Friday, February 17, 2017

Stone Cold Surprise

From Dave Brigham:

Folks unfamiliar with New England's history and geography might wonder, as they walk through conservation areas like Stony Brook (depicted in the photo above) on the Weston/Lincoln border in Massachusetts, "Why are there so many stone walls in the middle of the woods?"

Because farming. You can't swing a walking stick in New England, it seems, without hitting a stone wall. Testaments to the Herculean effort that Colonial farmers put into mastering the earth in order to farm it, the walls were once used as property boundaries and for animal control. Now they are beautiful reminders of the history -- the sweat, toil and misery of digging up the stones and first tossing them into a pile and then stacking them in an orderly fashion -- of our rocky region. For more on these monuments to hard work, check out this Earth Magazine blog post.

I've taken plenty of photos of stone walls in the course of exploring for this blog. I don't ignore them and don't get bored by them. That would be like walking through an art gallery and refusing to look at the walls. Still, I always hope for something more when I go on excursions into the woods around Massachusetts.

Stony Brook is a place I've passed countless times in the past year and a half, as it is located about halfway between my home and the school in Sudbury where I drive my son Monday through Friday. I had been out Route 117 before my son started going to this school, and have a vague memory that there was a small building in the parking lot for the conservation area.

This suspicion was confirmed by, what else, a Google search. From the Bay Circuit Alliance web site: "Parking at riding ring at north end of Browning Field North on Weston Rd, along shoulder of Weston Rd (but not on gravel rd off Weston), and at the ice cream stand on Rte 117 at Weston/Lincoln line."

I sent an email to a member of the Weston Historical Commission, who in turn forwarded my question about the old building to "Weston’s best source for the town’s history parcel by parcel." From this woman, Pam Fox, I learned that there was a building roughly in this spot. She said a longtime resident who owned farmland along Route 117 told her that the building was known as Johnny's Fudge Stand. She sent a photo that she'd taken several years ago of the building, which looks a bit different from what I recall, but I have to imagine it's the same place.

Anyway....I recently ventured in after ignoring this little slice of woods for too long.

I walked out on this rustic little bridge at Twin Pond and saw a lot of birds. Then I bopped along the main trail, which never wanders far from residential areas in the tony towns of Weston and Lincoln. I often like to go out and back on the same trail, if possible, as I've realized that my eye catches different things from these two angles. And sure enough, somehow I'd missed this amazing cellar hole on my walk out.

This is one of the best-preserved, most solid-looking cellar holes I've seen in my travels. I've been unable to uncover any history online about this area. I plan in the future to venture to another area close by known as Pigeon Hill/Browning Field, as there are ruins of an old stone house. Stay tuned....

In addition to the wonderful cellar hole, this hike presented me with something I've never seen before.

When I posted this photo on Facebook there was a dispute as to whether this is a bat box or a house for wood ducks or screech owls. The evidence I was presented leads me to believe this is a bat box. If you know different, I'd like to hear from you.

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