While I’m often one to promote wilderness and the reduced impact of humans on our natural surroundings, the rich farming history in the Berkshires has provided us with a diverse landscape that matches wild forests and mountaintops with rolling, grassy hillsides, — long ago cleared by our agri-ancestors. While many of these hilly meadows are still in use as pastures for sheep, horses and cattle/cows, some have been preserved by conservation agencies like the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, the Trustees of Reservations, Mass Audubon and others for our own enjoyment.
Walking through these meadows, you’ll discover a different side of the Berkshires, with flora and fauna you’ll only find in these unique habitats and the open views that are often reserved for only the tops of the highest peaks. I encourage you to get out there and explore some of these former pastures and discover for yourself what these unique experiences a Berkshire meadow can hold. Here are some of my favorites:
Sheep Hill – Putting aside all biases (Sheep Hill is in my neck of the woods), this is not only one of the most beautiful meadows in the Berkshires, but is also one of the prettiest places I’ve visited in all of Western Massachusetts. Owned and maintained by the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, Sheep Hill offers sweeping views of Mt. Greylock and the Hoosac Range, and its 50 protected acres provides a unique meadow ecology. Located right along Route 7 in Williamstown, Sheep Hill is open open dawn to dusk for passive recreation.
Field Farm – It’s in the name! A few miles down the road from Sheep Hill, Field Farm (a Trustees of Reservations Property) encompasses over 300 acres of fields, forests and wetlands. Offering more amazing views of North County, you’ll discover the intricacies of where meadows meet streams and forests along a network of well marked trails, making this a great walk for families with young children. Field Farm is located on Sloan Road in Williamstown.
Mountain Meadow Preserve – Check out this write up from one of my previous posts.
Hollow Fields Reserve – Preserved by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), this 139 acre reserve protects a diverse mix of open fields, hardwood forests and the banks of the Sleepy Hollow Brook. Home to bluebirds, bobolinks and tree swallows, and diverse plant species, a two mile trail through the hay fields is the perfect walk on a sunny day. The property connects to Richmond town lands, so you can spend even more time exploring this beautiful Berkshire setting. You can access Hollow Fields Reserve off of Perry’s Peak Road (via Rte 41) in Richmond.
Hallowell – Also protected by the BNRC, you’ll find mowed paths through this meadow habitat, and discover fantastic bird watching opportunities. Bring a pair of binoculars and see if you can spot a bobolink or bluebird dipping and diving along the grasses, or check out the online geocaching guides to search for Hallowell’s hidden treasure. You’ll find Hallowell off of East Street in Lenox.
Hurlburt’s Hill – Located on the Trustees of Reservations Bartholomew’s Cobble property on Weatogue Road in Sheffield, this is another wonderfully unique meadow walk. Here’s my write-up from last October’s BVB e-Newsletter (PS, if you’re not subscribing, you should! Sign up here)
At the southern end of Berkshire County you’ll find one of our region’s more unique natural areas. Bartholomew’s Cobble features a pair of twin, rocky knolls formed as a coral reef over a half billion years ago. Today the archaeological attraction sits along the Housatonic River and bucolic rolling hills of South County. Beginning at the Trustees of Reservations’ Visitor’s Center on Weatogue Road in Sheffield, you’ll find five miles of trails varying from easy meadow loops, to a moderate climb up Hurlburt’s Hill. The 0.8 mile walk to the Hurlburt’s Hill overlook takes hikers 400 feet up an old tractor path, through a hardwood forest, through a meadow and to a wide-open view directly on the Massachusetts and Connecticut border. This walk is perfect for kids, first dates and big groups, who can split up to enjoy the trails around the cobble and Hurlburt’s Hill, and then meet back at the Visitor’s Center. More information is available at the Trustees of Reservations.
As always, get out there and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of the Berkshires. There’s truly something for everyone in our majestic corner of the world. See you out there!