dominion Building' was inaugurated in 1883 to house various government offices required to look after the needs of the population. During my time in Sussex, it was primarily the Post Office but has now been appropriated as the Town Hall, and not a bad looking one if I say so myself!
A little further along Main Street, and on the other side of the tracks, a number of buildings still remain from the original 'heart' of downtown Sussex. The 2nd photo shows the original Bank of Nova Scotia building, which now serves as the offices of the local newspaper - the weekly Kings County Record. I like to see communities preserving their older buildings (by North American standards) whenever possible, to me they are much more impressive and permanent looking than today's designs of glass and steel!
This part of New Brunswick was quite sparsely populated until the the Revolution of the American colonies took place (1776-1783). Many settlers in those areas pulled up stakes and moved north to the free land being offered in the colonies of Canada, in order to remain British Loyalists, as they are now known. That was the first major influx of settlers to this part of Canada, resulting in New Brunswick being declared a separate province from Nova Scotia in 1784. A wave of Irish immigrants arrived as a result of the Irish potato famine of 1845-49, futher bolstering the population of this English-speaking part of the province.
It is no surprise then that the usual war memorial to the sons of the town who sacrificed their lives in both World Wars is to be found on a small island in the middle of Broad Street, in front of the old railway station. In fact, part of the station is also dedicated as a Regimental Museum to a now-disbanded local detachment, the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) that was first established in April, 1848. This became an armoured regiment that fought in these wars and I was also a member of its Cadet Corps while in high school. Our main duties were manning the crosswalks on the streets in front of the high school. The former Hussars military base on the edge of town has now been taken over as the town expanded and includes the hospital, a new high school, several industries and lots of space left over for the annual Atlantic (hot-air) Balloon Fiesta!
OK, as rivers go, the Kennebecasis (pronounced 'ke-ne-buh-KAY-sis') is not all that impressive, even if it did scare me a few times when I was floating on it in a home-made raft! At only 60-miles (97-km) in length, this photo just south of Sussex in Apohaqui, shows that it is merely gathering its strength as it drains the nearby highlands area inland from the Bay of Fundy.
As Wikipedia says: "The river's source is in the foothills of Albert County...it runs southwest through the community of Penobsquis; several tributaries join the river in the town of Sussex several kilometres further west. Between Sussex and the river's junction with the Saint John River..., the Kennebecasis River runs through a well-defined river valley which has become one of the primary land transportation routes in the southern part of the province, hosting the Route 1 expressway and the CN railway line to the port of Saint John. The upper 2/3 of the Kennebecasis River passes through pastoral rural countryside consisting of Acadian mixed forest and various agricultural areas, notably the dairy farms around Sussex. Southwest of Sussex, the river becomes increasingly larger as it passes the communities of Norton and Hampton, before it empties into a delta-like area called the 'Hampton Marsh'. West of Hampton, the Kennebecasis flows in a broad fjord-like glacial valley which defines the southern side of the Kingston Peninsula."
Although the river may look placid here, during the annual spring snowmelt it can quickly overflow its banks and spread out across the flat valley floor. The second photo shows a valley scene between Sussex and Apohaqui - the flat and fertile farmlands with the tame river flowing in the distance by the distant row of bushy trees along its banks. To the right and centre is one of its many 'oxbow' arms curving back into the field. This former course of the river was left high and almost dry after one of the flooding events that resulted in the river actually changing its course. It does make for fertile land though!
The official nickname of Sussex is the 'Dairytown' because of the numbers of surrounding farms and the quality of dairy products that have been produced here over the years. In my time, the award-winning old Sussex Cheese & Butter company plant was one of the main employers in the area, but it has long since been torn down. However, all was not lost because it was replaced with a modern plant going by the Dairytown Products name. They too seem to be doing well, judging by this news from their company website: "Dairytown Products of Sussex, NB has a world champion product and they couldn't be happier about it. The company found out recently that their Dairytown brand of unsalted butter was judged 'World's Best Butter' at the world's largest cheese and butter competition held in Madison. Wisconsin, March 16-18, 2004. Dairytown beat out 37 entries from countries like the United States, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Ireland, England, Spain, and New Zealand to take top marks in the competition. In fact not only did the Dairytown butter win the title but also it obtained a perfect score as judged by an international team of experts." This photo shows a line of cows 'coming home' from the fields at the end of the day. I just happened to be driving past a Holstein farm outside the town, near Berwick, and saw this long line of cows passing a huge Elm tree as they headed for the barns with not a human being in sight!
The 2nd photo shows me savouring some of this countryside in August, 1974 after I had finished my first two years in Zambia and was home for a month. It took going away to Africa to make me sit up and take notice of what had been surrounding me for the past 20-odd years! Once I had 'touched base', I returned to Zambia for one final year, including the start of a very happy marriage!
This is a nice event to check out in early Septembet each year. Susses holds a hot air balloon festival. I believe you are able to even go up in some of the balloons.
The festival takes place the weekend after labor day (Canadian Labor Day, 1st monday in Septembet??)
Although the southern part of New-Brunswick is not normally known for good snowmobiling, this season was to say the least- exceptionnal!!!! The recieved a lot more snow then Central and Northern New-Brunswick. This made for great snowmobiling. Although this may seem like a difficult activity for tourist, there are many places that offer snowmobile rentals. Most also offer tours which can be great for those who have never been before. Snowmobiling is a great way to grab some fresh air and enjoy nature.