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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 19 of 31: Baie Verte Peninsula and the Dorset Soapstone Quarries

photo by Michael

Dorset soapstone quarries

We had planned to spend the whole day around the Baie Verte peninsula. Overnight rain had died out but it was a cloudy morning and quite cold with a strong wind. The clouds gradually broke up, blue patches appeared in the sky and it turned into glorious afternoon, although the wind was still cold.

It was a long, rather boring drive (trees and an occasional lake or river) to Baie Verte, a rather uninspiring settlement which has seen better days since the asbestos mine closed. I was pleased we hadnít stopped there. The road surface was very bad and there were large areas cut out waiting filling.

The asbestos mines were north of the town and made a huge gash in the landscape. There is an unsigned and rather overgrown lookout off the road with views across the open cast mines with two large blue lakes at the bottom and terraced sides. There were huge piles of spoil everywhere.

The road to Fleur De Lys was breaking up badly. Fleur de Lys was larger than we expected, straggling along the road with a small working pier and smaller wooden wharves.

The Dorset Soapstone Quarries are reached by a short path from the museum, which was shut although there was a contact phone number on the door if you wanted to go round. There were several work faces and it was easy to recognise the hollows left where the blocks had been removed. They were all beautifully lined up in a checker board pattern. Some of the blocks were still in situ. There was a certain amount of information and it was an interesting and worthwhile visit.

There was a map showing walks from the quarries but, unusual for Newfoundland, these had not been maintained and were difficult to follow. We started on the Ocean View Trail but gave up when I nearly fell off wobbly planks into the bog. The sign for the Spotted Point Trail had gone and trail wasnít obvious. Fleur de Lys Lookout Trail was signed but soon disappeared into thick vegetation.

In the afternoon we drove to La Scie. This was a much more interesting drive as the trees were less dense and there were more views and bare rock. We drove over the top of the hill to see La Scie spread out around the bay below. It is quite a large settlement, pretty and well kept. There was a large government wharf with fishing boats tied up and small wooden wharves on the other side of the bay. There were well maintained trails to Caplin Cove and the Lookout. These were good easy walking with splendid views along the rugged coastline, especially to the east. The rocks around the Lookout were much paler in colour, pinks and oranges. Locals were out berry picking. Everywhere was shut up including the Outport Museum Tea Room.

We then decided to trickle back and explore some of the side roads to the other settlements. Shoe Cove was a well kept settlement with many large new houses and a lot of cars parked outside the Pentecostal Church, it being Sunday afternoon. The original settlement was built round a big freshwater pond. There was a small and very well sheltered harbour. There were no fishing boats, just pleasure boats. Two old wooden fishing rooms were built on the side steep of the wooded hillside which dropped steeply into the sea. The trail to Ship Cove Bight climbed up the hillside on steps.

It was then on to Tilt Cove along 6km of poorly maintained gravel road with lots of potholes. This had been a major copper mining settlement with a population of 2000 at its peak. The mines closed in 1920 although they were worked again between 1957-67. Now there are about 20 people living there. We could see the mining scars and a miners pathway up the hillside. The old wooden mining houses were built on the east side of a large freshwater pond with a few newer houses on the west. It was interesting, but probably not worth the detour.

It was a good paved road to Brentís Cove and Harbour Round, two well cared for and prosperous settlements. Brent's Cove was surrounded by big bare rocky hillsides with trees. There was a small fishing harbour with wooden wharves and boats tied up. Harbour Round had a very sheltered, large, round harbour with protective headlands. The settlement was built round the harbour and had spread across the hillside to the west.

This had been a long day with a lot of driving. We were pleased to have done the soapstone quarries and enjoyed La Scie and the other small settlements but in retrospect we would probably not include this again.

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