It’s a lovely summer Saturday in Marblehead, and woodland trails are beckoning. You’re just lamenting that your Saturday is almost fully booked when you recall that a conservation area is just a two-minute drive away. Despite your busy schedule, you can fit in a leisurely hike in its woodland hills before coffee.
If you already know about Marblehead’s natural open space, you’re one of the fortunate few.
Many ‘Headers don’t realize that within the town’s four square miles of land, there are a dozen natural open spaces and a total of five miles of trails. For almost every household, there’s an open space within a half-mile from home.
It’s not an accident that Marblehead has such natural riches. The stewardship of the land and maintenance of the trails are the result of continual volunteer work by your neighbors, friends and fellow residents, organized through the Marblehead Conservancy. “Our Open Space” is a new series of columns from the Conservancy where you’ll learn how to find open spaces near you, how they came to be preserved, how to find your way around them, what plants and animals inhabit them and some special activities to help your kids enjoy them.
So, where are these hidden gems? If you’re a “drive-around-and-look” kind of person, be on the lookout for brown, wooden signs with the words “Conservation Area” on them (see photo). There’s one at every trail entrance, along with the name of the area, its size in acres and a small QR code that you can scan with your smartphone to call up a trail map. Some even offer printed trail maps on waterproof paper.
If you’re a regular visitor to the Marblehead Farmers’ Market, stop by the Conservancy’s booth to get a free map, talk with volunteers about the open spaces or visit the Kids’ Corner for interesting postcards and stickers.
If you’re a “look-before-you-leap” person, check out the Conservancy’s website at marbleheadconservancy.org for lots of information and downloadable maps that you can print or save to your phone.
To jump right in, search for Hawthorn Pond on your phone’s map, and navigate there to give it a try. Your kids will enjoy the boardwalks and the pond with its turtles, ducks and frogs. A full loop around the area’s circular trail takes you through some woods, over some gentle hills and near wetlands and the pond itself. The total distance around is just under half a mile. For a trail map, either visit the Conservancy website (marbleheadconservancy.org), look for a map box at the entrances on Hawthorn Road and the Rail Trail or scan the QR code on this page.
Enjoy your hike, and stay tuned for more info in the next “Our Open Space” column.
Robert French is the president of the Marblehead Conservancy.