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Florida Guide > Travelling

DRIVING ALONG THE LOOP, ORMOND PART 2

Back on the highway, the oak trees spread their boughs across the road, making a leafy canopy where the dappled sun spreads shafts of light onto the ground. It is a beautiful cool, shady tunnel to drive through. You can stop and take a peep at the ruins of Col. Thomas Dummett’s sugar mill if you have the time.

In the early 1800’s, sugar plantations were common throughout this area. However, most were destroyed during the Seminole War of 1835-1836, although the remains of Colonel Thomas H. Dummett’s Sugar and Rum Processing Factory, which dates back to 1825, can still be seen. An officer in the British Marines, Dummett purchased two plantations in East Florida, amounting to 3, 000 acres. He had to send to the West Indies for a specialist to help him establish the sugar cane, which soon flourished. He is said to have had the first steam operated mill in the area, but the destruction of his sugar mills by the Seminole Indians led to him and his family to flee to St Augustine. The sugar plantations never recovered from the destruction caused by the war, and fell into rack and ruin.

Of course, we must not forget that this was the area where the Scottish businessman, Richard Oswald, made his fortune, partly through the slave trade. Rice, indigo, sugar and rum were some of the commodities that were produced in this area, and the harsh reality is that there were no steam engines or machines to do the work, and so slaves would have been the only form of labour. Torn from their families in Sierra Leone and packed into the holds of slave ships, these slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to remote plantations in Florida, where they suffered severe punishments if they did not work hard.

Tomoka State Park is well worth a stop, and there is also a small museum. It’s a great place to paddle or watch the birds, and many people take a break to camp or fish. A 40ft statue, ‘The Legend of Tomokie’ was created by Fred Dana Marsh, an Ormond Beach artist and architect who died in 1961. It is a supposedly based on the story of this Chief who defied tradition and drank from a sacred spring. His arrogance was paid for by his life and those of his band. Whilst some say this is just a story created by Marsh, there is evidence that this legend dates back over a century. Native Americans once lived here, where the lagoons were full of fish. There is a variety of wildlife habitats and protected species here, such as the manatee, which may be seen in the spring and summer.

For those who love bird watching there are over 160 species of birds to admire, and the spring and autumn migrations are the best time to visit. If you are lucky you may spot colourful wood warblers, peregrine falcons, a bald eagle or wading birds such as herons, egrets or white ibis as they search for food in the marshes.

A nature trail through a hardwood hammock takes you through what was once an indigo field in the 18th century. There is a museum and visitor center which houses historical exhibits, as well as works by the artist, Fred Dana Marsh. The park is also home to a variety of trees, wildflowers and shrubs, and many of the beautiful oaks have branches covered with Spanish moss and greenfly orchid. You may even see wild coffee and tropical sage.

The drive along the ‘Loop’ is well worth the journey. The tranquil beauty of this area includes canopies of oak trees, forming a tunnel through the forest, historic sites which tell the story of slavery, war and sugar plantations, with plenty of wildlife and unrivalled natural beauty. The local people have fought a long battle to preserve the natural beauty of the ‘Loop’ from developers who planned to build 1500 houses and a golf course. Let’s hope they never succeed in spoiling this haven of peace and quiet.

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Page added on: 2 January 2009
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