The Walpole Town Forest in Walpole, Mass., proves that the wise, old phrase, “seeing beyond the trees” is not always necessary to gain valuable perspectives on life.
Outside the trees in this grand old forest, many Walpole residents experience increasing stresses — including but not limited to more traffic and ensuing road rage, a growing crime rate, higher taxes, less in the wallet, and overall general concerns about how the community is going to pay for what is needed to maintain the town’s innate greatness.
Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all, but many simply do not have the financial resources to travel during these challenging economic times. Thankfully, the nearby Walpole Town Forest is just what the doctor ordered, and no national health care entity will ever “decline” this prescription to relaxation and wellness.
Unknown even to many local residents, the 150-acre Walpole Town Forest looks more like a scene out of a New Hampshire book of great rural destinations — hard to believe the forest is only 20 miles southwest of Boston. The most impressive views reside between South and Common Sts. On the South St. side, the wide, wooden White’s Bridge leads one to a path alongside a beautiful stretch of the Neponset River. The water exhibits different personalities depending upon the level of sunlight and time of the season. Perhaps the most scenic time to visit the Walpole Town Forest is in the fall where a wonderland of foliage colors reflect into the river.
About five minutes into the walk, a dam and rushing waterfall circa 1650 (!) create a refreshing sense of solitude that is so rare to suburban life. For a moment, the world seems so peaceful that it’s easy to forget that a busy suburban town is right outside the Town Forest’s doorstep.
Be sure to also check out Duffy’s Point located on a spur trail approximately .25 miles from the White’s Bridge. This peninsula extends into the river, offering some truly impressive views. On the trail opposite the White’s Bridge — and close to the hill overlooking Walpole High School’s Turco Field — is an 18th century cemetery with headstones. In the forest just beyond Turco Field is a monument commemorating the dedication of the town forest by Lt. Governor Calvin Coolidge on May 5, 1916 (it was the third Town Forest established in Massachusetts).
Beyond this “jewel” location of the Town Forest, you’ll find wetlands ledge outcroppings along an extensive
trail network for hiking, cross country skiing, horseback riding and mountain biking. Fishing at the Town Forest is also quite popular (including an annual Fishing Derby in September). More hiking trails circle the area, going beyond Washington St. With the exception of crossing Washington St., you could hike for hours — uninterrupted by the modern world — but most people I know prefer about 20 minutes around the White Bridge area.
The Walpole Town Forest also teaches us a valuable lesson in visionary history. As farming declined during the Industrial Revolution, the Town Forest could have “gone out of business” as a natural resource, giving way to more industrial development. Our forefathers, however, made sure the land would stay intact for civic use. In fact, George Plimpton granted the 150 acres of land in working step with industrialist Charles Bird’s environmental vision for this particular piece of land. Today, the priority is on “passive recreation, watershed protection, aesthetic attraction, and the preservation of a healthy forest ecosystem,” according to the Town of Walpole Web Site. Lucky us, the Walpole residents of yesteryear envisioned an evolving faster-paced, industrial-based society needing a “natural oasis” like this!
One day while leaving the forest, I thought, “Well, time to return to civilization.” I paused and reflected on that statement for a few minutes, deciding that I had it all backwards. The Walpole Town Forest is civilization in the purest sense. It’s nice to have seen beyond the trees to realize this endearing reality.