Friday, July 30, 2010
Summer hiking at Greenough Pond
A view of Greenough Pond from the site of the old grist mill on Page’s Brook.
On the eastern side of Carlisle, abutting Billerica and the Concord River, sits the 242-acre Greenough Land, the largest conservation parcel owned by the town. Although this property features varied terrain including forests, riverbanks, agricultural fields and a pine plantation, the centerpiece of the parcel is undoubtedly Greenough Pond. Summer is a wonderful time to take a walk around the pond to observe wildlife or just to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
The Greenough parcel features a remarkable variety of terrain and of land uses. The upland area nearest the intersection of Maple and East Streets is largely mature mixed forest. Several vernal pools and rock outcroppings are found in this area. The central part of the parcel includes extensive wetlands – a large open marsh and Pages Brook, which flows southeasterly into Greenough Pond and then to the Concord River. Further to the south are a pine plantation, agricultural fields and the banks of the Concord River, and Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
According to the Baseline Assessment prepared by the Carlisle Land Stewardship Committee, in 1757 Solomon and Elizabeth Andrews became the first Europeans to settle on the Greenough land. The Andrews operated a grist mill on Page’s Brook and cleared land for farming around what is now 528 Maple Street. This flat meadow land was also used as a training ground for the Revolutionary soldiers.
In 1928 Henry Greenough built the house and barn and maintained the property as a working farm. He later created the pond and built the dam to provide habitat for waterfowl. In 1973 the town purchased 242 acres of the Greenough estate to be used for conservation and recreation. The Carlisle Conservation Foundation purchased eight acres of abutting land in Billerica providing trail access to the Billerica side of Greenough Pond.
Trails and Features
The trails to and around Greenough Pond can be reached from the north parking lot on Maple Street. When entering the woods, stay to the left of the information kiosk on the Wood Duck Trail. This clearly marked trail heads south, through a forest, toward Greenough Pond. The tall pines create a cool environment, even during the mid-afternoon of a hot July day, and the thick layer of pine needles muffles the sounds so that in just a few steps, the hiker is in a peaceful, quiet environment. Blueberry bushes, ferns, young pines and Mountain Laurel flank the trail and the first of the Indian Pipes were poking up through the ground in early July. Old stone walls and several interesting rock formations can be seen on this portion of the trail.
As the Wood Duck Trail approaches the wetland area, it turns to the east. Two very short spurs on the right will bring the hiker to Pages Brook. The first of these spurs ends at the site of an old grist mill. Remains of the foundation are still evident and from this point the hiker sees Pages Brook and its associated wetlands to the west, and Greenough Pond and the Greenough Barn to the east.
Returning to the Wood Duck Trail, the trail passes along the north side of the pond. Water lilies were in bloom in early July and the banks were home to several turtles and a myriad of vocal frogs. The trail continues into Billerica where a footbridge is used to reach the south side of the pond. Greenough Pond is home to a significant amount of waterfowl and this trail provides a good opportunity to observe Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Great Blue Herons and other wildlife. Wood Duck boxes, installed and maintained by the state, can be seen from many points along the pond’s edge.
A vertical stone post marks the return to Carlisle and from here the trail passes in front of the Greenough Barn. This is the last of the old farm buildings. It features particularly beautiful architecture – from the arched porch to the slate roof. To prevent damage, the barn is locked and the windows are now boarded, but the elegance of the old barn and the view across the pond are a reminder of the time when the property was maintained as an active farm.
Past the barn, the trail passes over a dam that controls water release from Greenough Pond to the Concord River. Just past the dam, the trail splits, with the trail to the Concord River breaking off to the left. The road to the right is private property. Continuing straight ahead, the Red Tail Trail passes between a hayfield drainage ditch and a Red Maple swamp. The trail skirts the agricultural land, which has been planted with corn this year, and connects to the Pine Loop Trail. This trail passes through an area of White and Red Pines and exits onto Maple Street. A short walk north on Maple Street brings the hiker over the Pages Brook wetlands. A connecting trail, on the right just past the bridge, returns the hiker to the Wood Duck Trail and from there back to the parking lot. This hike around Greenough Pond takes about 1 ½ hours.
There are several private residences near the Greenough Land. Hikers are asked to remain on the trails and not to enter the private areas. Hikers should be aware of Poison Ivy near the parking lot on Maple Street and near the head of the trail.
The Greenough Land is used primarily for conservation and passive recreation. (Approximately four acres of land are leased to local farmers for agricultural use.) Trails which connect to Great Meadows and past that to the Foss Farm conservation area, are used for hiking, running, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. Canoeing, fishing, ice fishing and skating are allowed at Greenough Pond. The Trails Committee frequently sponsors walks on the property.
Access and Parking
Parking for the Greenough Land is available at two lots, both on Maple Street. The south parking lot is just south of the intersection with Brook Street. The north parking lot is just northeast of the intersection with East Street. A kiosk in the north parking lot displays a trail map. In addition, direct access to Greenough Land trails is available at five trailheads on Maple Street, one on Brook Street and one from the intersection of Brook and Maple Streets. Two trails allow access to the southern part of the Greenough Land from the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. ∆
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito