One of the things I always used to like to do when my kids were little was to go to a park. From the tiny neighborhood park we visited before they could even walk (in the greater Chicago area), to several favorites in London, East Grand Rapids, Michigan and later Sherborn, we have hit many a playground. Nowadays my kids are both in college and don’t seem all that interested in the playground. 🙂 But now I have a dog. We get out every single day, with rare exception (e.g. torrential rain all day). I don’t always love it, especially when it is cold and windy, but I know it is the highlight of my dog’s day (well, maybe the highlight after breakfast and dinner). When I am rushed for time, we will just walk in the neighborhood, but most days we hit a local park or reservation. My dog is part beagle, and his nose needs a workout…I think he enjoys being on the trails as much as I do. We have some favorites, which I thought I would share in today’s post. We continue to discover new places to walk (in fact, once this snow melts, we have another one on our radar)…I think we both enjoy the variety! Here are some of our local favorites.
For the last few years, since moving to Walpole, this is our “go to” place to walk. Very popular with dog walkers, it is rare that we don’t get to say hello to at least a few “dog friends.” You will also see runners and mountain bikers there, so heads up. There is a main loop that most people seem to use that is partly in the woods, and partly in some open fields. It takes us about 40-45 minutes (including stops to sniff) to complete. Adams Farm is located on North Street in Northeast Walpole, almost on the Westwood Line (I have been known to make a quick stop at Bubbling Brook after a walk in the summer). Per their website, the park contains almost 700 acres of land (owned by various entities). There is ample parking, and the park is free to use. The non-profit Friends of Adams Farm helps oversee and maintain the park (along with participation from the Town of Walpole, who owns about half of the land). Donations are gratefully accepted. In addition to the trails, there is a butterfly garden and a community garden with 64 plots that can be rented…in the summer there is always someone working in the gardens. My only criticism of the park is that the trail map isn’t the most intuitive to follow (at least that’s my experience). We have learned the trails mostly through trial and error (and following others!). Aside from that, I find this to be a real treasure. My dog Ollie and I are there probably 4 or 5 times a week…check out our video from our Valentine’s Day walk.
Rocky Woods is a Trustees of Reservations property. Located on Hartford St. in the northeast corner of Medfield, Rocky Woods is comprised of 490 wooded acres with many trail options. Unlike Adams Farm, there is a good color-coded trail map, and trails are well-marked. There are two ponds, one of which is being overrun by beavers. It’s actually kind of sad, as Echo Pond used to be a beautiful little treasure…now the beavers have blocked one end and continue to destroy more trees rimming the pond’s banks. But if you have kids, you can see the work of the beavers and it is easy to spy their huge beaver den, so maybe some educational value there. Like Adams Farm, you can contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the reservation by becoming a Trustees member. Membership encompasses all of the Trustees properties, approximately 100 parcels covering 25,000 acres. Parking at Rocky Woods is ample, but if you aren’t a Trustees member it will cost you $5 (become a member).
This park, located in east Walpole is fast becoming a favorite of mine. Like Rocky Woods, Bird Park is a Trustees property. Much smaller than Adams Farm or Rocky Woods, at only 89 acres, this park is mainly comprised of paved walkways rather than trails. You will see a lot of walkers, many with dogs, but unlike other parks, dogs are typically on-leash here. Bird Park was created in 1925 and has many small ponds and beautiful stone bridges. The only negative is that the geese have fallen in love with the ponds, and as we all know, they can be a bit messy. What this park offers, that the others don’t, are tennis courts, basketball courts, a large enclosed playground and a large paved (enclosed) area with all kinds of small riding toys for kids. In the warmer months, this is a popular place. Benches throughout the park provide places to sit and watch all that is going on. There is ample (free) parking on Polley Lane. Parking here you enter the park through the “Allée,” an open area lined with huge hemlocks, quite impressive (see photo above).
Medfield State Hospital, Medfield
Located on Hospital Road in the northwest corner of Medfield, this is the site of a former state psychiatric facility. Originally opened in 1897 as the Medfield Insane Asylum, operations ceased in 2003 and in 2014 it was sold to the Town of Medfield (for more history, see here). I love walking here. All the original buildings still stand, in varying states of disrepair. Windows are, for the most part, boarded up, and entry to any of the buildings is strictly prohibited (not that you would want to go in), but there is much to see and appreciate in the brickwork and architecture. The public is welcome to wander the grounds, which has a kind of quiet stillness to it…some might think eerie, but based on the number of people walking their dogs there, it doesn’t seem to bother many. Entry is on the end closest to Rt 27, and there is ample parking. If you continue to follow the road in, there is a new parking lot down near the Charles River. The parking is close to miles of trails that border the former hospital (some of the trails end up at Dover-Sherborn High School…for a map, see here). There is also a big open field for dogs (or kids) to run around in, located behind the buildings along the back of the property. There is a group studying the long-term use of the property; for more information, see Medfield State Hospital Vision and Master Plan.
Wheelock Conservation Land, Medfield
Located on Elm St in Medfield, parking is available at the back of Wheelock School (enter at the most eastern entrance and drive straight back). You will know you are in the right place when you see other dog walkers. A very popular place, there are paved walkways from Wheelock south to Rt 27 (see maps here, here and here). There are also some large open fields for dogs that like to run. You can also access wooded trails, part of the Bay Circuit Trail. The paved walkway is more of an “out and back” kind of path, but you can go out on the pavement, and head back by cutting across the fields (or vice-versa) to add some variety. Best to avoid on weekends in the spring and fall as there are fields that host kids’ sporting events and tournaments and the parking area is often full.
Those are just a few of my favorite places to take the dog (and to clear my own head…I do some of my best thinking when walking the dog). At almost 10 years old, a 45 minute walk will tire him out for the rest of the day. Ollie and I are always looking for new places to walk, so if you have a favorite spot or two, please leave a comment below.
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