THE MUNICIPALITY OF WEST GREY, the largest in the County of Grey, has a lot to offer when it comes to discovery and excitement. Comprised of the former Townships of Normanby, Bentinck and Glenelg, the Town of Durham and the Village of Neustadt, this new Municipality, situated in the deep south of Grey County is steeped in history, as a visit to the Heritage Village of Neustadt will prove. Stroll past quaint shops, housed in stone architecture. Drop in to the Neustadt Springs Brewery, reputed to be the oldest operating brewery in the Province and take a tour of the Caverns deep underneath. Gourmet foods made with their products will delight your taste buds. View the birthplace of the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker, Canada's 13th Prime Minister. Named by Harrowsmith magazine as one of Canada's prettiest villages, your visit should include a walk past the churches that have unique features of their own.
Durham hosts the Durham Conservation area, a recreational area developed along two and a half miles of the main Saugeen River from the Heritage Walkway Bridge in town to the Second Concession of Glenelg. Walking trails thread the area and do double duty in winter for cross country skiing. Playgrounds, washrooms, two sandy beaches roped off for swimming and McGowan's Falls with the picnic pavilion make this a busy and happy spot. Kayakers and canoeists are often seen practicing their sport above the Falls .
The Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority looks after this wonderful place, as well as manages the 175 campsites in the adjacent area. Spring finds many hopeful fishermen trying their luck. Good examples of period architecture exist here, in Durham, as you will find if you take the heritage walking tour. Check out the murals, depicting days gone by, that grace the walls of buildings in the downtown area.
Ayton, has a charm all its own. Formerly the seat of Normanby Township, it is a neat little rural village nestled on the banks of the Beatty Saugeen River and is very much the centre of a prosperous farming area. The old water powered mill in its heart has a new career producing hydro for the grid instead of grists for the farmer. Ayton is the home of Fisher Poultry, one of several major industries in West Grey.
The rural ambience is the overall charm of West Grey. Watered by three branches of the mighty Saugeen on its headlong rush to Lake Huron, fishing is a major pastime for locals and visitors alike. The cold waters yield up a variety of trout, fresh and tasty for the pan. Touring West Grey in any season is a treat, but especially so in the fall as Mother Nature dresses in autumn finery. Patches of wild flowers wave their heads along the roadsides, and early morning mists rising off the rivers and small lakes give a magical appearance to the fields. Gardens abound, with owners welcoming visitors to come see. The harvest itself provides a colorful panorama as you drive along. Mills, built by pioneers to harness the water power still exist. A particularly good example is the Rocky Mill, built of stone, a silent witness to the past. This mill, one of the most photographed in Ontario can be seen from Hwy 6 on the west side of the Highway. Traverston Mill is another good example of a Pioneer mill. This wooden three-storey structure perched on the banks of the Rocky Saugeen is now a dwelling. Find this photographer's gem by travelling north from Durham on Hwy 6, turn east onto County Rd. 12, and follow along until you come to Traverston Rd. Follow that back to Traverston, pass over the old iron suspension bridge and the mill rises on the right. Some examples of old original village buildings still exist, silent reminders of another, simpler time.
West Grey has many campgrounds with intriguing names like Silent Valley, Sharmadon Park, and Saugeen Cedars from RV to tent and trailer. Lots of B&B's, two motels and the Varney and Dornoch Inns cater to your accommodation needs. Golf, the popular summer pastime is available at several courses. Bentinck claims the famous Welbeck Sawmill, a major hardware and lumber store, a haunt for woodworkers looking for specialty tools and rare woods. Tours are given of the water powered shingle mill, by appointment. At any given time Mennonite buggies are parked beside sleek vehicles carrying international plates or farmers pickup trucks, making it a truly cosmopolitan place. Bentinck hosts Allan Park on County Road 4, home to one of two of Canada's satellite tracking earth stations, the famous Allan Park Trout Pond and Trails, a spectacular four-season wilderness area. Saugeen Valley Conservation area Headquarters provide visitors with nature trails, ponds teeming with fish and waterfowl, a picnic spot, the Wilderness shop and a Christmas Festival of Lights second to none.
Many artisans make their home in West Grey, crafting their specialties in home based studios. Banding together every Fall, they have established the Autumn Leaves Studio Tour, which winds its way through the south of Grey County with many intriguing stops in West Grey. If you've never experienced one of these tours, this is the year to try it out, and enjoy! Free maps are available in almost every store throughout West Grey. Festivals and events run the gamut from Santa Claus Parades, the Herb Fair, Neustadt's Crab Fest and Durham's Fall Fair, just to name a few. Nearby Varney Speedway's high bank paved oval and Hanover Raceway with the sulkies and parimutuel betting provide summer excitement enough for anyone, with the accompanying Hanover Raceway Slots making it year round. Snowmobile trails traverse West Grey, bringing thousands through the area, boosting the local economy.
Spring renews the spirit as the winter snows melt away and maple syrup heralds the greening of the fields and hardwood stands. Trilliums and other spring wildflowers brighten the landscape, cyclists are seen again on the country roads. Busy, yet uncrowded, West Grey is a special place. Come and visit for a day or a lifetime. The Welcome Mat is out.