Take a Hike!

There is still a chill in the air, and maybe some stubborn patches of snow here and there, but we know spring will be here soon and, darn it, we are beyond ready!

Every year we rediscover the beauty of nature as spring unfolds, and every year it almost feels like the very first spring of our lives– was the grass always that green before? Did lilacs always smell this intoxicating?

We have all reached the point where our souls have begun to crave the ever-increasingly milder fresh outdoor air in our lungs, the warm sun on our exposed skin and faces, and the feeling we get when spring’s thousands of different shades of green enter through the eyes and penetrate our brains, awakening us within and bringing us back to life.

The Tri-Town area has much to offer the people who are blessed enough to live here. We cherish our open spaces, and residents, town officials, and local land trusts have preserved an abundance of conservation land and historical landmarks for everyone to enjoy.

Our region is rich in resources for the seekers of solitude, peaceful places to ponder, and woods in which to walk and wonder.

This is the first installment in our weekly “Take a Hike!” series, aimed at raising awareness of the places where one can take a walk or a run, alone, with the dog, or with the kids; to just enjoy nature or explore history, or perhaps to encounter a little adventure right up the road in a place you might have never even noticed was there.

Each week, we will feature a different location within Tri-Town, looking for the paths less travelled, giving you descriptive details of what you will find, including parking, historical relevance, difficulty, and geography, and hopefully entice you to visit them yourself and take advantage of the natural beauty of your Tri-Town.

The first place we visited was Church’s Field on Mattapoisett Road in Rochester, a 32-acre property owned and maintained by the Rochester Land Trust.

The Rochester Land Trust acquired this land in 2010 from George Church, a descendent of a notable hero of the King Philip’s War, Benjamin Church.

Church’s Field, according to the Rochester Land Trust, was originally part of a colonial grant given to Benjamin Church in the 1600s by the King of England.

The Church Family farmed the land and sold timber sawed at their river mill to the Mattapoisett shipbuilding industry.

There is off-road parking nearby the Church’s Field sign, the ground being relatively high and dry despite the spring thaw that saturated a few spots along the trail through the woods.

Walking across the field, the path begins nearby the Rochester Land Trust sign, which features information about the flora and fauna of the property, as well as a simple map of the trail.

The path is wide and mulched, soft beneath the foot, and starts off meandering into a holly tree grove, with scattered holly trees dwarfed beneath tall, mature pines that make up the canopy above.

It is a peaceful wood, far enough away from the road and the highway to give one that much needed sense that you are indeed escaping the rush of the world, left alone for a while to just admire the mossy outcroppings of glacial rocks that, despite the passing of time, have laid there, patient witnesses of days gone by.

The trail crosses a few muddy patches, which will dry up as the spring moves toward summer. There are some wooden planks laid down for walkers to avoid the mud – a little rickety and precarious at times, but just the kind of “bridge” to help the young imaginative ones avoid the alligators and quicksand.

The path veers left and, after another stretch of planks and another bit of muddiness, the view opens up and a river runs through it. Approaching the riverbank, you can see the ruins from the old Church Saw Mill beside Church Falls, and long pine tree trunk benches line the bank, the perfect spot to take a break and admire the scenery before making the last stretch of the loop. (Look over the bench before you sit down, though. There was a bit of duck “remnants” in some spots.)

The trail continues along an ancient stone wall before opening back up and, before you know it, you are back in the field – you take one last look behind you, another deep breath of spring air after the approximately half-hour journey at a moderate pace, back to your car.

On March 14 when I visited Church’s Field, I followed the duck tracks in the patches of early spring snow back to the field, where a hawk sitting up on high in a tree bid me farewell as I made my way across the field, back to the office to finish my day.

I look forward to returning throughout the season to rediscover Church’s Field, with leaves on the trees and the wild flowers along the river I hear are quite pretty in the summer.

The Rochester Land Trust has made a new trail guide available at Town Hall and online at www.townofrochestermass.com/pdf/explore-rochester.pdf that features all the conservation areas open to the public for its leisure, including Church’s Field.

By Jean Perry

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