Thursday, November 2, 2017

Exploring Webster's Wilderness

--> I was asked recently for some suggestions for nature walks near Marshfield Center, and was somewhat taken aback at how many there are, within a small radius. There’s the Bridle Path, accessible from the CVS on Ocean Street; and just across the South River, the Pratt Preserve. A mile from there is Pudding Hill Reservation, which overlooks the town center and Chandler Pond. Two miles in the other direction is Mass Audubon’s much-loved Daniel Webster Sanctuary. Around the corner from there is the Hoyt-Hall Preserve, which links directly to conservation land along the Old Colony Railroad. And that’s not all! The Town of Marshfield also manages the little-known conservation parcel, Webster’s Wilderness.

The 130-acre Webster’s Wilderness Conservation Area is part of the 1200 acres that US Senator and two-time Secretary of State Daniel Webster owned in the 1800s. It is not the easiest place to find. If you drive down the access road to the Marshfield Senior Center (230 Webster Street), all the way to the rear-most parking lot, you’ll find yourself on a rise overlooking the Wheeler Baseball Complex. The ballfields are encircled by a paved 1/3-mile walking trail. Looking across, to approximately 10 o’clock, is where you’ll find the unmarked trailhead for Webster’s Wilderness.

The trailhead is in the foreground, to the left.

From the trailhead, it’s just a short walk to a somewhat wider path. This is the Old Pilgrim Trail, a historic road that originally extended from Plymouth to Scituate. But only a small section of the Pilgrim Trail passes through Webster’s Wilderness. Turning left at this intersection, you will soon arrive at Cherry Hill, and continuing a bit farther, you’ll come out to Arborway and the Daniel Webster Estate. 

The Daniel Webster Estate.
 I headed first to Cherry Hill, a spot I’d heard about, but had never seen.  According to Marshfield: A Town of Villages 1640-1990, by Cynthia Krusell and Betty Bates, Cherry Hill is the spot where Daniel Webster gave his last public speech. He had returned from Washington to his home in Marshfield in the summer of 1852. 

A granite bench at the top of Cherry Hill.

His health failed shortly thereafter, and he passed away on October 24th. It’s a proud piece of local lore that Webster requested to be interred at the nearby Winslow Burying Ground, and therefore declined a state funeral and burial in the National Cemetery. Mourners traveled along the Old Pilgrim Trail (also known as Green Harbor Path) to attend the funeral service at his estate, or sailed upstream from the Atlantic to his wharf on the Green Harbor River. It’s fascinating to imagine how these old roads and waterways were the highways of yesteryear.

Daniel Webster’s home was inhabited by his extended family until it burned down in 1878. It was rebuilt on its original foundation, and in 1884, a man named Walton Hall purchased the property. Hall developed much of the surrounding land as cranberry bogs. Those bogs are long gone now, but you can find vestiges of them as you explore the trails of Webster’s Wilderness. Especially on the Cherry Hill side of the property, there are small ponds and a number of narrow streams, once part of the farm’s irrigation system. There are also culverts and dams, and occasional rusted remains of pipes and pumps. 

Vestiges of the cranberry farm?
 The property’s more recent history is evident as well. 1950 marked the founding of Camp Daniel Webster, a summer day camp for children, first operated by Vincent Cohee, and later (1966-86) by James and Phyllis Anderson. I attended Camp Daniel Webster briefly in the 1980s, but most of my memories of it had faded. However after climbing Cherry Hill, I came upon the pond on which we developed our rowboating skills, and soon after, the spot where we practiced our riflery. Oh, the nostalgia! Probably the most memorable landmark was the tree on which decades of young teens had carved their initials. 

Not the best photo, but the tree with all the initials carved into it is in the foreground.

The rowboating pond, with the dock to the left. That appears to be a hockey net half-submerged in the middle.
After exploring a few trails that led to dead ends or private property, I backtracked to the place where the entrance path intersects with the Old Pilgrim Trail. Heading in the other direction this time led me into the heart of Webster’s Wilderness. I had my map, but I wasn’t always sure which trails I was on . . . Basically there are two intersecting figure-8s, some more developed than others, plus the occasional spur trail. There are streams and small ponds too, as well as a vernal pool. Some of the trails are overgrown in places with briers, but – especially with the map you can download from the town website – it’s easy enough to find your way around.

The Old Pilgrim Trail, as it passes through Webster's Wilderness.
If you’d like to take a walk in the woods, and are in the mood for some adventure, Webster’s Wilderness might be worth your time. It’s a little gloomy in places, and feels more remote than many of our other, more trafficked conservation lands. But that’s part of the appeal. 

One of the narrower trails.
Plus if you’re interested in local history, you’d probably enjoy the rusty old farm equipment that can be seen now and then along the trails.

by Kezia Bacon, October 2017

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 20 years of nature columns, visit

Monday, September 25, 2017

This Year’s Fall Festivals

Autumn is here. The days are growing shorter, the nights are getting longer, and most mornings there is a chill in the air. It’s a long-held tradition in the fall to celebrate the harvest and acknowledge the change of seasons. Between now and Halloween there are a number of local fests and feasts, offering all sorts of activities for young and old. Think: hayrides, corn mazes, visits to the pumpkin patch, plus lots of locally grown food and freshly pressed apple cider. This sampling of nearby happenings is listed chronologically, by starting date. Read on, and mark your calendar!

Sauchuk Farm Corn Maze: Saturdays and Sundays 10-6, through October 29, plus special hours on Columbus Day and October 5, at 200 Center Street, Plympton. A giant corn maze, a small array of concessions, plus lots of child-friendly activities including a Corn Cannon, Duck Races, the Cow Train, Rat Rollers, Jumping Pillows, a Tug of War, all set in the middle of a corn field. Don’t miss the hayride to the Pick Your Own Pumpkin Patch. For details, visit

Nessralla’s Farm Corn Maze: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, 10-6, through October 29. Flashlight and Haunted Maze begin September 30. 139 Hemlock Lane, Halifax. Check out the hay bale pyramid, bouncy houses, hayrides, and concessions, plus the Pick Your Own Pumpkin Patch. On Columbus Day weekend, this event features the largest pumpkin drop in Massachusetts, and offers an opportunity to ride a mechanical bull. For details, visit
5th Annual Duxbury Oktoberfest: Friday, September 29th, 6:30-10:30pm at 459 Washington Street, Duxbury. Part of the Duxbury Food & Wine Festival, this event takes place under a tent and features German and local craft beers and wine, a traditional Bavarian feast, and live music, plus contests for Best Dirndl and Lederhosen, Hefty Stein Holding, and Yodeling. For details visit
Weir River Farm Fall FestivalSaturday, September 30th from 10-4 at Weir River Farm, Turkey Hill Lane, Hingham. Hosted by the Trustees of Reservations, this annual event celebrates the harvest on one of the last working farms in town. Visit farm animals, ride a pony, climb aboard a tractor, and paint your own pumpkin. Hear live music, make a scarecrow, learn how to press apple cider, and play old-fashioned games like the potato spoon relay. Plus you can pick your own pumpkin and popcorn. Be sure to visit the food court and the farm stand too. For details, visit

10th Annual Harvest Moon Feast: Monday, October 2 from 6-9 pm at Mill Wharf Restaurant, Scituate Harbor. Support the Environmental Education programs of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association while sampling dishes prepared by the South Shore’s finest restaurants and caterers. This benefit event includes live jazz by the Lance Van Lenten Trio, beer and wine tastings, auctions, and a cash bar. For details, visit

OkTRAILberfest: Saturday, October 7, 2-6pm at 675 Long Pond Road, Plymouth. Join the Wildlands Trust to celebrate the great outdoors. The event includes live music, beer from Independent Fermentations Brewing, a German buffet from Farms to Forks, hikes, trail runs, yard games, contests, property tours, and more! All proceeds support the Youth Unplugged Initiative, connecting tomorrow's leaders to the natural world.

Harvest Hoedown: Saturday, Sunday and Monday, October 7-9, 10am-4pm at C.N. Smith Farm, 325 South Street, East Bridgewater. Family fun including Pick Your Own apples and pumpkins, live music, hayrides, moonwalks, pony rides, plus lots of food from the Farm Kitchen. For details, visit

14th Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration – Saturday and Sunday, October 7 & 8 from 10-4 at 158 Tihonet Road, Wareham. Hosted by the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association and Ocean Spray, this fun family event features juried crafters, a marketplace with over 40 vendors, live music, cooking demonstrations, helicopter tours, and much more. There are abundant activities for children, including pony rides, paddleboats, and a train. You can even don waders and stroll right into a bog full of cranberries! The perfect opportunity to experience a working cranberry bog at harvest time. For details, visit

New England Harvest Feast – Sunday, October 8 at 5:30pm (also October 29, and several dates in November) at Plimoth Plantation, 137 Warren Ave. Plymouth. Sit down to a 17th century meal featuring the finest food that the season has to offer, such as “Mussels Seeth’d with Parsley and Beer,” and “A Sweet Pudding of Native Corn.” Your modern host will guide you through the meal, during which you will have opportunities to converse with historians as well as visitors from the past. Plus psalms and songs! Reservations required. For details, visit

Mass Audubon’s 37th Annual Farm Day – Saturday, October 21, 10-4 at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, Winslow Cemetery Road, Marshfield. Mass Audubon’s annual event for families features tractor-drawn hayrides, owl demonstrations, live music, artisans such as blacksmiths, weavers and wood-turners, a fine arts and crafts show, children’s games and crafts, face painting, a giant hay maze, home-baked treats and other delicious food including hot fresh cider doughnuts. For details, visit

by Kezia Bacon
September 2017

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 20 years of nature columns, visit