Thursday, October 9, 2014

Returning to Corn Hill Woodland

A new boardwalk at Corn Hill Woodland.

Thanks to Hurricane Irene (2011) and the brutal snowstorms of Winter 2013, many of our local conservation properties sustained serious damage. There was a lot of clean up work to do, and it took time. These Open Space Lands are often intentionally remote, so imagine what it takes to clear scores of fallen trees or repair boardwalks in areas where there is no vehicular access.

Corn Hill Woodland, a 123-acre parcel located in North Marshfield, is one property that was hit hard. In fact, after the winter storms, one of its boardwalks was actually standing on end! Prior to the storms, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association had identified Corn Hill as a property in need of rehabilitation, and in 2012 they were given permission to begin work replacing boardwalks and clearing trails. Unfortunately, some of the work had to be redone after the storms. The project was completed earlier this year, thanks in part to Summit Landscape and Mass Audubon, as well as a team of Americorps volunteers and the town of Marshfield.

I hadn’t been to Corn Hill Woodland for years, but I headed back there this August, and I was pleased to see well-marked trails, and new sections of boardwalk.

Corn Hill Woodland is a great place for a long, peaceful walk. There are number of trails, mostly through the forest. There are three loop trails, plus a spur that heads down to the salt marsh, and three additional spurs that lead to roadside trail heads. Some of the paths are quite narrow – especially if you go in the summer, when the ferns are leafed out in their entirety . . . There are places where the ferns are so lush that you can’t see the ground at all! The blazes posted just above eye level on some of the trails are extremely helpful.

Unlike some of its more popular neighbors – such as the Norris Reservation across the river -- Corn Hill is quiet. The parking area is small, and the signage is even smaller – just a wooden post at the roadside. Not many people know about it – or if they, do it’s not their first choice as a walking destination.

My favorite section of Corn Hill Woodland is quite a ways in – the loop closest to the North River. Down there you will find several small boardwalks traversing wetlands. In the warmer months, the combined effects of the salt marsh, the ferns, and the leaves on the trees make Corn Hill feel like a sea of green. The view of the river and the marshes is also quite lovely.

In autumn, the beeches near the front section of the property are a feature worth observing. They hold onto their leaves much longer than most of our other deciduous trees, so by making a trip to Corn Hill in November, you might catch a late glimpse of fall.

There are three access points for Corn Hill Woodland. Two are on Corn Hill Lane, and the other is on Union Street. If you consult the Conservation Properties Map (2002) on the Town of Marshfield’s website, you will find a basic layout of Corn Hill’s trail network, as well as the location of the parcel itself. It’s always a good idea to bring a map along, just in case. By the time you read this, there may even be a map posted there, in the on-site kiosk that the Wildlands Trust recently provided. 

by Kezia Bacon
September 2014

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit

Friday, September 19, 2014

Walking with Friends

The trails at Norwell's Norris Reservation are wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

While attending a memorial service for a friend in August, it occurred to me how walking together – and the conversation that usually takes place while we’re on foot and side by side – tends to enhance relationships. It might be two friends, or it might be romantic partners, or it might be some other configuration, via family or work. But especially when these walks become a regular happening, when they provide a weekly (or monthly or quarterly . . . ) time to check in with one another, the two people involved not only grow closer to each other, but also gain valuable insight into their own selves.

One of the eulogists for my friend related a story along those lines. She and our mutual friend had gotten to know each other when their children were infants -- new mothers pushing their strollers together around town. In later years, they would meet for walks in the woods, or on the beach, and their “walkies” (spoken in a British accent) became a steady and reliable way to keep in touch, and help one another remain grounded as they navigated the various channels through which their lives led them. I was touched by the story, and – since I too have been fortunate to develop a number of friendships by walking together -- it got me wondering if this is universal theme.

I suspect that it has something to do with one’s mind being dually occupied. Walking requires a certain amount of energy. The conversation often fuels the steps, but at the same time, the steps fuel the conversation. It’s different from sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee together. Perhaps it’s because we’re not looking at each other – instead we’re watching where we are going. There is a sense of freedom – to let the mind wander, to try out new ideas, perhaps saying them aloud for the first time. Some of my most memorable -- and revelatory -- conversations have taken place on foot.

Autumn is probably my favorite time for walking. It’s neither too hot nor too cold. It’s neither muddy nor buggy. And the fields and forests tend to be really pretty – at least around here, as the leaves and grasses turn color and begin to fall.

The list that follows includes some of my favorite places to walk with a friend. These spots feature trails that are – at least some of the time – wide enough for two (conversation can become awkward when there is a leader and a follower). And they are large enough that one can take a decent, hour-long walk without retracing one’s steps. All feature beautiful landscapes as well. Pavement – while often convenient -- has a distinctly different feel from sand or grass or the forest floor.

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary - Winslow Cemetery Road, Marshfield. Fields, forests, boardwalks through a red maple swamp, plus the Green Harbor River. Managed by Mass Audubon.

Norris Reservation - Dover Street, Norwell. Numerous views of the North River and Second Herring Brook, with both cart paths and woodland trails. Managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

Nelson Memorial Forest/Phillips Farm Preserve - Union Street, Marshfield. Wide logging trails and narrower paths through forest with views of the salt marsh and the North River. Managed by New England Forestry Foundation and Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.

North Hill Marsh, Duxbury – Mayflower Street, Duxbury. Woodlands, wetlands and varying types of trails around bogs and a large, bird-friendly pond. Managed by Mass Audubon.

Willow Brook Farm Preserve – 99 Barker Street, Pembroke. A former farm, now mostly wooded, with boardwalks and also a meadow trail. Managed by and Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.

Luddams Ford/Indian Head River trails - Elm Street, Hanover. Follow the trail along a former railroad bed up one side of the Indian Head River. Take short detours toward the water for spectacular views. Managed by the Town of Hanover.

Whitney and Thayer Woods – Howes Lane, Cohasset. A huge network of cart paths and wooded trails, featuring glacial erratics (huge boulders) and some truly impressive rhododendrons. Managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

World’s End – Martin’s Lane, Hingham. This place has almost everything. Views of the ocean, the marsh, and Boston. Trails through the woods and across fields and along the shore. Wide trails, narrow trails, cart paths. Managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

Humarock/Rexhame Beach – Scituate and Marshfield. Many local beaches, due to geography, tidal restraints, or property lines, don’t permit much of a walk. But whether you enter from Humarock, near Fourth Cliff, or Marshfield, via Rexhame Beach, you will be able to cover a lot of ground.

Green Harbor/Duxbury Beach – Marshfield and Duxbury. High tide will impede your progress from Green Harbor, and without a sticker you will have to park at the inland side of the Powder Point Bridge, but if you time it right, you can walk for miles on what is probably the area’s most beautiful beach.

by Kezia Bacon
August 2014 
Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit