Sidney’s paradise

Lucy Weston and her family (Photo courtesy of Lucy Weston)

Lucy Weston and her family (Photo courtesy of Lucy Weston)

By Lucy Weston, freelance writer and photographer. Lucy and her husband, Scott, are the former owners of NCC’s Dundurn property in Saskatchewan.

To tell our story, you have to go back to November 1999 when I met Scott Lawrence, my future life partner, on an idyllic beach on the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico.

Scott and I shared many conversations; a particularly memorable one was about our hopes and dreams for the future. I explained to him that I was a photographer and that I was about to do my bachelor’s degree in photography. His response was that he wanted to buy some land in a place called Saskatchewan, build an eco-house and live self-sufficiently.

I emigrated to Canada from the U.K. in 2005, excited to get started on our plan to buy land and live self-sufficiently in Saskatchewan. When Scott found the tiny advertisement in The Western Producer, we were immediately excited about this piece of land for sale near Dundurn on the edge of the Moose Woods. We arranged to see it that same day and met with Sid Pryor, the landowner, for a personal tour of the property.

Sid was an elderly gentleman and explained that the land had been passed down to him by his father after the war. He let the Hutterites graze their cattle out there, but the soil had never been turned.

At 160 acres (65 hectares), featuring undulating, mixed terrain and ancient grassy sand dunes, it was exactly what we had been looking for — every bit the hidden gem we had hoped it would be.

At the time we were so captivated by this rich and diverse ecosystem, it was hard to imagine the tough times that lay ahead. But as we proceeded to make our plans to build our eco-house on the land, it soon became apparent that our endeavours would not be quite as straightforward as we had planned.

The local rural municipality stipulated that the road approaching the property had to be widened to 18 metres and resurfaced to suit all weather. We found ourselves stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire with all further plans ground to a halt.

I started asking myself what our priorities were. Firstly, we needed to get the land protected. This land must not be altered, exploited, damaged or harmed in any way. Secondly, we needed people to see this magical place. With a little research, I found the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

In August 2017, NCC purchased the land with a mutual agreement to conserve it. Since then, groups of botanists, biologists and ornithologists have been out identifying and cataloguing various plant and animal species. The land has become something of great significance, not just for ourselves, but to many people with a passion for nature.

We will continue to be inspired by this wild paradise, and we feel profoundly gratified by sharing and conserving it for everyone to enjoy.

This story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of the Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine. Donors who contribute at least $25 or more per year will receive four issues of the magazine. Click here to donate today and start receiving the magazine.

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Atlantic puffins (Photo by Bill Caulfield-Browne)