Anyone who has ever been a student at Universite Sainte Anne in Church Point during the last 20 years is sure to be familiar with Le Petit Bois. In fact, thousands of us have toiled and sweated to realize one of the visions Jean Douglas Comeau has had for Sainte Anne. And it was worth it.
Le Petit Bois, directly translated, means “The Little Woods”, and that’s more or less what it is. Actually, that’s definitely less than what it is. It is indeed a wooded area that surrounds the campus of the university on three sides, but it is also now an intricate network of well-kept trails that are excellent for everything from walking, running, cycling, hiking or strolling. Regardless of your activity or fitness level, you’ll find enjoyment on these trails.
But, it’s not just woods you’ll be wandering through. One of the remarkable aspects of le Petit Bois is the incredible diversity of ecosystems and landscapes in such a small area. Within a 1-2 hour walk you could begin in a shaded Acadian forest of mixed coniferous and deciduous trees to emerge to bright sunshine reflecting off the water of the Baie Sainte Marie and its rocky coastline. Then you can descend into a boggy marshland with cattails towering over your head before climbing back up to another forested area punctuated with huge boulders and fearless squirrels.
Along the way you may see a wide range of birds (this is a birder’s paradise), muskrats, deer and, of course, squirrels. You might even see a snake or two (don’t worry, snakes in Nova Scotia are not poisonous).
Besides the groomed pathways, you’ll also find plenty of evidence of human attempts to inhabit the Petit Bois. There are several peaceful nooks and crannies where the past priests of the College Sainte Anne came to find peaceful reflection. You’ll even see the foundations of chalets built for some of the priests in the woods. In more recent times, a large gazebo with a view of the water has been built, as well as a tremendous example of folk art. Scattered throughout the woods are painted stones with assorted messages or simply signatures, marks left by past students who’ve worked on the trails.
Sometimes nature needs to remind us that she cannot be tamed by mere humans, as was made clear by the utter destruction of the old lighthouse on the point in a wind storm. However, local community members have plans to build a new, multi-use lighthouse, that could house things like science labs or artists’ space. This is at the spot that is the namesake for Church Point, as the original church was built here on the point along the windy coast. I’m sure trekking out here in the winter was a test of faith for at least a few of the parishioners!
You also can’t miss the many green initiatives undertaken by the university from Le Petit Bois. There are the two wind turbines that generate electricity for the campus, as well as the stack from the biomass furnace that provides heat. Exiting the Petit Bois to the campus reveals the 100+ solar panels that heat the water in the residences. Sainte Anne has been recognized as one of the greenest campuses in Canada, moving ever closer to being fully self-sustainable.
Whether you are an historian, a biologist, a walker, a runner, a neighbour, a student, an environmentalist or someone looking for a deeper spiritual connection, there is something of big interest for you in Le Petit Bois.
To see our video of our experience on the tour, click on the video below!
23 Lighthouse Road, Unit 1
Church Point, Nova Scotia
This video is part of a series of adventures had along the Baie Sainte Marie. Check out more in this series below:
Thank you to Rendez-Vous de la Baie for bringing us to Clare (and making sure we had a place to rest our heads and fill our bellies). It is organizations like yours that helps us continue to tell our travel tales.