FENS. Part 1.

hay sedge planthay sedge

My interest in fens is growing. I am restructuring my posts on this subject. Dave Godfrey

1.  General Introduction

Fen: a fen  is a type of wetland, a broad expanse of nutrient-rich, ground-fed  shallow water in which dead plants do not fully decay, resulting in a flora of emergent plants growing in saturated peat. The other 3 types of wetlands are bogs, swamps, and marshes.

Simply put: swamps and marshes have lots of water, salt or fresh. Swamps have trees. Bogs and fens have saturated soil. The water in a bog comes from rain water. The water in a fen comes from ground water and/or flowing water. Fens are rich in nutrients and can be grazed in perpetuity if proper managed.


Good video introductions to Fens

Wildlife: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdFeQaSeDl4

General: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cxmYYReNe8

Cycling the fen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmEocg3OW1I  Turn the volume down.

Dung digging: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRsSGwCojBA  Why grazing is good for fens.

Wild bees at Wicken: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=445FH_RqWDs

Wicken Windmill in song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpUxFH3RfhI

2. Wetlands in General

Wetlands form over any land whose soil is either seasonally or permanently waterlogged. This can happen alongside rivers, across floodplains, where there are springs and seepage, a high water table or tidal incursion.

Water-logging tends to exclude oxygen from the soil and plants have evolved many ways to deal with this, leading to the evolution of hundreds of specialist wetland and waterside species.

Wetland habitats include marshes, fens, bogs, water-meadows and any muddy place by water; they  often include systems of aquatic habitats such as ditches, rills and streams which can also be important for plants. Wetland complexes in the UK such as the Broads, Somerset and Pevensey Levels, form extensive networks of habitats which are rich in many other forms of wildlife. Canada has an extremely diverse set of wetlands in all parts of the country. Holland and the UK lead in Fen restoration.

3. Wetland Habitat features

1, Bogs

Upland and Lowland bogs are characterised by the dominance of Sphagnum moss species, which lay down layers of bog peat as they grow. Sphagnum acidifies its own environs and so bog systems are populated with plants that can cope with base-poor, acid waters. In England, upland blanket-bogs cover more than 10,000 hectares of land and are hugely significant in the landscape.

2. Fens and reedbeds

This kind of habitat occurs in river valleys and floodplains that are not conducive to the development of Sphagnum dominated vegetation. Sedges and rushes tend to dominate and common reed is a prominent species, although its abundance is greatly affected by management; fens and reedbeds have a very long history of traditional management, some being grazed but many cut for ‘fen litter’ or ‘marsh-hay’, a product that went for feed and bedding for the many thousands of horses that once populated our towns and cities. Fen-litter and saw-sedge, another traditional fen product, are both cut in late summer, which suppresses reed growth; however winter cutting encourages reed growth and leads to such dominance that the reed can be harvested in bulk for thatching.

3. Wet woodland

Mature wet woodland is a rarity, as opposed to swampy woodlands, and isoften restricted to the margins of fens and marshes and the fringes of slow moving rivers. Typically dominated by alder or willow, it can be a species-rich habitat, especially where it occurs at one end of a complete transition from open water to woodland.

4. Water meadows and wet grasslands

Although often badly affected by agricultural improvement, these grasslands can form extensive systems in river valleys and the lower parts of river floodplains. Associated with traditional extensive grazing regimes, where intervening ditches are maintained as ‘wet-fences’, such grassland networks form some of the most intact wetland systems.

5. Farmable wetlands.

UCC farm pic

Some wetlands, in some seasons, can be quite productive. It has been estimated that the full value of wetlands in terms of annual benefits is in the order ten to fifteen thousand dollars a hectare. The Cadboro Bay fen was used mainly for pasturing and  the production of sedge-hay also termed meadow hay.


4. Transition

Wetlands may be seen as transitional stages moving from open water towards woodland. The technical term hydrosere is used to describe a succession which starts in water. A wetland is a transitional area between open water and dry land and may contain several stages of a hydrosere at the same time. Some studies add a fifth type: shallow open water.

In time, an area of open freshwater such as a lake or marshy sea shore may become woodland. During this process, a range of different habitats such as marshes and fens may succeed each other. Peat usually accumulates slowly, at the rate of about a millimetre per year.

This succession from open water to climax woodland is likely to take at least several thousand years although some intermediate stages will last a shorter time than others. For instance, a shallow swamp may change to marsh within a decade or less. How long it takes will depend largely on the amount of siltation occurring and whether storms and tides scour out established vegetation from time to time.

If there are five or six feet of peat beneath Gyro Park, one can be sure that it has been a long time since the area was a marsh. However, the calculation is complex since after the last Ice Age, the island rose but so did the sea levels.

5. Key issues

Perhaps the single most influential factor in the loss of wetlands is drainage. Wetland soils, particularly fen peats, make fine agricultural soils if the water can be got rid of. This has of course already happened across many tens of thousands of hectares of former wetland habitat, with unfortunate consequences in terms of soil loss through oxygenation and shrinkage, windblow and carbon release.

The flower-richness of wetland habitats is dependent also on good water quality. Where wetlands are fed by rivers which pass through towns and cities and intensively farmed agricultural areas, high nutrient concentrations in the water cause a few species to outgrow the majority, leading to a rapid decline in floral diversity.

Abstraction of water from underground sources can reduce supplies of water to spring fed systems. . This leads to a gradual drying out, loss of water-dependent species and ultimately to complete loss of the wetland habitat. Water-levels can often be restored quite quickly, with the withdrawal of abstraction, but this does not necessarily lead to a restoration of former vegetation, mainly due to the oxygenation and breakdown of formerly water-logged soils.

Changes in agriculture and the way people live their lives has led to a decline (and in some cases almost complete loss) in markets for traditional fen produce. This has led to fens becoming uneconomic to manage in the traditional way, leading to conversion to agriculture or abandonment.

Recently, however, analysis of methods of carbon storage have revitalized interest in the peat bogs which cover 3%  of the earth’s surface and store an estimated 550Gt of carbon. Drainage of peatlands leads to mineralisation of carbon and nitrogen from the peat, releasing the greenhouse gases CO2 and N2O to the atmosphere and thus contributing significantly to global warming. It is estimated that such land use induced changes are responsible for 6 % of anthropic CO2 emissions, with well-known hotspots in south-east Asia (SEA) and central and eastern Europe (CEE). It is also well known that rewetting of drained peatlands can increase carbon storage.

The International Mire Conservation Group produces a reputable (and free) journal covering wetlands world wide. Here is a review from that journal of the carbon credits and peatland restoration question. http://www.mires-and-peat.net/map11/map_11_br_03.pdf


Yellow Flag


In pools

In typical fen

In fen carr

General article on sedge: carex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carex

7. Canadian Expertise.

Canada has a large percent of the world’s peatlands.

Despite continued detrimental impact to wetlands, Canada still has over 127 million hectares of wetland comprising
an estimated 24% of the total world wetland base.

For a long time, Canada was a leader in wetland research, but this expertise is now in decline. One great book from the golden era is this one:


8. Bluedale

To get an idea of plants you can grow for your own wetland, check out this great (Australian) site on Facebook.


Westringa video:


Juncus usitatus

juncus usitatus at bluedale

Or this one in California: sedge plants available:


List of grasses and sedges in the Fraser Valley:


9. British Columbia

Environment BC has done some good work on wetlands, but again, in the past decade, this seems to have fizzled. The following excerpts are from a useful document: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/WEG_Oct2002_s.pdf

Although British Columbia has large areas of natural wetlands, the situation in urbanized areas is critical.

Wetlands are one of the most important life support systems on earth. Currently comprising about 5.6% or 5.28 million hectares of British Columbia, they provide critical habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife. Most wildlife in the province use wetland habitat at some point in their life cycle, and many red- and blue-listed species are wetland-dependent.

Creston Wetlandslowtide-Cadboro-Bay-2-2011-07-30-Cadboro-Bay-Beach-view
The functional contribution of wetlands in helping to minimize or remediate environmental problems is substantial. They absorb and filter sediments, pollutants, and excess nutrients; recharge groundwater; maintain stream flows; control runoff; store flood waters; reduce erosion; stabilize shorelines; and help regulate atmospheric gases and climate cycles. In short, wetlands absorb water quickly and release it slowly with an improvement in quality.

Wetlands provide for commercial and recreational use of wetland-dependent fish and shellfish, enhance agricultural productivity, and support a variety of scientific , educational and recreational opportunities. Environmental economists such as Robert Costanza have used various methods to estimate the economic market and non-market values of the goods and services of various ecosystems. For wetlands, the total value is estimated to be $19,580 hectare/year (1994 US$). Using this figure to estimate the goods and services value of wetlands, British Columbia’s total wetland surface area of 5.28 million hectares would yield a potential value of over $100 billion/year. At a local level such as the Fraser Valley, the total wetland surface area of 41,906 hectares would yield a potential goods and services value to society of over $800 million/year.

There is a growing concern over the escalating rate of wetland losses in British Columbia. In the Fraser Vancouver Island, it is estimated that 50% to 70% of the original wetland habitat has disappeared. In the ecologically critical South Okanagan, wetland losses have reached 85%.

Action is required to help reduce wetland losses and provide for coordinated conservation and management efforts. Because wetlands occur across a range of ecosystem types and can be affected by various land use activities, a comprehensive approach is needed to ensure the protection and management of wetlands. It is intended that several initiatives currently under development, including the Biodiversity Strategy, Species At Risk Strategy, the Living Rivers Strategy, as well as ongoing Land Use Planning and Protected Areas management, will all play an important role in protecting, maintaining and restoring wetlands.

10. Capital Region District

Another good summary. http://www.crd.bc.ca/watersheds/ecosystems/wetlands.htm

Map of watersheds: http://www.crd.bc.ca/watersheds/publications/documents/GreaterVictoriaWatersheds.pdf

11. Local

Mystic vale and Hobbs Creek.

There were once salmon here. A great detailed study is here: http://www.urbanecology.ca/documents/Student%20Technical%20Series/Oliver%20hannah%20final.pdf

A local report from 2005: http://www.islandnet.com/~thelynns/cbra/minutes/cbramin_2011_01_10_mystic_pond.pdf

Another summary of what could/should be down with Mystic Vale and Hobbs Creek: http://web.uvic.ca/enweb/undergraduate/pdf/MysticVale.11.09.pdf

Another group doing interesting work on communities: http://mapping.uvic.ca/welcome/committee

Some other very  interesting comments are in comments below.


(April 22nd to 29thth, 2013.)


One thought on “FENS. Part 1.


    Actually, there is not, nor has there every been a Mystic Spring. If you set out to look for the location of the Mystic Spring, you might as well be looking for the Cadborosaurus as there is still a possibility or a probability the latter exists. The legend of the Mystic Spring is loosely based on fragments of true Aboriginal oral beliefs and practices but the legend in and of its self is a fictitious story which is imbued with misinformation. To understand this we need to look at the matter from the Aboriginal perspective and have an understanding of the ethnoecology of the Coast Salish nation and how its tribes, through Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), view, understand and interpret the environment. In the interest of avoiding bias, we also need to combine TEK with western/non indigenous science. To paint a clear picture of the cultural history of Mystic Vale, let us take a trip way back through the fogs of time.
    The formation of what we now refer to as Mystic Vale technically began in the late Pleistocene glaciations when sands and silts were being deposited. In the early Holocene, or 10,000 years ago, layers of hardpan soils, sands and fluvial marine deposits were laid down with the retreat of the last ice age. Up to about 4000 years ago, or the late Holocene, Garry Oak trees were abundant in the forest and were in competition with the Douglas-firs.
    This result of competition between the two tree species was to be decided by a process all forest eco systems go through: the panarchy cycle. According to panarchy, forest growth cannot continue forever. As the forest grows and becomes more dense, connectedness between different parts of the forest’s components become stronger and more rigid. From thereon, once a fire erupts, it spreads more quickly. The forest debris (in the form of fallen leaves for example) helps the spread of fire. After collapse, the forests goes through the release period and regenerates, that is unless the fire was so catastrophic, it completely burnt the forest to the point where the even the nutrients were burnt out. A catastrophic fire erupted in the Mystic Vale endowment lands in the late Holocene wiping out most the Garry Oaks. The fire-sensitive roots of the Douglas-fir saplings fed the fire even further. On the other hand, the Douglas-fir bark is fire-resistant which was the reason why the Douglas-firs out-competed the oaks and became the most dominant tree species in Mystic Vale. But this is not the only reason why Mystic Vale looks the way it does today.
    Following Mystic Vale’s regeneration into a second old growth forest, Coast Salish people, especially the ancestors of the Songhees and the Wsanic’ (Saanich) started applying land management practices which incredibly kept Mystic Vale’s ecology stable over the last 4000 years. Mystic Vale never collapsed since then. The traditional land management included prescribed burning which protected the precious Garry Oak systems from the encroachment of the Douglas-firs by creating open patches in the landscape. Another benefit from this practice was not allowring fires to spread quickly. This practice looks easy on the surface but it takes a great deal of skills and environmental knowledge.
    Here, I describe a reconstructed picture of Mystic Vale’s past hydrological processes from before alterations caused after European settlements in the mid 1800s in the Greater Victoria Area. Some of this description may or may not apply today. In a later section, I will describe the changes in the landscape that started from the mid 1800s. The ravine of Mystic Vale is much younger than the forest itself and it was carved out and shaped due to centuries of running water. Hobbs Creek was the main body of water that entered Mystic Vale. The source of the creek is precipitation which fell on the Hobbs watershed in the uplands. Most of the water that fell ran off as a creek (Hobbs Creek) and flowed through the ravine which extended all the way to Cadboro Bay’s beach where it entered the marine environment of Cadboro Bay. There used to be a connection between Hobbs Creek and Bowker Creek via a watershed. Hobbs creek flowed above ground all the way from start to finish all year around. On its course, some of its water leaked and went underground. On the creek course, especially in the areas where it turned, pools/ponds were created by the creek. The Saanich oral tradition speaks of only one secluded pond along Hobbs Creek. This pond got most of its water from the creek waters which went underground and emerged in that pond.
    Some of the water which fell on the uplands infiltrated the ground and ended up as springs in Mystic Vale. In the interest of avoiding confusion, it is of essence to explain and define what a spring is and what constitutes a spring. Not any underground water that emerges above ground is a spring water. The definition of a spring is: mineral water which naturally flows from the aquifer to the land surface. A spring receives its water from the water table which rises from the aquifer and not from other sources of water like underground creeks. When spring water flows, it goes through mineral rock layers. As the water table rises from the aquifer, it can fill up one of several spring pools at nearly the same time. The fall of the water table causes the spring(s) to disappear.
    The imperviousness of the Hobbs Water shed was 0. Therefore, up to 25 percent of the precipitation that fell on the Hobbs Watershed infiltrated the ground and fed aquifer 686 Gordon Head III which extends from just the south of the University of Victoria (UVic) campus, and all the way to Cordova Bay. The subterranean water movement entered Hobbs Creek at various points. In other words, Hobbs Creek was fed by several springs. When the springs entered the vale, they did not form pools but were instead engulfed by the creek. In other words, the springs were not visible to the naked eye as they were continuously mixed up with the creek.
    The waters of Mystic Vale were used by Coast Salish people, especially the Songhees and Saanich ancestors for rituals. They used the “prayer pools” created by the creek for fertility and puberty rituals and rites. A person would rub the body with surrounding plant materials such as tree boughs (Western Hemlock was very popular but I found no record of such a tree in Mystic Vale from old or current times) then would go inside the pool at the crack of dawn and sing songs. According to Coast Salish world view, springs and ponds in general, are sacred and have stories/legends attached to them. A still pool of water offers a mythic inversion whereby everything is opposite to what it is in the real world. Thus when someone looked into the still pool, s/he would see the opposite reflected. For example, sadness gets reflected into happiness. A still pool of water can also reflect the face of a future partner. Based on the Coast Salish belief system, isolated ponds are inhabited by a realm of a power spirit known as Stleluqum. This realm, which also inhabited other features in Mystic Vale such as unusually looking rocks and exceptionally old trees, could harm those who abused the resources of the environment. On the other hand, it could give power to those who requested it by doing a bathing ritual called Kwaythut in isolated ponds. Those who dared to encounter Stleluqum had to be spiritually cleansed and qualified or experienced. If they were not, then Stleluqum would harm them. In addition, once the natural isolation and seclusion of the pond was altered, it no longer had the ability to provide power. The secluded pond along Hobbs Creek mentioned in the local native oral tradition lost its natural seclusion due to development and this is a part of a larger story. Having said that, it is important to mention that in the case of Mystic Vale, the creek was also inhabited by Stleluqum because the creek was secluded, thus, all the ponds created by the creek were inhabited by the spirit being.

    Ever since the mid 1800s Mystic Vale has seen many modifications. Urban development in the uplands increased the imperviousness of the watershed, so most of the water which would have infiltrated the ground now runs off of a culvert beneath Cedar Hill X Road. Therefore, the springs in Mystic Vale are not as productive as they once were and have a much weaker flow compared to that of the past.
    Due to landfills and urbanization in Cadboro Bay, the ravine of Mystic Vale today terminates between Hobbs, Killarney, Cadboro Bay Road and Bermuda streets. In the, the ravine extended all the way to Cadboro Bay beach where the end of the vale was an estuary. Before the connection between Bowker and Hobbs was severed, salmon that spawned in the Bowke watershed reached Hobbs Creek and swam through it until it reached the beach thus making the northern end of Mystic Vale an estuary for bald eagles. When salmon swam back to its spawning ground, it did not and could not swim back through and against the Hobbs stream given the slope and the amount water discharge. Instead, salmon went to the Bowker stream. About 11 years ago, a ten cm ground slate spear point was found in the creek. Today, no more salmon reaches Mystic Vale.
    House and yard construction in Cadboro Bay and uplands, substantially altered the flow of Hobbs Creek. Today, at certain points, Hobbs Creek goes above and below ground until it hits the beach. There is a desire on the part of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association to restore Hobbs Creek to its previous status. Changes to Mystic Vale were not only physical.
    Coast Salish people have profound attachments through their land. They connect to it by many means, one of which is through oral tradition in the form of stories and legends. The legend of the Mystic Spring is attributed to native oral tradition but in fact was created by a white man named David William Higgins. He was a politician and a news paper editor whose writings were readily imbued with misinformation. Due to the amount of misinformation and the ethnocentric nature of the story, one can easily deduce that Higgins did not obtain his info on aboriginal oral tradition directly from qualified aboriginal informants but rather from general conversations within the Euro-Canadian community. In writing the story, he gathered pieces and fragments and aboriginal folklore and increase the spookiness of the story by adding two real events from the 1860s regarding two young women. One named Annie who fainted in the creek in 1862 and was later revived. The other was Martha Booth (Julia Booth) who committed suicide in the same location on April 21, 1868. Furthermore, he suggests that the spirit which tried to pull Annie into the creek was the same one that caused Martha Booth (Julia Booth) to commit suicide.
    Irrespective of the differences between different versions of the legend of the Mystic Spring, the legend follows this line:
    There used to be a spring pool in Cadboro Bay called the Mystic Spring. This spring which once existed inside Mystic Vale, was unique and special in the eyes of the native tribes of Cadboro Bay. The reason why it was unique was because it had special and unique powers and abilities. It healed the sick, it enhanced puberty and cured infertility. It reflected the images of future spouses if someone looked into the pond. It was inhabited by a spirit. The spring was located at the foot of an ancient and huge maple tree located inside the ravine, at the edge of the creek and on the side of the ravine hill. The tree ‘guarded’ the spring and according to native prophecy, if the tree was ever cut down, the spring would dry up and the spirit would leave the spring. Allegedly, that was what happened.
    There are several problems with the above story. One example is the account regarding the tree. A huge maple tree does not mean an old one because maples grow quickly. Except for maybe extremely rare cases I am not aware of, there is no such thing as an ancient maple tree because maples only live up to about 200 years. A 200 year old tree in Mystic Vale would not be exceptionally old (Mystic Vale has 500 year old trees) and therefore, would not be inhabited by Stleluqum. Higgins states that the tree was cut down in about 1888. Photography from long before that time shows Hobbs Creek flowing through the open fields of Cadboro Bay. No giant maple trees are apparent. Higgins also mentions how the waters of Mystic Spring were cold all year around. This applies to the whole creek and its pools and not just one pond. Historically, if all the springs of Mystic Vale stopped flowing to the surface, no pond would have dried up because of that because the ponds, included the aforementioned isolated pond, were more fed by the creek than any other source. Furthermore, when an isolated pond loses its natural seclusion, Stleluqum would still be there, but it would not just leave the pond.
    In spite of the serious problems with the legend, people even today treat it as truth. Over time, the confusion surrounding the legend increased to the point where prominent historians, academics and authors have fell for the legend and accepted that the Mystic Spring did once exist. The most confusing part is the exact location of the Mystic Spring.
    Before going any further, I must make clear that this section is not meant in any way to discredit the credibility of the authors I am about to mention. Given the level of confusion this legend of the Mystic Spring created for over 100 years, I am not surprised that even respectable authors are confused about the legend and made false claims regarding the native oral tradition, not due to deliberate intellectual dishonesty, but due to old historical inaccuracies that leaked into the trusted bodies of literature. Also, to tackle this legend, one needs to adopt a multidisciplinary approach. To only use history or natural science is not enough. In addition, one needs to combine science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge. A basic understanding of Coast Salish beliefs is an absolute must or nothing will make much sense.
    Over decades, different sources have provided different locations for the Mystic Spring. The creation of artificial ponds and springs in the 30s and 40s in Cadboro Bay, added to this confusion. Those artificial ponds include but are not limited to the ones above and below Mystic Lane; the one just east of Hibbens Close and Mystic Pond on Waring Road. When I was on a ghost walking tour with famous Victoria Historian and “Ghostorian” John Adams, I gave him a map and asked him to mark the exact spot of the Mystic Spring with a pen. The location was a pond just east of Hibbens Close. He also suggests that the water coming out that pond flows through a pond system which includes Mystic Pond. All the ponds along that system from Hibbens Close to Mystic Pond were artificially created from scratch and have nothing to do with what the Saanich oral tradition identifies as a secluded pond along Hobbs Creek. Some locals in Cadboro Bay think that Mystic Pond is the original Mystic Spring.
    From the 30s to the 50s, a sanitary and heating engineer named William Inglis mistakenly claimed that the original Mystic Spring existed on his property at 2555 Sinclair Road. He fixed his property as a tourist attraction by installing an ornamental wheel decorated by fake native masks and powered by an underground drainage. It was not spring. Yet, he managed to convince people of his claim and actually charged Victorians to drink from its ‘mystical’ waters for 20 years.
    The article Topomystica gave two contradicting locations within the same article. He says that the Mystic Spring is downstream from Mystic Vale and therefore, along the Creek. He also adds that it is roughly in the area where the Northern end of Mystic Vale is. Furthermore, he states that the Mystic Spring is located in the middle of an asphalt road. The 1922 article he quotes regarding this states that the Mystic Spring is in the middle of the asphalt road near the yacht club. The yacht club however, is no where near the creek or the northern end of Mystic Vale.
    Author Danda Humphreys, in her book On the Streets Where You Live Vol 3: Mystic Lane, took the confusion to a new level. She states:
    “The stream [Hobbs Creek] flowed down through a ravine [Mystic Vale] bordered by tall trees, shrubs…, disappeared underground, and reappeared as if by magic as a spring at the roots of a huge maple tree, only to disappear again on its route through open fields to the bay.”
    There are two problems with her account. First, when a creek goes under then above ground, it does not become a spring. This goes against the definition of what a spring is. Second, she is describing the historical flow of Hobbs Creek before developments and European settlements in Cadboro Bay in the mid 1800s. The problem here is, historically, Hobbs Creek, as mentioned earlier, flowed above ground all the way all year around.
    Finally, my favorite book was not immune either. Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University (2006). The book repeats the story by Higgins but adds that the spring on Michael Finnerty’s farm is the original Mystic Spring. In an email to the co-author, I asked him about the exact location and he answered that it is on the flat land behind the Cadboro Bay residences. Mystic Vale is anything but flat.
    Higgins not only made up the legend but he also made up the name Mystic Spring. He also made up the name Mystic Vale in 1904. He named Mystic Vale after the Mystic Spring. Other features named after the Mystic Spring which I am aware of, are Mystic Lane, Mystic Cottages, Mystic Pond and Mystic Creek. Before it was locally referred to as Mystic Vale, locals, especially in Cadboro Bay used to call it by several names such as ‘The Ravine’, ‘Mystic Spring Ravine’, ‘Mystic Springs’ etc. In the late 70s, the name Mystic Vale appeared in the printed press in light of the issue of development when former owner late John Byron Price (1917-sept 15 2010) and his brother attempted to develop the ravine. Aboriginals had no name for the vale or its creek. In fact, place naming Coast Salish tradition is a serious business and depends on strict criteria. Place naming for example can mean land claiming, property rights and ownership but that far beyond the scope of this comment. However, I will briefly address past ownerships of Mystic Vale in the next section.
    The concept of boundaries and land ownership is a complex matter and very different from the concepts adopted by non aboriginals. Historically, there was no one specific group or an individual which privately owned Mystic Vale. There were ‘stewards’ of the landscape, each of which looked after a specific feature of Mystic Vale. One group of stewards, called silwan was responsible for the water resources. There was the fishing administrator or siem.
    The Oak Bay part of Mystic Vale was first owned by the Hudson Bay Company. Later, the Island Broadcasting Company owned a 40 acre land parcel consisting of the CJVI land (one of the last remnants of the Upland farms) and the Oak Bay portion of Mystic Vale. Later, the Island Broadcasting Company sold the CJVI land to the University of Victoria in 1964. Today, the CJVI land is about 30 acres because the Mystic Vale part of it (used to be called the Upper Hobbs Creek Drainage System) is no longer a part of the CJVI land, even though the CJVI land is referred to as the Mystic Vale Farm Lands. In 1993, the Mystic Vale Ecological Protection Area was created on August 10, 93 when the Oak Bay portion was combined the Saanich portion of Mystic Vale which is another story.
    The Saanich portion of Mystic Vale was first owned by Joseph William Mackay in 1858. After he lost control, and over the years, the forested ravine was divided among private land owners who had properties adjacent to the ravine. Some of them included the late Mr Chard and Bowden and Frank Hobbs (after which the creek was named). Before UVic purchased the vale in 93, 4.7 Hectares of the Saanich portion (not all of the Saanich portion) was owned by the Price family, mainly John Byron Price.

    According to Coast Salish oral tradition, isolated springs and secluded ponds similar to the Mystic Spring exist throughout the Coast Salish world but the Mystic Spring never existed. Yet the story is treated like an accurate historical record. To avoid such confusion in the future, I propose three recommendations. First, when researching a sacred First Nations site, a person should obtain permission from the nations or bands involved. Second, First Nations research protocol would be followed. And third, the researcher must respect aboriginal wishes as to how that info would be shared. Attributing false or falsified stories to Coast Salish oral tradition, not only distorts a vital component of a culture which heavily relies on its oral tradition for cultural transmission, but it has the potential to do more harm. It can affect ecological restoration efforts which might rely, to a certain degree, on landscape reconstructions which are themselves affected by historical accounts and oral tradition. When one does ecological restoration, there are several questions that come to mind. Restore it to what point in time and to what condition? Knowing this might require the combination of western scientific practices with those of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) or Traditional Indigenous Knowledge.
    O hear of a legend, stranger than OZ
    O see it, through eyes gone porous
    Over the legend of the Mystic Spring which never was
    Yet don’t cry another spring, there is always Cadborosaurus

    Direction to a 400 year old tree remains in Mystic Vale: When you go down the stair which lead to the pond, keep walking north going towards Hobbs Street. As you walk through the ravine, keep looking to your right and you will see a broken cone shaped hallow tree (core is gone) located on the side of the right ravine hill. This maple tree started growing about 400 years ago and was knocked down by the force of wind nearly 200 years ago. Just imagine the wind force that can knock down a tree like that! To see a photo of it, see my flickr photos. My flickr username is blastroidicon.

    Yaser Mohammed
    on January 28, 2011 at 6:18 am said:
    Oh, and two more things. First, I am sorry about the grammar mistakes for I did not proofread my comment. And second, whenever you are in Mystic Vale, please respect this First Nations sacred site by not harming the environment: keep your dogs on leashes; try to avoid stepping on plants; and don’t throw garbage in the vale or pollute the creek. Remember the creek empties into the sea. Nature is interconnected. Enjoy your forest adventures!

    Yaser Mohammed
    on February 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm said:
    Actually, this story needs editing anyways. I have posted a rebuttal to it but it was deleted! Maybe because it was too long. Idk.
    There is not, nor has there even been a Mystic Spring. The legend of the Mystic Spring is PARTIALLY AND LOOSELY based on FRAGMENTS of true Coast Salish practices and oral tradition, in addition to two instances in the 1860s regarding two young women. However, the legend of the Mystic Spring in and of itself is fiction.
    Historically, Mystic Vale (sacred Coast Salish site) did have ponds similar in characteristics to those associated with the Mystic Spring. However, the Mystic Spring itself is just a fantasy product of the mind of an ingenious fiction writer named David Higgins. In fact, he was the one who made up the names Mystic Spring and Mystic Vale (the latter is named after the former). Aboriginals did not have a name for the vale or its creek.
    Finally, the spirit which inhabited the waters of Mystic Vale is classified, in Coast Salish folklore, as Stleluqum. This spirit caused harm to those who abused the landscape or those who tried to contact the spirit yet they were not qualified. On the other hand, it had the ability to provide powers to ritual bathers but only as long as the body of water was secluded. Mystic Vale, being a deep ravine and heavily forested, provided the needed seclusion. Once the natural seclusion is altered, the spirit would not longer provide powers.
    Yaser Mohammed
    University of Victoria Sustainability Project (UVSP)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s