The Haunted Wood trail from Green Gables Heritage Place (Read previous post about Green Gables here) connects the two L. M. Montgomery Heritage Sites, ending at the Site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home. For those unfamiliar with the book, Anne so names the trail out her window after an unfortunate instance of her imagination getting the better of her.
The trail is an easy ten minute walk. It begins in the woods, continues along a golf course (which definitely breaks the historical illusion of the place), and ends with a spectacular view over rolling farm fields at the site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home, the old homestead site of Montgomery’s grandparents.
At age 21 months, Maud’s mother passed away and her father, not feeling able to raise a daughter alone, delivered the infant to her grandparents. The couple was elderly and maintained strict Victorian values such as, “Children should be seen, and not heard.” This meant that Maud, as an only child, spent an awful lot of time alone. Left to her own pursuits, she developed an active imagination as she strove to entertain herself. According to Maud’s diaries, this situation often left her feeling akin to an orphan. She very much identified with her character of Anne, an orphan with an over active imagination who finds herself taken in by an elderly matron who attempts to maintain and instill Victorian attitudes in Anne, despite Anne’s obvious inability to conform. Maud also spent much of her time playing outdoors, thereby developing a deep connection to the land in place of the family bond that did not exist.
“The window of my dear old room opens on a world of wonder and beauty. Winds drift by with clover scent in their breath, the rustle of leaves comes up from the poplars, and birds flit low in joyous vagrance.” L.M.M.
Maud’s uncle’s grandson and his wife still own the land and live in a house across the field. Although the old house is long gone, to honor their connection to Auntie Maud and share it with her fans, they have had the old house site dug out and put signs with quotes from her journals among the trees. It’s now a quiet little grove where you can stand right under where her window used to be, where she might have sat while writing. If the other tourists quiet enough, and you use just a little imagination, you can almost feel her girlish spirit there among the apple trees she loved so much.
Nearby now stands a little bookshop where you can pay (on the honor system) for viewing this site. While Green Gables is maintained by the National Park, this is privately owned by the family, so why not help them out a little? The shop sells all of Maud’s published books, which is actually much more extensive than her Anne series. I’m ashamed to admit I did not realize she wrote other books. While at the bookstore we were lucky enough to listen to a short presentation given by the elderly Jennie Macneill, the wife of Maud’s uncle’s grandson, as she happened to drop by the family business to check in. She had actually attended Maud’s funeral!
We learned that Maud’s grandparents encouraged her schooling. After finishing the local school she left home for college and then became a teacher, similar to her character Anne. Unfortunately, after only a few years, Maud’s grandfather passed away and Maud decided to return home to live with and help her grandmother run the post office. She also played the organ at her church. It was here that she met her future husband, a reverend. Although he came to the post office to propose to Maud, she insisted that she was indebted to and could not leave her grandmother so long as she lived. This led to a 5 year secret engagement between Maud and Reverend Ewan Macdonald until her grandmother finally passed.
Outside the bookshop we found the trail Maud used as a shortcut to the old church & post office, so naturally we took it. On the other side of the trees we came out behind the two buildings. The church is still used today, but was not open at the time. The other, the post office, is open seasonally and will stamp your postcards with a Green Gables stamp. It also contains a small museum relating information about the author and mail service during her years working there. Interestingly, when mail could not come by train during the winter it would arrive by sled! Also on display is the hat box Maud stuffed her manuscript of Anne of Green Gables in after the first five rejections. She put it away and one winter when cleaning out the closet happened upon it, reread it, and decided to try just one more publisher. Lucky for us, she tried just one more time, and that publisher was smart enough to publish the manuscript!
By the time we returned to Green Gables via the same path through the Haunted Wood, we were ready for lunch. We drive the two minutes to Avonlea Village.
Have you ever let your imagination get the better of you? Have you visited the Montgomery Heritage Sites? Do you want to? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Other Anne of Green Gables & L. M. Montgomery heritage sites to visit:
Green Gables Heritage Place (Read blog post here)
Avonlea Village (Read blog post here)
L. M. Montgomery’s birth house & Anne of Green Gables Museum
Parsonage & Charlottetown