This is Jim and Joan Burbridge on the patio at the cabin in Woodhaven. They moved into the cabin in 1968 as the first Caretakers of the place. Both were photographers and naturalists and from the stories I've heard, both were adventurers with a bent for living a little on the edge. Fearlessness is such a great quality to have and was especially needed when it came to championing the cause for eco-system preservation in the case of Woodhaven when, in 1971, the land was at risk of being developed into apartments.
Jim and Joan loved plants, critters, birds and whiskey. A favourite afternoon included all of the aforementioned delights, some good company dropping by and a fist full of peanuts and seeds on the patio table for entertainment. That feeding table was still there when I arrived in 2002. It had four sturdy legs and a solid top. Two of the legs had wheels so it could easily be moved about on the flagstone deck. I've seen photos where the squirrels and the birds are side by side on that tabletop each scrambling for a nut or seed.
Joan had a love for flowers and taxonomy, so much so that she wrote Wild Flowers of the Southern Interior, published in 1989. I am so lucky to have a copy of this book. If it weren’t in my home I’d have a difficult time identifying many of the plants that are found in this area and of course in Woodhaven proper. I learned quite a few, up front and personally but her book seems to fill in the blanks well. Here is White Campion:
Joan’s notes indicate that it will grow up to 120cm high and the flower grows in loose, open clusters at ends of oppositely branched stems. She goes on to describe in detail the make up of the flower itself, “Up to 2.5cm across with 5 deeply notched petals which narrow abruptly and form 2.5cm long tube at right-angles to blades.” She describes the top of the tube and details the difference between the female and the male plant.
She certainly left her legacy as a champion of the land evidenced in her love of and commitment to preservation through documentation and stewardship. Woodhaven wasn’t supposed to be here in our community as the precious jewel it is. It wasn't intended as a place of learning and play, science and adventure, it was almost sewer pipes and concrete, manufactured playgrounds and manicured lawns. But it's not.
In 2011 this was a surprise. I can’t remember seeing this lilac before and believe me I would have noticed, it’s just a few feet off the trail and to the left at the second divider fence past the woodshed. It seems a strange plant to have in this wild land but I immediately thought of Joan when I saw it. Joan was British and it was the British settlers who brought the lilac to the Okanagan. It seems an irony that this plant flowers this year as so much attention is paid to the park. As I walk past it, it feels like a little of Joan has been deposited, safe in the “no-go” zone and as a reminder of how this all came to be. We are so fortunate that Joan and Jim had the foresight and determination to protect this place. It is a reminder that one person or a small group of people can and do make a difference.
If you are already a member be aware the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Woodhaven Nature Conservancy is coming up February 25th. If you are not already a member you are very welcome to join us on our virtual AGM, you can pay the small membership fee and be in the know for all the activities we'll be hosting in 2021. Also, if you haven't already picked up your FREE sketchbook and bird list from the mailbox there's plenty in there and we'd love to see all sorts of people participate.
The Woodhaven Nature Conservancy is at 4711 Raymer Road, Kelowna BC.
We are a non-profit society, founded by a group of neighbours of the Woodhaven Nature Conservancy. The purpose of the Society is to protect and improve the overall well-being of Woodhaven Nature Conservancy for the benefit of the public and future generations. The aim is to do this by promoting education about the park and by hosting or facilitating free public events regarding conservation of the park’s ecosystem, the history, and culture of Woodhaven, and becoming involved in projects that support the plant and animal life found within the park.
We acknowledge that Woodhaven is located on unceded territory of the Okanagan Nation. Our intention is to honour this fact and to ensure our activities are based on respect for the land and its history.