Arts and Heritage

Art & soul.

There’s a valley up here that every member of Canada’s fabled Group of Seven has painted. But they’re not alone in wanting to capture our essence. It lives in proudly preserved towns, art of every kind, and walls of local stone. History is everywhere, yours to walk through, sit by or just feel. And even bring home.


A stroll or drive through any Headwaters town is a lesson in ingenuity and perseverance that our forefathers and mothers showed in building industries and an identity. And while there are many guided tours, like the ones run by the Dufferin County Museum and Archives (an anything-but-stuffy museum) and our popular studio tours, your feet and our proud locals will also serve you well. (At three hours atop and through the region, the Credit Valley Explorer train ride may be the best history class of all.)

Our many picturesque mills speak to how our settlers harnessed our rivers, and showcase another Headwaters product: natural stone. (Toronto’s Old City Hall was built with Headwaters’ limestone.) Built on Shaw’s Creek in Alton, the Alton Mill in its various incarnations produced woollen underwear, then rubber products (everything from balloons for Disney, to condoms for Canadian servicemen), to inspiration as the artist-filled Alton Mill Arts Centre today.

The hamlet of Horning’s Mills in Melancthon Township once boasted a half-dozen mills (you can still see their sites): the hamlet’s remarkable number of seemingly untouched mid-1800’s buildings are town pride at its best.

Almost any backroad drive will reveal our trademark dry stone walls, a nod to our Scottish-Irish roots. Constructed without mortar but with old-time physics, many original fences were made from the stones of land being cleared for planting, moved by hand and horse. General stores are still the core of many towns, as much a source of information as they are regional food and history. The Hockley General Store is a breakfast destination and
strong supplier of local food, like Hockley Valley Honey; a little further up, the Rosemont General Store and Café has kept its 1862 bones but artfully restored the rest, and now smells of local fare, not horses.

Whether it’s the environment or the contemplation it affords, Headwaters is an art hub with a number of ways to experience it, all welcoming. We’ve already mentioned the Alton Mill Arts Centre, but the region also boasts many galleries. Orangeville’s Dragonfly Arts on Broadway is always buzzing and features over 200 Canadian and local artists. And since Headwaters is a hands-on destination, many artists hold workshops, a different way to spend a few lively hours with new friends or a special group. Orangeville potter Ann Randeraad brings together people over clay, and you’ll be amazed at what artist Mark Grice can pull out of you at one of his popular painting nights: they’re just two of our many local artists (lots of them work
out of the Alton Mill) that you can create and learn with.

Studio tours are also tours of the area and often the artists’ homes, and can include dozens of artists in one tour. If you prefer to have it all in one place, September’s Buzzfest is an outdoor feast of food and art at the Terra Cotta General Store, and the Dufferin County Museum hosts juried craft shows and sales throughout the year including Christmas, perfect for unique holiday gifts.

What will you bring home from Headwaters? Something that speaks to you from the Inglewood Antique Market, or from Postman’s Antiques in Shelburne, a 100-year-old, all-stone former post office, complete with clock tower and worth the trip alone? A quirky find at a country yard sale? A bowl or bracelet you made yourself? Or the same wordless things that the Group of Seven took from here, yet still remain. Whatever it is, it won’t just stay our history, but become a part of yours.