Katharine Fletcher recommends visiting Wakefield in the Outaouais, photographing the many beautifully wrought artisanal signs while exploring its cafés, boutiques and trails.
Wakefield is one of my favourite Outaouais villages because it offers a pleasing balance of indoor/ outdoor activities. Whether you hike, birdwatch or bike in nearby Gatineau Park; stroll alongside the Gatineau River on village trails; enjoy tasty meals at various restaurants; or explore specialty boutiques, it’s a worthy destination.
Perhaps Wakefield’s hand-made, whimsical signs might inspire you to capture the village’s true nature. I think taking photos makes delicious if not ironic fun because no “Wakefield” sign actually exists on Highway 5 North. Confusingly for visitors, Quebec’s Ministry of Transport only permits the name of the municipality — La Pêche in this instance — or the street at the exit ramp to be placed on the highway. So when watching for Wakefield, look for La Pêche and enter Wakefield via Exit 28 on Chemin Valley Drive (check Google Maps).
Here are some of my favourite signs and places — and of course, many others await your personal discovery.
CAFÉ MOLÖ 1 ch Valley Drive (corner chemin Riverside)
Resembling a green clapboard farmhouse, Café Molö was built in the 1880s as the Earle family’s home. Today, I recommend starting your exploration of the village here .
First, reward yourself with a fragrant coffee or tea paired with a generously sized homemade ginger (or other) cookie. Or, opt for a smoked salmon bagel, daily soup, or sandwiches.
Not “merely” a café, owners Gillian Lovink and Diane Morey welcome you to browse Clothespeg, their collection of gently used clothing. As well, because these entrepreneurs are eager to support the creative community, walls feature local artists’ works.
Lovink says Café Molö is a comfortable community hub and I agree it’s an ideal location from which to discover Wakefield.
Don’t miss the large bulletin board upon which community events are listed.
Here find the Sentiers Wakefield Trails brochure, too, which gives great tips on what to do in the village.
WAKEFIELD PEACEKEEPING MEMORIAL Gatineau River Lookout Chemin Riverside (across from Café Molö)
Cross Chemin Riverside to the Gatineau River where you’ll find Wakefield Village’s colourful sign. On it the Maclaren Mill is depicted: nowadays it’s the Moulin Wakefield Inn & Spa (on Chemin Mill). Gazing over the river, look left in the distance to spy the red, covered Gendron Bridge.
Near you, a monument honours Wakefield’s Peacekeepers and Veterans of Afghanistan and other conflicts.
PLACE 1870 AND LA TULIPE NOIRE 715 ch Riverside Drive latulipenoire.ca
Directly across Chemin Valley Drive from Café Molö, Place 1870 houses a complex of shops such as La Tulipe Noire. It sells a multitude of regionally made items, from beeswax candles made by Quyon apiarists, the Sempels, to unique jewelry and paintings from former Bristol, now Montreal artist Marcio Melo.
Upstairs, Place 1870 houses a theatre where magic lantern shows were given, a rare surviving example of a former community hub when illuminated technology was the rage.
KHEWA NATIVE ART BOUTIQUE 737 ch Riverside Drive
“Khewa” means “A north wind bringing you home.” Proprietor Nathalie Couteau is the resident artist whose works you’ll discover here, along with many other First Nations jewelry, carvings and crafts.
BOUTIQUE JAMBOREE 740 ch Riverside Drive
A little bit of everything is how I’d describe this once general store now transformed into a boutique where you’ll find everything from garden signs to kitchen ware. It’s fun browsing while remarking on Jamboree’s heritage architectural “bones.”
THE BLACK SHEEP INN 753 Chemin Riverside Drive theblacksheepinn.com
At the corner of Mill Street, find what is arguably the hottest spot in Ottawa/Gatineau to listen to terrific bands. The Black Sheep Inn is the brainchild of Paul Symes who consistently hosts an eclectic array of musicians. Reserve because this tavern gets packed quickly. It was built in the 1860s and first operated as the Temperance Hotel, then Château Diotte and Château Pearson before Symes renamed it yet again.
MACLAREN CEMETERY Past Wakefield Mill (60 chemin Mill Street) pc.gc.ca
After turning left on Mill Street and ascending alongside the La Pêche River, walk past the Wakefield Mill originally built by the Maclaren family in 1838. Continue uphill to the Maclaren Cemetery. Find the sign telling you about the Right Honourable Lester Bowles Pearson, then look for his grave, preserved by Parks Canada as an historic site. Pearson won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve the Suez Crisis.
CHAMBERLIN’S LOOKOUT AT WAKEFIELD GENERAL STORE 804 Chemin Riverside wakefieldgeneralstore.ca
After returning to chemin Riverside, turn left to continue exploring. You’ll pass Geggie Park commemorating not only the family of doctors who worked here, but also Norma Geggie, author and historian of Wakefield. Continue to the Wakefield Train turnaround, marked by Chamberlin’s Lookout at the Wakefield General Store. Enter to find local authors’ books through to groceries, and upstairs, a restaurant with a sweeping view of the Gatineau River. From here, continue to explore bakeries and other shops, find the Gendron covered bridge, or return to Café Molö.
The Wakefield Village sign welcomes visitors.
The Black Sheep Inn is a staple for Wakefield live music.
Lester Bowles Pearson