If you have driven north on the Pat Bay Highway towards the ferry at Sidney, you may have noticed Heritage Acres. What you see from the road is only a small part of the whole complex of 10.5 hectares where the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society (S.H.A.S.) has preserved the way of life of rural Saanich as it was in the early days of the last century.
Hidden behind the trees are a variety of buildings. There is a two-room 1913 schoolhouse, a pioneer chapel, and a replica log cabin. There is a working blacksmith’s shop and a working sawmill. There is a general store stocked with items a farmer’s wife would have needed in 1910; there is a haberdashery, a music room with a nickelodeon, and a newsroom with old fashioned printing presses. These buildings house an unbelievable 30,000+ amazing historical artifacts. There are collections of antique thimbles, medical equipment, and recording machines. The list of collections is long and eclectic.
Outside on the grounds and in the equipment sheds are farm tractors in various states of restoration. They include very early gas and steam tractors, some of which still work and are shown at different events throughout the year. Various other pieces of farm machinery and water pumps can also be seen around the grounds. There is just such an amazing variety of things to see at Heritage Acres that a photographer can shoot all day long. It would be impossible to see or photograph it all in a day or even a week.
One of the best times to visit is during the fall Harvest Festival in September when they bring out the old threshing machine and the stationary steam engine that powers it. It is exciting to see all those pulleys, belts, wheels, chains, and levers spinning and whirling. As the steam engine puffs away and the grain is fed into the thrasher by hand, a slow shutter might capture some good action.
Does photographing antique cars appeal to you? Heritage Acres holds several car shows throughout the year. Some years military buffs set up a replica WW II army camp with vintage motorcycles and Jeeps. Check the website occasionally to see what’s coming up [heritageacresbc.com].
If you are a kid under 75 years old, you can take a ride on the scale model trains that run through the park on their own little railway line operated by the Vancouver Island Model Engineers (website at vime.ca). These trains would be fun to photograph.
You might like to wander off the main trails behind the buildings and explore the bushes and trees for artifacts put there by the S.H.A.S. and apparently forgotten about. Who knows what you might find back there. The pond is a great place to find Pacific tree (chorus) frogs in the brushes. They are like tiny green jewels.
The entrance to Heritage Acres is at the end of the road across from Mitchell’s Farm Market on Island View Road. There is no entrance fee, but a donation is expected—$5-$10 per person would be appropriate. Check out their website—heritageacresbc.com—to get more ideas of what Heritage Acres offers photographers.