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Schenck’s Island

OK, how’s this for an idea? Go to one of your favorite deli counters in Wilton and pick up sandwich, or whatever is a good takeout lunch for you, and mosey over to Schenck’s Island. Heck, you can walk there from anywhere in Wilton Center. For this excursion the other day, OTH picked up a salami on pumpernickel, his favorite sandwich, and a soda at the Village Market. A few minutes later he was enjoying a quiet lunch beside the Norwalk River, a stone throw from busy Wilton Center (literally).

Salami Sandwich

Salami Sandwich on Schenck's island

Schenck’s Island, though technically not an island, receives such a designation due to the fact that the Norwalk River on its west and south sides and the railroad tracks along its eastern boundary isolate it like an island. The main trail system at Schenck’s Island leads visitors in a loop around the island. There is also a side trail that parallels the Norwalk River (this is where OTH had lunch). Clearings made along the River provide excellent sites for fishing, picnicking or relaxing by the water’s edge.

The trail guide says there is about one mile of trails. That sounds about right. In the past OTH has seen fly fishermen working the stream, about 70 yards from a Starbucks, but you wouldn’t know it! On this walk he saw a white-tailed deer, not unusual in Wilton, but it was too far away (and too quick) for a photo.

How long does it take to walk a mile, 20-25 minutes? Add another 15-20 minutes to have lunch and relax a bit and you’ve got a perfect lunch break. Right in the heart of Wilton. Can’t beat that.

Norwalk River

Norwalk River at Schenck's Island

For more information and a trail map visit the Wilton town web site.

Black Farm
This is also on the Town of Wilton Hiking list but when OTH went there the two public entrances were chained shut. He tried a private driveway, hoping he could quickly get into the public meadow area, but that didn’t work so he quickly left the private area (people live there). So it wasn’t a long walk but a walk nevertheless and he’s counting it!

Six down, six to go.

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Over the weekend OTH continued his quest to complete the Wilton Hiking Contest list of open spaces to hike. On Saturday it was the Woodcock Nature Center. The Center is located on a large tract of land owned by the State of Connecticut. The bulk of the property lies in Wilton, with the remaining acreage in Ridgefield. The land is primarily wetlands; however, a small portion of the site, located at the north end of the property, is uplands. It is on this part of the land that the Nature Center building and trails are located. The land was acquired by the State over a period of about 15 years for the purpose of flood control following the devastating effects of the 1955 floods. A flood control dam constructed in 1972 at Spectacle Brook impounds water during heavy rains.

Facilities include a nature center and a roofed picnic pavilion. When OTH was there somebody had a party going on in a sandbox play area for about a dozen young people in the 4 to 5 year age range. Probably a birthday party. The pavilion looked like it was setup for a party. All-in-all a pretty good idea.

And speaking of the nature center, before his walk OTH snapped a couple of photos of local residents.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Sorry about the wire cage, but the birds are contained. There was also a red tailed hawk but when he saw my camera he hid behind a wood screen. Camera shy I guess.

The hiking opportunity is essentially one loop trail with some cross trail options. OTH saw a number of strategically located benches to stop, rest and take in Mother Nature. As with all the Town hikes so far, the key to enjoyment is taking your time and stopping to absorb the scene. Woodcock Nature Center is no exception. According to the town trail guide, the total trail length, including the cross trails is 2.5 miles. OTH thinks there may have been additional trails established since the trail guide was published. Either way, there is no urgency to rush the trip!

Woodcock Trail

Woodcock Nature Center Red Trail

Visit the Wilton town web site for more information and a trail map.

Four done, eight to go.

Together with a good friend, OTH did get to the Weir Farm Open House on Saturday, June 11 and he was very glad that he did. The three buildings that are undergoing restoration were open for touring, the main house and two studios. When the restoration project is completed, targeted for late 2012, all three of these buildings will add new dimensions to a visit to the Farm.

Weir's Studio

J. Alden Weir's Studio

OTH always enjoys visiting the studio of a major artist. The most predominate example that comes to mind is the studio of Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, MA. The point about the studio belonging to a major artist is that a successful artist can create space that is both personal and functional. Anyway, the two studios under going restoration were the work spaces for both J. Alden Weir and his son-in-law, Mahonri Young, grandson of Brigham Young. OTH is looking forward to visiting both when restoration work is complete.

Living Room in Weir Residence

Living Room in Weir Residence

The restoration work in the main house is confined to the first floor, of a three floor residence. The National Park Service has photographs and other documentation to guide the work. Although Weir acquired the property in 1882, the restoration work is aimed at restoring the house to a 1940 time-frame. At that time his daughter Dorothy lived on the farm, with her husband Mahonri Young. The NPS has a number of authentic pieces of furniture from that period that are also undergoing restoration and will be part of the display when the project is finished. It was pretty obvious that meticulous care is going into the work and the result will be a very accurate portrayal of what the house and studios were like some seventy years ago.  OTH took a number of photos inside the house and studios and he hopes, once the project is complete, to take the same photos and be able to present a before/after photo gallery. Stay tuned.

OTH mentioned that the restoration work is on the first floor of the residence. That’s true, but the residence project is far from limited to the first floor. An extensive installation of mechanical equipment has been completed in the basement of the house. There is a two boiler heating system for the house and studios in one room of the basement and in another a very impressive fire suppression system. In that installation there are 12 tanks of water, each with a capacity of 300 gallons. There is a collection of nitrogen tanks to provide pressure. The rangers told OTH that these systems will be part of the tours when the restoration is complete. When you go there, don’t miss seeing these systems.

Weir Farm Heating System

Weir Farm Heating System

Fire Supression System

Fire Suppression System

Well, if you didn’t get to the open house, OTH hopes this post will whet your appetite to visit when the restoration is complete and the house and two studios open for visitors. OTH will let you know.

OTH mentioned the Open House in a previous post, so this is really a reminder. It’s tomorrow, Saturday, June 11 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The address is 735 Nod Hill Road in Wilton, CT.

NPS sign

Weir Farm

Besides a guided tour, what makes this open house special is that you will have the opportunity to see a historic restoration in progress. The project to restore the main house and two studios has been in progress for some time and is schedule to be finished in 2102. So, a visit now will provide the chance to see the project more or less half way through. usually these sites are off-limits to visitors until completed, (as is the Weir Farm, except for Saturday). Call 203.834.1896 ext. 13 for more information.

Don’t miss it!

OTH went over to the Grassi Property on Tuesday for his next walk in the Wilton Hiking Contest (he seems to be hitting the convenient trails first). This is a 71-acre parcel extending from Millstone Road to Whipstick Road for the entire length of Tito Lane. The property was preserved by the Town and the Grassi Family in 2001 when the town purchased easement covering some 62 acres of the site. This property is now also the location of Millstone Farm and OTH will add more on this below. Hiking the Grassi Property is not complex. There is one trail, a circular path through the wooded northern portion of the property. One must be watchful of where one places their feet as they walk along; in addition to a hiking trail, the path is also an equestrian trail, (enough said). The trail is complete with jumps, but not to worry, hikers can walk around them. Continue Reading »

Over the weekend OTH learned about the Wilton Town Hiking Contest, for the first time. From what he read in the Wilton Bulletin, it looks like this contest has been in place since last October! It was due to end on April 25, but because of all the rain, it has been extended until about the end of June, (OTH not sure). What rock has OTH been living under!

To compete, individuals are to walk in 12 different open spaces in Wilton, or as many as they can get to. Entry forms are available at the Conservation Commission office in the town hall annex or online at wiltongogreen.org/eventsprograms. The contest is sponsored by Wilton Go Green in partnership with the Wilton Library, Wilton Family Y, Alliance for a Healthy Community, Wilton Conservation Commission and Wilton land Trust. Quite a line up. A drawing will be held on July 4 to select the winners. For more information check the call Environmental Affairs @ 203.563.0180 or email info@wiltongogreen.org.

There’s not a lot of time left but OTH is going to give it a try. He figures his garden walk at Weir Farm on Saturday takes care of that square. Today he went over to the Town Forest to walk down to one of his favorite spots, the Sheep Falls. No one is going to confuse Sheep Falls with Niagara Falls, but it’s pleasant place to listen to the water as it drops down across several rock outcroppings. Legend has it that one of the early farmers in the area used the falls to wash his herd of sheep. Works for OTH.

Sheep Falls

Sheep Falls

A few facts about the Wilton Town Forest. It encompasses 188 acres in north Wilton. There is a network of trails that provide a nice variety of walks and different levels of effort required. Although none of them are very demanding, there are some grades to climb or descend. The Sheep Falls are in the northern end of the property. Trail maps are available for the Town Forest and all town open space at http://www.wiltonct.org/departments/conservation/conservation0.html.

OTH will keep everybody apprised of his progress toward the goal of walking all 12 open spaces.

On Saturday OTH returned to Weir Farm to walk through the three gardens that are now part of the Historic Site. He can definitely recommend this short walk to anyone looking for a moment or two to relax and enjoy the tranquility of a quiet garden setting, or in the case of the Weir farm, three garden settings.

From the The Gardens brochure:
“For many affluent New Yorkers of the 1880’s, there was a strong desire for a tranquil retreat from the noise and heat of the city. J. Alden Weir was no exception. He acquired his Branchville property in 1882, and soon developed a deep affection for the landscape of his new country home. Over the years the gardens became a significant and endearing part of this rural landscape.”

Weir Farm Terraced Gardens

The Terraced Gardens

The Terraced Gardens
Even thought the NPS refers these in the plural, OTH considers these terraces as one garden (one of three). And they offer an opportunity to sit and take in a wide view of much of the farm, including many of the buildings, parts of several meadows, and, of course the terraced gardens themselves.

Weir Farm Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden

The Sunken Garden
The Sunken Garden, a few steps from the Visitor Center, was actually a creation of Weir’s daughter  Cora after she took possession of the farm in 1932. It had fallen into a state of shambles when the NPS acquired the property in 1990, but has since been restored as close as possible to the garden Cora had built in the 1930’s.

Weir Farm Secret Garden

Entrance to the Secret Garden

The Secret Garden
OTH finds this garden the most intriguing of the three, if for no other reason, this one is not next to the Visitors Center. Not that it’s much of a walk to see it, but one must decide to go there, or stumble on to it while just walking around the grounds. Like the other gardens, it has a selection of plantings that keep something in bloom most of the summer.

Open House June 11
As part of the Connecticut Open House Day, the Weir Farm Historic Site will be holding an Open House Day on June 11. This will be an unusual opportunity, not only to see the the grounds, but to have a look at several buildings that are now going through a lengthy restoration process, including the main residence and studios. The NPS staff will show and describe the restoration process to visitors on this Open House Day. these building are otherwise closed to the public while this restoration process is in process. The Open House hours 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Call 203.834.1896 ext. 13 for more information.