Around Ottawa: The J. Henry Tweed Conservation Area

These days it is widely known that children thrive in nature-based settings that offer the opportunity for self-directed play and exploration. Attributes like attention span and imagination strengthen and grow when children are routinely engaged outdoors. Being in green spaces away from noise, distraction and disruption is not just good for children, but for us moms and dads too. Our family can attest to that!

You see, in our house the walls literally vibrate with the energy of two tiny humans. Multiply this energy by one hundred on the days this toddler/preschooler pair haven’t gotten their daily dose of mother nature. One of the values that guides our family is spending time in nature, and we get ourselves outside almost every day. No matter the weather. No matter the mood. 

Near our home is a peaceful sanctuary call the J. Henry Tweed Conservation Area.  This 16 acres of green space is located in the village of Russell. During our most recent adventure to this area we walked under an umbrella of fall colors and dug our feet into the blanket of foliage that covered the ground. The pockets and buckets of my two explorers quickly filled with leaves and sticks, interesting rocks and pine cones. Rain showers the night before left perfect puddles for splashing and small waterways in which to sail tiny twigs. Fallen trees became tightropes, and their their little boots teetered along. Large rocks became the perfect picnic spot to stop for a snack and watch the squirrels and birds at work. The foot bridges are a favorite spot and make an idyllic backdrop for candid photos. 

The trails in the conservation area are wide and a sturdy stroller would have no problem making its way. Its pathways are mainly flat but there are a few hills. This area is accessible year round and is beautifully maintained. It is an ideal spot for children to explore and discover an abundance of forest treasures. I must add that another wonderful feature of this area is it links to a paved walking/biking path. This path is approximately 7.2 km in length and connects the communities of Russell and Embrun. This is a well-used and well-loved path. There are many benches along the path, as well as a few public playgrounds to access.

With the energy burn completed after almost two hours of trekking around we walked for home, rubber boots squishing and minds clear. Together we discussed what to do with the treasures we scooped up from the forest floor. Many will end up on our seasons shelve, a small display of nature based items that changes with the seasons - this helps my children learn the rhythm of nature that surrounds them. The remainder will become “wilderness art’ and be taped and glued to colorful construction paper and placed on display until our next adventure into the J. Henry Tweed Conservation Area.

Like so many of the green spaces in and around Ottawa, this is a place that cultivates centeredness and calmness, and connects children to a sense of wonder and discovery. 

Julianne is the mother of a toddler and a preschooler, a Masters educated Social Worker, and a Certified Positive Parent Educator. Read more about her work at