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Discovering the Thames Valley Trail in the time of COVID

People walk and hike for many different reasons. For some, it is a great way to get exercise, and for others it’s a social occasion. With the COVID-19 pandemic, group “social” hikes have stopped. Group hiking will look very different in the future as we continue to observe physical distancing guidelines. 


This however hasn’t stopped people and some of their close family members from seeking out new local trails to explore. Among trails in the region that have remained open or will begin to reopen soon, the Thames Valley Trail (TVT) offers 110 kilometres, connecting the Elgin Trail and the Avon Trail from Delaware through London and on to St. Mary’s. 


Exploring new pathways


In times before the COVID pandemic, hiking was looked at as one of the antidotes to help lower stress levels, improve mood and enhance mental wellbeing. Now more than ever, hiking has become a daily focus for those seeking some relief, both physical and mentally - as long as it is done responsibly.


Jonathan Dagg is one hiker who recently completed the 110 km TVT. He has now earned the Thames Valley End to End Trail badge after providing his full trail record. An End to End Trail badge is available to non members for $5 and members of TVTA receive a badge for free. picture of Thames Valley Trail End to End badge


Having some time off due to COVID, Jonathan came across an online map of some trails in Ontario that he hadn’t heard of before. To his surprise, the Thames Valley Trail was one he hadn’t explored. After hiking it, he now feels that it is a “hidden gem” in the region. 


“There’s no time like the present to hike,” says Jonathan. He currently lives nearby in Elgin County and has resided between Aylmer and Tillsonburg since the early 90’s, raising a family that includes two young daughters.


He is an experienced outdoors person, with a background as a Scout leader. Confident in his ability to tackle the distance of the trail, Jonathan was drawn to the beauty of nature and the relief hiking can provide. He carefully planned out 30 km sections with easy pickup points. He walked fairly non-stop, taking regular lunch and snack breaks, he ended up averaging about 6 hours of moving time with 7 hours total a day.


Hiking in a time of COVID


Thames valley trail signWith concerns many have about outdoor activities, using trails and respecting social distancing, Jonathan never had any issues with those he crossed paths with. 


”With everyone I passed on the trail, people would keep their distance and continue moving.” 


His favourite part of the trail was from Harris Park to the north side of Fanshawe on Thorndale Road. He found the walk throughout the city was surprisingly nice following along the river. 


“I was surprised how beautiful it was throughout London, especially with the urban hiking aspect, sometimes you move faster to avoid urban spots, but you just didn’t feel like someone that was out for a walk, as you were still off the beaten path in the city.”


Jonathan had also not hiked through Fanshawe before and enjoyed it so much that he looks forward to planning a second hike in the future through that section with his brother. He also found the last section from Thorndale to St. Mary’s was particularly well marked, maintained and easy to follow.river along the Thames valley trail


Overall, it was a very positive experience on the Thames Valley Trail. He was impressed because when you think of a hiking trail in Southwestern Ontario, you often picture flat farm fields, but he was blown away by the different landscape and environments the TVTA trail offers. 


You can see more about Jonathan’s outdoor adventures by following him on Instagram at @canadian.outdoor.adventures.


If you go…


  • Remember to please observe physical distancing and guidelines provided by our local health authorities on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Check for trail information including a list of up to date re-routes, maps and more information. 
  • Know your personal ability and plan out sections you can tackle. 


Want to know more or have questions? Our members have a wealth of knowledge among our membership that many would be happy to share. You can always reach out to the Thames Valley Trail Association through our contact information


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Danielle Bruce
June 10, 2020
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Sue Clifford
April 4, 2020
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