5 years of adventures, visits and renewing childhood fascinations


5 years of adventures, visits and renewing childhood fascinations

It was five years ago this month, on Oct. 5, 2014 to be exact, that my weekly column first appeared in The Bulletin. My former colleague, Charlene Perkins Cutler, had written this column for more than 15 years. When she left TLGV to take the position of executive director of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, I was asked to take up where she left off. Five years of exploring and sharing this beautiful place we call home has taught me as much as I hope it has informed you.

I have taken this column’s title “Exploring The Last Green Valley” to heart and have tried to find time, in both my work and personal life, to familiarize myself with the 35 towns comprising The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. Along the way I have traveled our region’s back roads, main streets and highways to visit the beautiful hill towns and historic mill towns of the National Heritage Corridor.

I have paddled our rivers and explored our state forests, parks and land trust properties. With these adventures I renewed my childhood fascination with the outdoors and discovered again the peace and solace of the natural world.

I have visited our historic sites and museums and have been inspired by the fascinating stories of those that came before – the famous and nameless people who shaped the independent spirit and charitable nature that continues to define our region. It is a joy to share all this with readers of this newspaper.

I have learned to follow the suggestion of Nellie Teale, wife of naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale, when she told Edwin she prefers to “go slow and see more.” A hike in our forests and woodlands usually finds me at a saunter, hands in pockets, ears tuned to the forest canopy, eyes scanning the trail sides and trees. I wouldn’t want to miss the distant call of the pileated woodpecker, spot the red eft newt among the leaf duff, witness the silent flight of an owl twisting through the trees, or fail to examine the muddy tracks of a passing fisher or coyote.

Nellie’s suggestion to go slow and see more also applies to my visits to our region’s museums, historic houses and sites. I enjoy discovering objects of the past and usually read every exhibit label prepared by a knowledgeable museum employee or volunteer. I like to take the time to get a feel for the place and to try to understand the lives and times of those who went before.

Some of my favorite museums are the Slater Memorial Museum and Leffingwell House Museum in Norwich, Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, the Clara Barton Birthplace Museum in Oxford, the Nathan Hale Homestead Museum in Coventry, the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury, the Huntington Homestead Museum in Scotland, the Mill Museum in Willimantic, Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn and the Blue Slope Country Museum in Franklin. Each offers a unique perspective on the past and an intimate view into the life of our well known and lesser known past residents of our region. I encourage you to visit our region’s museums and historical societies and consider them through membership and volunteering.

Many of the topics I have shared with readers of this column have been found during my woods and forest jaunts. Our natural world is ever changing and on my walks I encounter more and more invasive plant species. Most of these I have written about here. Roadsides and open spaces throughout our region are overrun by burning bush (winged euonymus) Japanese barberry, Asian bittersweet, Japanese knotweed and buckthorn.

Each of these plants outcompetes the native vegetation for soil and nutrients and have all but taken over open spaces and in some examples the entire understory of forestlands. During my hikes into deeper wooded area within our large tracts of state forestlands, I see fewer of these invasive plants than found within more populated and developed areas, reminding me again of the critical importance of conserving our larger tracts of undeveloped forestlands.

I invite you to learn more about our region’s land trusts, to consider joining as a member and to become actively involved in their activities and mission areas. You’ll discover beautiful and important natural landscapes to enjoy and hopefully meaningful volunteer work, as well. Along with the Connecticut Audubon Society, I belong to three land trusts – Joshua’s Trust, Wyndham Land Trust and Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Association & Wolf Den Land Trust. These and other similar organizations are in need of members and support in their important work conserving what we hold dear – the undeveloped natural lands that define our region.

I hope you’ll join me as I continue to explore this beautiful place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I am always looking for new places to explore and new topics to share with readers of the Bulletin. Your thoughts, input and suggestions are always welcome.

This is our home, where we and those who went before set down “taproots” into the very land that define both this region and its citizens. Together let us care for it, enjoy it and pass it on.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org


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