The Coves area is a subwatershed of the greater Thames River Watershed. It aligns primarily in a north-south direction with the Cove ponds at the downstream end and Arthur Ford Park and Highland Woods at the headwaters. Such features as Euston Park, other smaller community parks and various ravines are found within the subwatershed. Residential communities include Manor & Highland Park, Southcrest, Southcrest Estates, Kensal Park, Norton Estates, and Springbank.
The Cove ponds are located within a 5 minute drive or 10 minute cycle southwest from the centre of the City of London.
The most predominant feature of the sub-watershed, The Coves Ponds, were formed by an abandoned oxbow of the Thames River. Sedimentation from adjacent ravines and infilling by adjacent landowners have now created 3 distinct ponds; the East, West, and South Ponds. The ponds area is connected to the remainder of the upstream sub-watershed by a steep sided, ravine system to the south.
The ravines that provide the connection to the upstream headwaters are well vegetated slopes that provide animal migration routes, natural drainage channels, and urban open space. They are too deep and steep to have permitted infilling and channelization related to urban development in the past.
The Cove Ponds and associated ravines provide a micro-climate that modifies high temperatures and provides aeration to the water flowing down through the meandering channel to the Ponds below.
The natural history/life science inventory of the Coves has been documented by Woodfern Research, Kitchener on contract for the McIlwraith Field Naturalists (Preliminary Life Science Inventory of the Coves, London, ON, Dec. 1989).
Environmentally Significant Area (ESA)
The Coves was once a meander of the Thames River and is now a series of oxbow ponds. Oxbows are places of high species diversity. The City of London designated The Coves and the ravine that drains into them as an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA). This designation was in recognition of the distinctive landforms, the presence of forest area sensitive species, the hydrologic characteristics, the diversity of species and the linkage function the area provides to the Thames River corridor.
The ESA designation recognizes that forest-area sensitive species such as the great crested flycatcher and the white-breasted nuthatch rely upon habitat such as this. The Coves ESA contains two provincially rare forest types: a black walnut forest and a hackberry forest. The Savannah Sparrow and the Brown Thrasher are level-one conservation priorities in Middlesex County and they use this area for breeding.
The Coves ESA is almost entirely privately owned, so the best way that we can ensure its protection and enhancement is by working with private landowners and residents to promote and implement ecologically friendly stewardship practices.
The Cove ponds were described by the early explorers to this area in 1796. They are documented in the journals of Major Littlehale, who accompanied John Graves Simcoe. They were visited prior to the discovery of the Forks of the Thames River where the north and south branches meet and the City of London was first settled.
Archeological investigations have not been completed for the Ponds region, however, they are considered high potential due to their proximity to the Thames and the elevation vantage point that is provided by the banks.
The German Canadian Club is one of the current landowners in the Cove area and provides a community focus for that ethnic population.
Euston Park is a former landfill site that was filled, creating a hill which serves as a viewpoint over the surrounding residential areas.
It is held that David Suzuki first experienced his love of natural history, while exploring in the Coves ponds.
A considerable set of pedestrian trails exist in the surrounding area; some are officially recognized and signed City Multi-use Trails, while others are unofficial pathways that have a history of community use, especially near schools and high density residential areas. London Official Plan (Schedule B) shows the area as a Special Policy Area, related to floodplain management. The ravines, however, are not identified as a Natural Area or as a Significant Ravine and Slope Area.
London Official Plan (Schedule A) shows the majority of the Coves as Open Space and partially describes the pond features.
Current zoning by-law identifies the Cove ponds as Open Space and the area within the oxbow including the trailer park, orchard, and paint manufacturer as Residential Use. The ravine and the wooded connection to Euston Park are also shown as Open Space.
A proposed residential development plan was circulated for approval in January 1996. It included the area in the centre of the oxbow ponds. The development plan did not receive approval from the City.
Various incompatible uses (ex. the dumping of construction materials and yard waste) occur within the area. This list thankfully no longer includes Lilly Industries, a paint factory which was located in the centre of the oxbow. The property now lies abandoned; the buildings were recently torn down.
Historic use of Euston Park was as a landfill site. Prior to the landfill establishment the area included a gravel pit and wetland. The park is now a major local topographic feature – a towering hill with a trail over the top. The City maintains mowed paths throughout Euston Park and there are entrances off of Centre St., Euston Rd, Winston Ave. and Phyllis St.
The headwater area of the subwatershed has been transformed into an arboretum – the Arthur Ford Nature Park - adjacent to Arthur Ford School. It is managed by the non-profit Arthur Ford Foundation, created for this purpose, and celebrates its 20th anniversary in October 2008. Community schools such as Arthur Ford and Manor & Highland Park have historically used portions of this area as outdoor classrooms for nature studies and related activities. At least 9 other schools are located within 1 km of the Cove ponds.
An Annual Coves Clean-up Day is held where volunteers gather to pick up garbage and take part in other stewardship activities. This annual tradition was initiated by volunteers from Manor & Highland Park Public School on Tecumseh Avenue. April 2007 marked the 16th annual Coves Clean-Up.