September 17, 2011
The henge and gardens are located just east of the village of Big Bay located midway between Wiarton and Owen Sound along Grey County Road #1. The henge is a large stone circle for astronomical observations and is about 45 feet in diameter.
The 4 acres of gardens were started about 1977 and are a continuing work in progress. They were voted Canada’s Grand Prize Garden of the Year in 1996.
We started our visit at the henge which was the brain child of the owner of the property Bill Loney and his neighbour Steve Irvine. In 1999 the 2 of them decided to create something everlasting to celebrate the millennium. Steve is a potter by trade and an amateur astronomer. Most of you can relate to Stonehenge in England. Central to this henge we visited is a slab of granite about 11 feet high which casts it’s shadow on large limestone megaliths at different times of the year such as the vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox and wither solstice. Other blocks have to do with sunrise or sunset at strategic times of the year. There are 13 of these limestone blocks situated strategically around the pointer block. The largest block weighs about 2 tonnes. There are 6 of these large stones and 7 somewhat smaller. They were lowered carefully and exactly into their place with a hydraulic loader. One of the stones is called the North Star Stone. It has a slanted groove cut into the top of the stone and when you crouch close to the ground and look through this groove to the top of the pointer stone it lines up with the North Star.
The building of Keppel Henge was completed in the summer of 2000 with the construction of an 80 foot diameter ditch and mound which encircles the project. A henge is really a ditch and mound.
Leaving the henge we go a short distance to a Sundial made of cement blocks and pillars. It is 20 feet wide. To use the sundial you step right into it. You become the gnomon and your own shadow indicates the time. The hours are indicated by marker stones set into a large ellipse. The central part of the sundial is called a date scale and is marked off in the 12 months of the year. A person simply matches the current date with it’s location on the date scale and stand with their back to the sun. The shadow falls across the hour stones and gives the time with surprising accuracy. It is calculated for daylight saving time because other times of the year it would probably be covered with snow.
Walking further we come to their scale model of the solar system constructed in 2005. The scale for this is based on the 400 meter distance from the sun to Pluto in the field. The sun and planets, on display posts are set out at their proportionate distances along a nature trail on which visitors can stroll and visit all of the solar system. The sun and planets are made of high fired stoneware and are sized in relation to the Sun/Pluto distance. The Sun at the start of the trail is scaled at 12.3 cm in diameter. Venus is 9.3 meters from the Sun. Earth is 12.9 meters from the Sun. As mentioned Pluto is 400 meters from the Sun. Steve tells us that using his scale the closest star Proxima Centauri would be located 3,125 kilometres away. A scale model of this star is located in a friend’s garden on Vancouver Island.
Another stop was their Analemma Project which they started in 2009. Here they have a disc with a hole in the centre mounted on a 15 foot pole. The disc is angled at 45 degrees. Each day sun permitting, for a full year at exactly 12.22 p.m. local standard time a steel rod was driven into the ground in the centre of the bright spot cast by the hole in the disc., This eventually created an Analemma or a large lop sided figure 8.
On our way back to the Loney’s house we saw a small part of their fabulous gardens. Perennial borders, Rock gardens, Xeriscape gardens, Zen gardens, Woodland gardens, Iris gardens, several ponds, art installations and dry stream bed plus other features. We ate our lunch in the shade on their patio.
A short dirve and we stopped at the Big Bay General Store for one of their famous “HOME MADE” ice cream cones. A picture taken in August of a girl from Texas eating the 8,000th Ice cream cone dipped at that store this year. Nobody was disappointed.
If you were not on that outing you missed something sensational.