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Salt Spring 1

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidI promised a few posts back that I would write something about Saltspring (or Salt Spring as the locals apparently prefer it) Island, whence we scurried for a soothing lost weekend before our busy moving-in week.

The expanse of water that lies between Vancouver Island and the mainland – the Georgia Straight – is studded with an archipelago of islands of a diverse assortment of sizes. The more southerly group of these – the Juan de Fucas – lies across the border in the U.S. Those to the north comprise the Gulf Islands which are part of British Columbia. This range of islands is one of the big attractions of the area as far as I am concerned and I intend to spend a fair amount of my time therein upon my as yet unrealised boat – once is has been… er… realised!

The Gulf Islands have a somewhat other-worldly feel to them which is only exacerbated by their being smaller islands off the coast of a larger island – which in turn lies just off the coast of the Canadian mainland. The good inhabitants of Vancouver Island already see themselves as somehow different to British Columbians from the interior and the Gulf Islanders go a whole giant stride further. The closest parallels I can think of – for those who have absolutely no idea what I am blethering on about – are such mildly alternative settlements as St Ives or Glastonbury in the UK – or Tofino in BC. Hopefully you get the idea.

Salt Spring is the largest of the Gulf Islands and the closest to Vancouver Island. The ferry thence from Swartz Bay (but 10 minutes drive from our new abode) takes only 35 minutes and some of that is taken up by the usual jostling for position that is de rigueur in any ferry port before loading or unloading can begin.

Salt Spring has a higher than average population of creatives (including some really quite well known figures) in addition to what might best be described as a healthy cabal of new-ageists… You know – granola munchers, tofu tokers and suchlike! As a result the island positively vibrates with yoga retreaters, livers off the land and no end of artists and crafters. There is a massively popular Saturday market each week in the largest village – the delightful Ganges – at which all manner of home crafted delights may be purchased. The standard of goods on display is astonishing and it is little surprise to learn that Salt Spring has an international reputation across a fair range of fields.

Ganges – incidentally – was once called Admiralty Bay but was renamed in 1859, taking its name from HMS Ganges which was at the Pacific Station from 1857 – 1860 under the command of Captain John Fulford… after whom the small port on the south end of the island is named. Thus are the origins of many of the names of settlements and geological features on the west coast of Canada; a rich palette with surprisingly prosaic roots.

Should you feel that my tone regarding the Gulf Islands – and Salt Spring in particular – is a little too flip or cynical, I plead that I merely jest from affection. I quickly fell in love with Salt Spring but – as is also the case with St Ives and Glastonbury – I wouldn’t want to live there. (The same is not actually true of Tofino, but we all have our weaknesses!).

By way of recompense I will post some glorious images of Salt Spring in my next post.

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