Friday, October 1, 2010
The crisp cool days of late summer and early fall usher in the perfect time to get re-acquainted with Carlisle’s many hiking trails, and what better way to experience fall harvest time than a walk around Foss Farm. The Foss Farm conservation parcel is doubtless the most intensively used conservation land in town. Boasting woodlands, fields, equestrian facilities, bountiful community gardens and large agricultural fields, Foss is a textbook example of mixed use conservation land. Whether you want to watch a pony club meet, hike through the woodland trails, go horseback riding, join in on a bird watching walk or stroll past the patchwork of community vegetable gardens, Foss Farm has it all.
The 57-acre Foss Farm conservation land is located on Bedford Road where it abuts the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the Concord River. The parcel includes 13 acres of wooded upland, a wetlands area near a stream and near the eastern edge of the parcel, and the remaining approximately 44 acres is open fields. Of the field areas, about two acres are dedicated to community gardens while approximately 20 acres are licensed to a local farmer for larger-scale agricultural use. The remaining open-field acreage is maintained as grassy meadows. Of the two agricultural fields, one is near the community gardens and the other, to the south, is accessed by a separate entrance off Bedford Road. The field areas are often wet and sometimes are under standing water in the winter and spring months.
The Foss Farm property was a commercially successful asparagus farm for many years before it was purchased by the town in 1971. William Foss, who owned the property when it was sold to the town, had generously shared his property with townspeople for many years, hosting a variety of activities including horse shows, dog shows, sled dog training, 4-H functions, snowmobile riding, Colonial Minuteman musters and even town fairs.
When the town voted to purchase Foss Farm, a major argument in support of the purchase was to preserve the agricultural heritage of the town. Since 1974 local gardeners have been able to rent garden plots at Foss Farm. The flat landscape and sunny, open fields provide an excellent micro-climate for gardening. Currently about 100 garden plots are rented out for seasonal use. Some of the locally grown produce is sold at the Carlisle Farmers Market.
The combination of woodlands, open fields and the nearby Concord River creates an attractive environment for a variety of animal species. Bluebird boxes have attracted nesting pairs and indigo buntings, woodcocks, bobolinks, kestrels, killdeer and a variety of owls and hawks have been identified on the property. Deer, coyote, fox, turkey and an occasional bear or moose have also been sighted.
Turtles, including snapping turtles and painted turtles, are common in the spring. Based on sightings of wood turtles and blue-spotted salamanders, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has designated sections of eastern Carlisle, including parts of Foss Farm, as supporting natural landscapes – areas important to maintain long-term biodiversity.
The open fields and sandy soil areas are also habitat for solitary wasps. Colonies of these wasps at Foss Farm are being studied by scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Trails and features
The trails on Foss Farm wind through the woods and around the perimeter of the two major fields. From the parking lot on Bedford Road, the left-most entrance passes next to a lockable gate which is used to provide vehicle access for gardeners, some pony club activities and dog-sledders. The path to the left after the gate enters the woods and travels along a stone wall through mixed forest of maple, oak and pine. After a short walk, a path to the right loops around an equestrian ring. Several horse jumps are placed in this area. By following the path to the left, hikers can follow the trail toward the rear property boundary which then joins a dirt road. From here a loop around the community gardens allows hikers to view the last of this season’s bounty. Fragrant wild grapes hang from the trees behind the gardens and the open meadow blooms with Queen Ann’s Lace, achillea and other fall wildflowers. A trail in the northeast corner of the parcel connects to Great Meadows and the Concord River.
As the agricultural fields are harvested, it becomes easier to walk the larger outside loop. Heading back toward the parking lot, the trail passes a pony ring and ends at the information kiosk where some beautiful rugosa roses are in bloom. The field trails are quite flat and can easily be covered in about an hour.
In addition to hiking and gardening, the Foss Farm land is used for a variety of activities – many of them long-time “legacy events” such as dog training, dog sledding, horse riding, pony events, star gazing and Boy Scout activities. Foss Farm is also well known for the annual spring woodcock walk and for several other bird walks during the year. The North Bridge Pony Club sponsors events and maintains the pony rings. Although dogs and horses are welcome at Foss Farm, they are not allowed in Great Meadows.
Access and parking
The trails at Foss Farm can be accessed from the well-marked parking area on Bedford Road west of the Concord River. ∆
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