Spring—that magnificent time of year when everything comes back to life is especially welcomed this year after the COVID-19 isolation of 2020. The sun is coaxing us to come outside and enjoy a leisurely stroll to some special places where one can reflect and draw strength for the days ahead. What better place than Bristol Village?
Hidden inside the Glenn Center (activity center) is an atrium which is an open air garden area surrounded by the walking track. Planned by Bristol Village founder, John Glenn, it was a lovely area, but as it matured, it began to suffer from neglect as English ivy took over while weeds invaded the paths and grassy areas. Norma Dupire, a resident with another vision for the atrium, came forward three years ago with the idea of creating a Hummingbird Garden. She put up hummingbird feeders after clearing the ivy and weeds to make room for plants and flowers that attract hummingbirds. Hanging baskets with colorful annuals were added and although it is once again an attractive place to relax on a bench under the pergola with native honeysuckle growing over it, it is still a project in progress. Renovation continues as a sprinkling system is being added, new sod put in to replace the weed filled grass, and paths installed that can accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. Visitors are welcome whenever the Glenn Center is open.
As you leave the Glenn Center, stop at the Terrace Café long enough to get a cup of coffee to savor as you stroll along the blacktop path by Bristol Court toward an activity area encompassing a tennis court, a dog park, and a children’s play area for the enjoyment of the residents. Visitors are encouraged to rest at the gazebo to “people watch” or reflect.
Where the sidewalk stops at the end of Wendy Lane, another pergola beckons one to enter the Cooper Wildflower Woods, named for resident Mary Cooper, who visualized a woodland sanctuary constructed over a Bristol Village dump that was filled with broken appliances and other trash. She along with the Bristol Village Horticulture Club converted that dump into the woods that today is enjoyed by all. What a wonderful legacy they left. The Friends of the Cooper Wildflower Woods, a small group of resident volunteers, gather weekly April through October to maintain it. Spring is the prettiest time to visit the Cooper Wildflower Woods. Snowdrops, aconite, and Lenten roses have already bloomed. Among other flowers blooming or getting ready to bloom are daffodils, Virginia bluebells, bloodroot, trillium and rhododendrons. The flowering redbud and dogwood trees are always a welcome sight as they burst into bloom, but those beautiful Callery pear trees known for their white blossoms which line the streets of Bristol Village are invasive and have to be controlled. While walking through the woods, bug spray is recommended. Please stay on the paths at all times to protect our fragile plants. Trails through the woods are blacktopped and wide enough for wheelchairs.
At the corner of Ramble and Robin Roads is a green area with four concrete paths lined by trees that merge into a circle with benches. This is Ramble Grove Park although no sign or marking identifies it. Take a few minutes to rest on the benches at the Memory Circle which is “Dedicated to those who have served to protect our freedoms both military and civilian endeavors.” Soon begonias and geraniums will surround the large Ohio-Erie Canal boulders to complete the small but lovely garden. It is tended by Bill and Sharon Webb who donated it in celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Tranquility Park, another green area, is bounded on all sides by Seventh Street, Wendy Lane, Leisure Lane and Robin Road. It is accessed by paths from each street marked by the large red colored stones from the Ohio-Erie Canal. This park is unique not only for the benches donated and trees planted in memory or honor of loved ones, but for the labyrinth in the park which begins near the Wendy Lane entrance. The small kiosk contains pamphlets that tell of the history and purpose of labyrinth use, as well as offer guidance as to different ways to use it. A labyrinth is a spiritual tool, a path of prayer, a walking meditation, or a place to experience your deeper awareness. Tranquility Park Labyrinth was dedicated in memory of Frederick C. Michelson in 2009, one of the visionaries who brought the labyrinth to fruition with Otto Zingg and his expertise and knowledge of labyrinth design. It is constructed to accommodate people with walkers and wheelchairs. Words etched on the dedication plaque tell it all: “Reflect on your problems of today. Follow the path at your own pace. Listen to your inner self. Find your peace at the center. Begin the journey outward. Before leaving, pause and give thanks.”
One of the more popular attractions at Bristol Village is the Scioto Valley Railroad. While the Garden Railroad layout may be enjoyed any time, members of the Scioto Valley Railroad Club will operate the trains on Monday afternoons when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The original garden railroad was dismantled nine years ago after being overtaken by vegetation dislodging the tracks. Today G gauge model trains wind in and out through miniature plants and buildings on a layout completed in 2013, thanks to the residents and staff who made donations for it to the Bristol Village Foundation and to the vision of Vonnie Noll. A plaque reads, “In loving memory and recognition of her untiring efforts to develop and nurture the Garden Railroad.” The waist high raised bed which makes it easy to see the layout and enjoy the trains is a big improvement over the original layout. The Depot at 339 Robin Road houses layouts for other model train gauges while the Railroad Museum at 709 Leisure Lane is a trip back in time when railroads were in their heyday.
As one strolls down Wendy Lane, a sign in the yard at 326 reads Museum Cottage. A plate on the door tells visitors that “The Museum Cottage depicts what a typical Bristol Village home may have looked like in 1962. In the cottage there are archives, pictures, newsletters, and facts about Bristol Village and its residents.” In 2002, the cottage was renovated by a group of volunteers, but in recent years interest waned until a short time ago when another group of volunteers started organizing and preserving the memorabilia that had accumulated insuring that the village history will not be lost.
Our last stop is at the Canal Pavilion created to portray the history of the Ohio-Erie Canal, and can be accessed from the Glenn Center parking lot. Meander down the newly constructed red brick Walk of Life honoring or memorializing the lives of loved ones. Names and messages can be etched on bricks and added any time in the future. It was established in 2020, by Brenda Owens in memory of her husband, Bob, a talented musician. The peaceful garden area along the Walk of Life is dedicated to the many musicians who have brought music to our ears and songs to our hearts. A plaque reminds us that “Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from the heavens to the soul.” A bench within the garden invites you to “Relax . . . . and cherish your memories.”
A leisurely stroll through Bristol Village has a soothing effect giving one an appreciation of nature and the outdoors along with a tranquil feeling of serenity as you see how loved ones have been honored or memorialized. Bristol Village is truly an amazing community.
* Note: A large map of the Bristol Village campus is posted on the Glenn Center wall by the Door 1 entrance.
**Note: While the stroll through Bristol Village is mostly outdoors with no restraints, COVID-19 restrictions may still be in effect limiting use of the Glenn Center and other buildings to residents only including restrooms.