Enjoying Hanover Open Space

Willow Street to the Broadway Wells
The Plain Street Property
Merry Property
Luddam's Ford Park
The Colby Phillips Property
Canoeing Across Hanover

Willow Street to the Broadway Wells (by Doug Thomson)

The Hanover Open Space Committee was chartered to ensure that the town's rural character is maintained and enhanced both through protection of existing resources and acquisition of new properties. This article is the second in a series provided to highlight some notable Hanover open space and to make it easy to visit.

The combination of two conservation properties and the well protection area provides the opportunity for a walk through diverse terrain leading to a rewarding goal. Many people are aware of the delicious cultivated blueberries to be found in the Broadway well area in the summertime. With many trails throughout these properties, this article provides one interesting option for your trek to the blueberries.

The walk begins from the end of Willow Rd. Parking is limited to along the street near the dead end. The trail is clear and leads directly off the end of the road. Given the many options for this route, I recommend having this article in hand if you don't have the time to get lost.

After a short distance through younger pines, the trail opens dramatically to a grove of tall trees at your first intersection. Proceeding straight or left will lead you through a beautiful area where I camped often with the Boy Scouts in my younger days. Today our route turns right at the intersection and leads through more tall pines behind the Legion housing complex. As the trail descends, you lose sight of all but the woods, dropping into a low land pine grove. A maze of trails and small canals snake through this area providing enjoyable adventure for any young travelers you may have brought. The main trail stays primarily straight.

At the end of the maze, the trail rises again on a sandy bank to a cross trail. Turning right and almost immediately left, your trail will descend sharply into a rather wet hemlock grove where it nearly disappears. Staying straight and slightly right, you should easily pick up the trail again running fairly close to some houses on your right. Crossing a small log bridge will confirm your route. The trail is now clear through mixed pines and hardwood to the junction with a larger trail. Turning right, you can follow this trail into a sandy clearing and applaud your ability to follow directions.

Here you will want to stay left and continue mostly straight ahead on a large diked trail through canalled wetlands. The height affords an excellent view of the swampy area filled with many ducks and other birds. As I know little on the subject, any input from bird experts on potential sightings would be welcomed. At the cross trail, turn right to stay on the raised path and continue to your summer prize of blueberries at the next intersection.

A few options still remain. If you turn left and jump the small brook, you can return to the forest and walk up into the rear of the future police station property. If you turn right, you will continue through lowland until you reach the paved road on you left which leads out to the Broadway wells spring water faucets. Ideally, you can retrace your steps, blueberries in hand, and enjoy the walk once again as you return to Willow Street.

The Plain Street Property (by Doug Thomson)

The Hanover Open Space Committee was chartered to ensure that the town’s rural character is maintained and enhanced both through protection of existing resources and acquisition of new properties. This article is the next in a series provided to highlight some notable Hanover open space and to make it easy to visit. Please note that the Hanover Open Space Committee reminds all visitors to be respectful of the private property that abuts town owned land.

Walking or jogging, many of us are trying to maintain fitness while enjoying our surroundings. With limited sidewalks and ever increasing traffic around town, many citizens feel limited to a few safe locations for regular exercise. Notable among these is the Hanover High School track, which is rarely empty on summer evenings. For those looking for a change of scenery, the Plain Street property is the perfect alternative.

On the north side of Plain Street, behind many of the houses which lie west of Old Farm Road, there is a 60 acre conservation property ideally suited for the fitness enthusiast. The town has owned this former fireworks property for many years. However, the multiple access points along Plain Street have no convenient parking and require walking on narrow rights-of-way across what would appear to be private yards. Consequently, this property is very much underutilized. New, town owned access to this property is now available.

The town recently acquired a number of unbuildable house lots off Tucker Road, Aspen Drive and Bailey Road. Unfortunately, the outdated conservation map, which is under revision, only shows Tucker Road. Bailey is the right off Tucker and Aspen is a left off Bailey. Many of the newly acquired lots abut the existing conservation property, bringing the easy access long needed. A small path leads off the end of Aspen Drive and quickly joins the main loop through the Plain Street property. A first time visitor will immediately notice that the paths look more like small roads, strangely located across woods and wetlands. A brief lesson in town history is appropriate.

During World War II, most of Plain Street was closed and the National Fireworks Company build a magnesium manufacturing plant under the name of Pilgrim Ordnance. The filled roads you see today were built on both sides of Plain Street to connect the many small buildings. The swamp land was an ideal location to contain the extreme fire hazard of magnesium production. Interestingly, the military also briefly used the facility to house prisoners of war. Soon after the end of the war, the military closed the plant and sold all of the property.

Today, the old roads provide a clear, dry path in any season and the surrounding land has returned to a near natural state with little evidence of its past. The best route for travel is to turn right on the main loop and head down the very long straight, westward path. Trees now arch over the road, bringing welcome shade during your summer jogs. The wetlands also provide some natural air conditioning although you will want to keep moving to avoid the mosquitoes in peak season. An array of small woodland creatures will scurry through the underbrush as you arrive. At the end of your straightaway, the road is briefly disrupted by development. The path rises and goes to the right, quickly rejoining the main loop heading south.

In a fairly short distance, you can turn left on the third leg of your exercise loop. The road also continues straight, passing under power lines. The conservation property extends out to Plain St. but the route is not clear. The third leg of the loop is long and straight like the first, though narrower. It passes through wetter, more open land where birds dominate the blend of sounds. On the beautiful day of my last visit, the sun shone brightly though scattered saplings as I wandered along this tranquil path.

At the end of the straightaway, turn left to complete your first lap. Alternately, a right turn will again lead you toward the power lines and some smaller footpaths which snake through the property. In several trips, I have only once encountered someone also out enjoying these paths. His dog pranced playfully ahead, reveling in the freedom as he chased crisscrossing scents. More of us need to be enjoying this freedom.

The Plain Street property gives you a perfect blend of a convenient exercise loop and an escape to nature. I highly recommend this alternative, especially in the long evening light of summer.
Merry Property (By Bruce Ryerson)

The Merry property is compact eleven-acre town owned property off Broadway directly behind the old fire station now being renovated by the Hanover Historical Society. What a great use for this old building; complete with conservation area access. Hanover will benefit from both historical and living exhibits; all in one place. Parking for six or so cars' is provided directly in front of the building. A path leads into the conservation area from the side lawn.

Follow a well-trodden cart road a short distance where you will encounter a small wetland area. Come back another day if there is significant water there. Otherwise the trail heads upland from that point and you will note a slight mounded area to your right. Stay on the path and a magnificent stone wall will catch your eye, as it traverses your footsteps on the soft earth and you wonder how anything so beautiful could have been built to last so long. The stone wall alone is worth the trip. Where it punctuates the cart path with what was probably a gateway for cows at one time; there is a large flat boulder; (seating for two; if you will). Inscribed on its' now smooth surface are aged, black graffiti. "I love H"? and hearts of old bear witness to the relevance of this respite for all time. Here is the perfect spring exile, nestled under the tall oaks. A good book; a picnic basket' or just a quiet moment are easy companions to this setting. Farther along you will eventually enter the Phillips Wildlife Sanctuary. Retrace your steps almost to the beginning and you have an option of turning left at a fork into a narrow trail leading to higher ground and a stand of tall pines. Your meandering will again lead to the stone wall and main pathway into the acreage.

Much of the low land is thicken and a challenge to navigate off path. There is however, a nice walking opportunity if you keep your sights on the straightaway. There are plenty of small creatures here, too. They seem to love land like this where they can "hide out" under brush shopping for food on low berries bearing plants.

The Merry property is just the perfect open space area for a weekend mini hike. Enjoy.

Luddam's Ford Park (by Doug Thomson)

The Hanover Open Space Committee was chartered to ensure that the town's rural character is maintained and enhanced both through protection of existing resources and acquisition of new properties. A key goal of the Committee is to increase awareness and usage of the beautiful property already owned by the town. This article is the continuation of a series provided to highlight some notable Hanover open space and to make it easy to visit.

Luddam's Ford Park has been referred to as the "gem" of Hanover. This "diamond in the rough" is located along the Pembroke border on Elm Street at the fish ladder where the Indian Head River widens into Luddam's Ford Pond. This beautiful 19.5-acre resource contains several habitats including woodlands, open fields, a stream and a pond. This local treasure supports diverse wildlife and several trails and is currently enjoyed by fishermen, picnickers, walkers/hikers, bikers, boaters, and bird-watchers. There are several well-defined trails that skirt around the pond and follow the former railbed from Elm Street to Water Street. The pond created along the Indian Head River by the Luddam's Ford dam is stocked with coho and shad and provides excellent fishing. The recently upgraded canoe launch is easily accessible for anyone wishing to experience the park from the water.

The area is important for it's historic as well as its environmental significance. Luddam's Ford was named after James Luddam, who carried Massachusetts Bay Colony's Governor Winthrop on his back as they forded the river in 1632. The pond is surrounded by open fields where a succession of mills were once located, including the Anchor Works which forged the anchors for the U.S.S. constitution. The park contains approximately 2 miles of an old railbed that is bordered by historical foundations.

This property is very near and dear to the hearts of many Hanover residents and there has been a consolidated effort to improve this conservation land. Projects have included fish ladder improvements; brush removal; annual clean-ups; canoe launch improvements; parking lot improvements; and historical guide and sign posts. These improvements and those dedicated volunteers who helped enhance this beautiful park will be celebrated and officially thanked at a re-dedication ceremony to be held at the park.

The Colby Phillips Property (by Doug Thomson)

The Hanover Open Space Committee was chartered to ensure that the town's rural character is maintained and enhanced both through protection of existing resources and acquisition of new properties. Toward that end, a formal Open Space Plan, written by the committee, has received draft approval from the state. This plan provides eligibility for state grants for land acquisition, the primary goal of the committee. Another key goal is to increase awareness and usage of the beautiful property already owned by the town. This article is the first in a series provided to highlight some notable Hanover open space and to make it easy to visit.

The Colby Phillips property is a 135 acre parcel which provides what is probably the most alluring walk on public land in Hanover. The best access is off the dead end section of Circuit St. which extends past the fire station at the intersection of Pleasant St., Circuit St. and Rte 139. Park at the dead end cul-de-sac and walk a short distance up the street to the town owned access. A wide dirt road on the left passes between 959 (a shingled house with red trim) and 969 (a white house). This road turns into a path which passes the private Darling Cemetery, with stones dating to the early 1800s.

This walk now follows a beautiful, clear trail over a small brook and then nearly three-quarters of a mile through an open forest of mixed pines, hemlocks, and beech trees. It had been nearly fifteen years since I last walked this land and I immediately regretted my long absence. The bright sun filtered through openings in the canopy as the forest varied from dense evergreens to mostly open hardwood saplings providing a pleasant diversity. My young daughter raced ahead on the easily followed path, captivated by the myriad of bird calls.

The land is mostly high and easily traversed at all but the wettest times of the year. Several small offshoot paths lead to still quieter destinations including a grove of large holly trees. Our walk ended as the trail reached a stream which could probably be crossed in mid summer. The open marshland was home to many ducks who took to flight on my daughters boisterous arrival. A quieter approach would have surely brought us to an ideal bird watching vantage point.

After an undisturbed picnic lunch overlooking the peaceful marsh, we wandered back along the trail, checking any side routes she selected. By the time we reached Circuit street again it seemed amazing that I had never left Hanover. For anyone wondering why we need to protect the limited open space remaining in our town, you need only experience the serenity of this walk.

Canoeing Across Hanover

The Hanover Open Space Committee was chartered to ensure that the town’s rural character is maintained and enhanced both through protection of existing resources and acquisition of new properties. This article is the next in a series provided to highlight some notable Hanover open space and to make it easy to visit. Please note that the Hanover Open Space Committee reminds all visitors to be respectful of the private property that abuts town owned land.
Over the course of several articles, we have covered many of the best nature walks in Hanover. For a change of pace, we will now take to the water. Within our relatively small town, a continuous voyage through winding streams, open marshes, large ponds and aggressive whitewater awaits the adventuresome traveler. Mid spring is typically the best time for this trip as the water is high enough to permit passage throughout the route. An old friend and I set out one Saturday in April this year under ideal conditions. However, a word of caution in this year of bizarre weather is appropriate. Parts of this route can be very hazardous in high water. The recent tragedy near Ludham’s Ford should remind us that even the most experienced boaters must be wary of extreme conditions.

While the aggressive bushwhacker can actually start on Longwater Brook at the High School, our trip begins at Route 139, just east of Plain Street, where the Drinkwater River passes under the street. Setting the canoe over the guardrail and walking down an easy grade, a convenient flat water put in is available. While this access is quite commonly used, you should remember that it is not town owned property. Thus, you should put in as close to the road as possible and be respectful of the area. Once in, you are immediately immersed among numerous birds in a wooded swamp as you pass under an aging railroad bridge. The widening, sandy bottomed stream continues under Circuit Street where a sharp left turn and some brief quickwater provides the first excitement.
After French’s Stream comes in from the right, the stream opens dramatically into Forge Pond. The banks of the pond are largely undeveloped at this end and along the entire right side. Following the pond, you pass under King Street, a rather tight fit in the high water ideal for this run. The river then flows over a wooden panel dam and into a long rock garden where passage would be difficult later in the season. The water soon flattens out as it winds peacefully along, protected on both sides by the fireworks conservation land. Tiny concrete huts dot the banks, providing one of the few reminders of industry still visible from the water.
The tight wooded banks gradually give way to marsh as the river widens. Dozens of Redwing Blackbirds chirp loudly, announcing our arrival. With each corner of this meandering route, we again search for the many goose nests tucked in by the water’s edge. As the expectant mothers crouch low over their eggs, their mottled coats are perfectly camouflaged. Our presence also leads sunbathing turtles to scramble off their logs. After several turns, we enter Factory Pond to the view of a Great Blue Heron skipping across the surface into flight.

Factory pond is probably the biggest wildlife haven in Hanover. A small island in the center is the well protected home of an entire animal community. A swan hugs close to its coast, his mate and their unseen nest probably nearby. At this time of year, the lily pads have yet to cover the majority of this shallow pond so the island still looks well isolated from its surroundings. We passed to its left, heading down what little main current is visible. The pond then necks to a narrow opening where the remnants of an old wooden bridge are visible. The manmade sand approaches built for vehicle traffic now lie dormant and overgrown.

Once through this passage, the pond turns left. The Hanson banks to the right now support the first waterfront houses. The Hanover side remains conservation land until the dam at the end of the pond. This recently rebuilt dam is unmarked and quite a drop. You need to stay to its left to reach town owned land. As you pull up beside the dam, you are on the most recently acquired town access. The new development going in off Broadway includes a small parking area and canoe launch. For those looking for a casual flat water trip, this is the perfect put in. From here, with little or no current opposing, you can reverse my direction and travel up river around Factory Pond and beyond.

Continuing our trek, it was time for our longest portage. Several fallen large trees lay just pass the base of the dam, preventing an easy run through the quick water. We decided to carry the canoe out of the new development and launch again just upstream of Broadway. Tight brush chokes what is now the Indian Head River to a tight but passable fit. Restrictions pick up the current but there are is no whitewater. On one turn, a large hawk takes flight as we approach. In little time, the river opens again on the approach to the bridge near the intersection of Cross Street and Broadway. It is time again for a brief portage.

Fifteen years ago, when we last made this run, a combination of sharper skills and youthful bravery led us to run the whitewater drop here. In high water, you can negotiate the three foot drop and aggressive run. We have done it cleanly. However, it is a significant safety risk which should only be undertaken by skilled canoeists who have spotters on the banks. For that matter, this easy take out point is the end of the line for the casual traveler as several good drops, with little or no access, lie between here and Ludham’s Ford.
A small footpath makes for easy portage to a point about a hundred feet downstream of the road. Our pulses quicken as we anticipate the remainder of our trip. The mostly calm route is broken by two good whitewater drops. Another flat water stretch then leads to the broken down dam that is visible from Water Street. This is most aggressive drop and the only one where we did get briefly hung up on one of the many unseen boulders. The river splits here and then rejoins, with either side equally passable. Damp from spray, with our knees wet from crouching in the whitewater stretches, we enjoy the final flat section on our way to Ludham’s Ford. Ample parking and easy access are available here, making it another ideal location to start a relaxing upstream trip. Just beyond the dam, at the Indian Head Drive canoe launch, the trip could continue into the North River.  For us, Ludham’s Ford was the end of a morning of perfect escape to the beauty and challenges of the river.

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Doug Thomson is with the Hanover Open Space Committee. He is interested in your comments on open space issues and can be reached at shestin@world.std.com.