Monday, September 7, 2015

Lower Bedeque Schoolhouse

 

For my first outing on this summer's two-week trip to Canada, we decided to visit one of the few L. M. Montgomery sites I had left to see. I wanted to get it out of the way before my brother arrived, as we had a full itinerary for him and little room for the island's red-headed heroine or her creator. So we headed south, passing under the Confederation Bridge on our way to Lower Bedeque.

  

Much like their progenitors in England and Scotland, the island's inhabitants give each tiny town its own name, even if it's within spitting distance of the next one. Therefore, you end up with situations like this, where you have Central Bedeque, North Bedeque, and Lower Bedeque in addition to plain old Bedeque.

 

Lower Bedeque holds the distinction of being one of the few places where Lucy Maud Montgomery taught. The one-room schoolhouse was built in 1886 - Maud taught only one year here, from 1896-1897. One of the things that surprised me the most was that the school remained open until the 60s, at which point it was abandoned and began to fall apart. A class reunion was being advertised in the papers while we were there!


The old building was badly in need of restoration, when the 'Friends of Lucy Maud Montgomery School in Lower Bedeque' society was formed. Volunteer donations (both monetary and in the form of period artifacts) and government funds were used to return the schoolhouse to what it probably looked like at the turn of the century. Old maps on the walls show the extent of the British Empire, while graffiti carved into the desks show some things never change. Japanese fans also played a large role in restoring the building - 'Anne' was on the curriculum in schools there for many years, and the island still benefits from the unusual amount of tourists who come half way around the world to pay homage to the book's beloved characters.


Our next stop was the delightfully named Seacow Head Lighthouse. It's one of the oldest and most picturesque on the island - octagonal, red and white, and perched on the red cliffs that feature in every tourist brochure. And in case you hadn't noticed from the first picture, we had a perfect day for it. Look at that sky!

 

As local teens waited for a friend to pick them up, we wandered around the property. Unlike many PEI lighthouses, you can't go inside. In fact, the government was going to scrap this lighthouse completely, but the community rallied in support of it.


Seacow Head Lighthouse is one of the oldest structures on the island, dating from 1864. (A decade later, they started building lighthouses with four sides instead of eight, thanks to a timber shortage caused by the local ship-building industry.)  The lighthouse is named for the walruses who used to hang out there, now long gone from these waters.


Like many lighthouses on the island, Seacow Head was moved back from eroding bank in 1979. The light was featured in the TV series 'Road to Avonlea' and has a great view of the Confederation Bridge, the 8 mile link between New Brunswick and PEI. We stayed long enough to watch a rainstorm blow in from the west, cutting across the bridge on its way out to sea.


Our last stop for the day was Chelton Beach Provincial Park. While the island has no shortage of beaches, and we have our favorites, I hadn't really visited many on the island's southern shore. For someone doing a quick tour of the island, it's not a bad choice - close to the bridge, with sandbars that are exposed at low tide.

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