Towering White Pine (Pinus strobus), stout Hemlock (Tsuga candensis), and muscular Beech (Fagus grandifolia): you might think you’re in Gillies Grove, but it’s a forest in NCC Greenbelt in Bell’s Corners. These 65 acres may not be the original old growth trees, but they’ve been here for some time. Using a hyposometer, many White Pines were measured at over 120 feet. Hemlock and Beech, both slow growing trees, are estimated to be well over 150 years.
The Hemlocks are concentrated on the northeast and east sides. Even on a sunny day their dark density renders the forest cool and caliginous. There is good regeneration and trees of different ages. In contrast, the majestic Beech trees glow a warm grey and reflect light. The largest are near the area by the arena. Sadly most are infected with canker (Neonectria).
Other species often found with Hemlock and Beech are present: Yellow Birch (Betula allegheniensis), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Striped Maple (Acer pennsylvanica), and Large Tooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata).
This small section of forest demonstrates the value of interior forest. On its northwestern and western sides, next to residences on Stinson Avenue and Evergreen Drive respectively, invasive species are dominant: Japanese Lilac, Buckthorn, Honeysuckle. Walk into the forest and these gradually disappear at 50m from the periphery.
Public access is at P13 next to the Bell Centennial Arena at 50 Cassidy Road. The trails are well marked. Take the trail that runs around the periphery (bounded at the south by the hydro corridor) and the one the runs through the middle.