There is something quintessentially romantic about covered bridges. After all, would Robert Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County have been such a runaway success if it had been entitled The Grain Silos of Madison County or The Manure Spreaders of Madison County?
I don’t think so.
The quirky little town of Sussex, New Brunswick, has no scarcity of these unique bridges (nor grain silos and manure spreaders; it is farm country after all). There are eight of the roofed structures within a short drive of this town of 4,000.
The covered bridge was developed not to keep prodigious winter snows off the bridge deck, but rather to protect the underlying supports and timbers from weather induced deterioration. While a typical wooden bridge might last ten years, a covered bridge will last up to eight decades!
This may be the reason that practical New Brunswickers erected 66 of these bridges, with a total of 16 in Sussex’s home county of King’s. In addition to being practical, the people of Sussex evidently have an artistic bent with virtually every available blank wall in town decorated with an historic decorative mural, a total of 26 in all.
This makes for an interesting amble down Main Street, while browsing through some of its funky little shops. Try the General Store for antiques and collectibles, check out the great collection of antique books at Joyce and Jack Wedge’s, The Reading Cat or drop into Scraptacular and say hello to Jessica.
Be sure to stop by the old train station, which now houses a museum to the Eighth Hussars. It was originally called the Eighth Regiment of Yeomenry Cavalry, formed from the communities along the Kennebecasis River in the 1800s.
By World War II it had morphed into a tank unit which saw action in Italy. The leather-tough, yet kind-hearted farm boys who formed the Eighth Hussars encountered a wounded foal as they advanced up the Italian peninsula.
She was promptly adopted as the unit’s mascot and named for the Hussars’ patron, HRH Princess Louise. Lovingly nursed back to health, the filly was brought back to Canada, giving birth to a female foal dubbed Princess Louise II and a grand-daughter who became Princess Louise III.
As you commence your walk from Princess Louise Park you’ll see off to your left the whimsical Castle Bridge where it crosses Ward Creek, just before it flows into Trout Creek. Built in 1939, the bridge features towers, turrets and crenellations reminiscent of a medieval fortress.
Princess Louise Park was originally Camp Sussex, a military establishment housing the Eighth Hussars until closed after WW II and donated to the town. It is now the site where Canada’s longest continuous agricultural fair is held, celebrating its 115th anniversary this year.
Here also is the New Brunswick Agricultural Museum with its funky super-extended fire engine, once used to train high school students to fight fires! Be sure to check out the working miniature Sussex Little Giant Thresher and also the calf with one head and two bodies (no joke…it’s real). There are also a couple of full sized units on the premises of this turn-of-the-century product of the now defunct Wallace Machine Works, but the rare miniature model was used for sales purposes (not for very, very small farms).
Finally, if you are in this part of New Brunswick the weekend after Labor Day, don’t be surprised to see a flotilla of colorful hot air balloons sailing by for the Atlantic International Balloon Fiesta. Closer to earth you can also divert yourself at the amusement park, outdoor concerts and giant craft fair.
Tourism New Brunswick or call 1-800-561-0123
Flotilla of balloons at the Atlantic International Balloon Festival © Tourism New Brunswick
The Salmon covered bridge, built in 1908 © George Burden
One of 26 murals decorating the buildings of downtown Sussex © George Burden