Today I spent a good portion of the morning wandering the woodlands of Lyme. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the trees were bursting with color, and I was scrambling over moss-covered stone walls in the midst of historic farm country. If there is a better way to spend a Sunday morning, I can’t think of one. Read on and check out the gallery.
I was there at the invitation of the Upper Valley Land Trust, which conserves important natural areas in our region. They recruit volunteers like me to monitor these easements, which means an annual visit to the land to perambulate the property to see if the neighbors (or landowner) have somehow violated the terms of the conservation easement by building new structures, inappropriately logging the forest, dumping trash, mining, etc.. It is always a great excuse to get out in the woods in the fall, bushwhack up hills and across streams, and ponder the ways the land may have been used in decades (or centuries) past. Every property I’ve visited has included stone walls, and today was exemplary in that regard – I must have crossed or followed two dozen such walls.
These old walls reflect a very different era of Lyme, when there were more sheep than people and more pasture than forest. Hardscrabble farmers pushed aside the many granite boulders to mark their boundaries and to separate pasture from paddock, garden from orchard. As the sheep industry faded, the farms did as well, and now Lyme is mostly forest, as these old hills recover their natural state. The stone walls are now covered in moss, and provide excellent habitat for the ubiquitous chipmunks. Beside them, I found deep holes marking the location of long-lost homes or root cellars. In between, I found ‘corduroy’ logs providing traction in wet spots on old forest roads. Along the boundaries of these old pastures, the farmers must have let grow some of the ancient white pines, which still dominate the hardwood forests filling in around them.
There are a few more photos in the gallery.