Someone told me over 17% of Easton’s land is protected from development in one way or another. From the far South side of Easton where the Hockomock Swamp lies to the vast area of Borderland State Park there are many great conservation areas waiting to be discovered. Some, I am sure, people don’t even know exist. As a child, I was blessed to grow up with a pond and woods as my backyard. Not a day went by that the neighborhood kids weren’t outside playing in the old apple trees two doors down, fishing in the pond or crossing the pond and playing war in the woods or riding our bikes, we had it made.
Growing up, I heard how, where the houses along the side of the pond now sit was the testing site for cannons made by the foundries in Furnace Village. Back then, you could look and see the ruts along the ridge where the cannon’s wheels once rested. Not so much now, but in a few spots I can still make out the faint outlines of the past. South Easton was the area dotted with farm land and the rural area of town. Now we have Target.
Deep in the woods, over Old Pond, you will find the stone walls that once divided the farmland and pastures. The farm wasn’t talked about as much as the foundries and cannon balls that may still be buried deep in the soil. I recently took a walk back in time to when I was a kid then even further back to before my time, the history coming to life around me, faded visions against a snowy backdrop. We started at the old mill stone at the dam of Old Pond. This point is the entrance or exit if you’re going South to the Old Pond woods trail of the Mass Bay Circuit Trail. The trail will take you along the pond and up to Beaver Brook, ending at Roundtable Rd. Overall, the trail is not well managed, trail markers are few and far between, animal tracks and wildlife is plentiful. With snow shoes on our adventure began.
As kids, we ran along the old walls without much care to why they were there, nor did we notice the difference in wildlife habitat from one side to the other. As an adult, the Old Pond woods still mesmerizes me. A short distance down the trail over the ridge is a stone wall that I will call the far south field, though it’s not much of a field any more. Filled with White Pines, Norway Maples and Glossy Buck Thorn, the only paths are the ones of the deer and coyote weaving through the trees like a maze. The area is snow covered, but I will venture a guess that the perennial weeds and grasses have all been choked out by soft wood trees. The stone walls grid the land into three old field areas. We found our way to the center field, which houses a massive rock, probably a glacier deposit by its size. The old stone wall frames both sides of the giant rock to the East and West. This field has the most open space out of all the old pastures. Cedar trees spotted around the clearing lead me to think this field was the grazing field. Most cows and horses would stick to native grasses and seedlings. The Highland Cow would eat everything, but they come to Easton later in time, after this farm simply became fields. As we worked our way north through another break in a wall to the last field, we found a small area that is still home to several apple trees. Covered in moss, they still hold the wood line back. Within all three of the fields we see “Old Field Succession” in three different phases. Nature reclaiming what man once farmed. We saw a farm wall run down to the water’s edge and then resurface on the other side of the pond. With a little imagination you can see the rolling fields of crops, animals grazing and a thriving orchard. True Easton Agricultural History.
We finally found our way back to the trail markers and continue North on the Mass Bay Circuit trail. This spot is about equal to the mouth of Old Pond, the point where Beaver Brook stream meets the pond. With all the changes upland this area is wet and the trail is poorly marked, but with the snow and snow shoes we were able to keep moving north. The trees are mostly Norway Maples with some Blueberry and Glossy Buckthorn in large clusters. Then you will see a magnificent White Oak. This trail is home to some of the largest white oaks I have seen. The trail crosses a little brook and runs parallel to Beaver Brook, then drops you at the intersection of the Roundtable Road loop. For us, that was the halfway point since we decided to hike the woods back to the parking lot at the dam. But the Bay Circuit trail continues north, up Poquanticut Ave into NRT’s Beaver Brook Conservation area to the power lines and it goes on. The trail also goes south from Old Pond down South Street and into Wheaton Conservation area, where again you will find yourself in more of Easton’s historic agricultural farm land.
The snow may be covering the land but the footprints of nature are just as amazing. Take the time to bundle up, go off the beaten path and see what you can find.