Flinton is a small village just across the county line from Hastings, in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County. My mother used to use phrases like “the back of beyond” and “the end of the world” when she referred to it, and when Raymond and I went for an afternoon drive there one recent Saturday I could kind of see why. Queensborough (where the Manse is) may be a little off the beaten path and not really on the road to anywhere, but it’s still only 15 minutes in different directions from two busy little towns, Madoc and Tweed. Flinton, on the other hand, is a good long drive along a county road that seems to go on and on and on once you turn north off Highway 7 (the Trans Canada) a little east of Actinolite. (Both Actinolite and Flinton were founded by Billa Flint – hence Flinton’s name – who was an early entrepreneur in the area, eventually mayor of Belleville, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and a Canadian senator. And a temperance man. So there.) Its nearest “towns” are Northbrook and Kaladar; Northbrook has some commerce and a regional school, but Kaladar is not too much more than a crossroads.
My family used to visit Flinton fairly regularly back in the late 1960s because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was for a while the supervising minister of the Flinton-Cloyne Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. That is, the charge had its own minister, but he was not fully ordained; I guess he was a diaconal minister or some such. So an ordained minister was needed to perform certain services, such as baptisms and weddings, and that was Dad. I guess the reason why the whole kit and caboodle of the Sedgwick clan went along when Dad visited the Flinton-Cloyne charge was that the Flinton minister and his wife (whose names I’m afraid I cannot remember) had several children – five, if memory serves – who were not far removed from our ages. (I recall playing my very first game of Twister in the Flinton manse.)
So I was curious to see what Flinton looked like all these years later. It was bigger than I expected, with quite a few houses, a recreational centre (that’s what they call arenas these days) which that day was bustling because a community turkey supper was being served, and several actual streets. And there were two churches that seemed to still be operational, though the United Church was, sadly, not one of them. While it does seem remote, Flinton is quite an attractive little place.
But best of all was this: there was a commercial enterprise! Actually, there were two; one seemed to be some kind of bare-bones antiques-and-collectibles place, though as far as we could see the materials on offer were old tools, which don’t interest us too much. But the other was a little restaurant/café, with tables out front and some young people (local, I think) enjoying them. While we were a little pressed for time and so couldn’t pop in, I have to say that just seeing the “Open” sign at the little River Cottage Café made my heart leap. A village with a place where you can get a cup of coffee and some information about the local area just seems so much more alive than a village where you can’t. At the risk of sounding like a diehard consumer, there’s just something welcoming about a place that gives you the opportunity to spend money.
(My favourite examples of this, by the way, are all the tiny places in New England where there are just a cluster of homes but some great old general stores, selling all manner of stuff and freshly brewed Green Mountain Coffee and sandwiches to boot – and the stories and information you can pick up from the denizens are of course free of charge.)
So while Flinton may be remoter than Queensborough, I applaud the entrepreneurs behind its River Cottage Café for giving it some commercial life. And, without wanting to give away too many Queensborough secrets, I will say that I eagerly await the day when a similar kind of enterprise will be extending a warm welcome to visitors to our pretty little neck of the woods.