A view of Jacobs Pond in Norwell.

When I was ten or so, I “discovered” the woods adjacent to the cranberry bogs behind my parent’s house. Going out to the bogs had always been a winter activity – when it was cold enough, we went there to ice skate. But eventually it occurred to my friends and me that even if there wasn’t ice, we could find away to amuse ourselves out there, away from the watchful eyes of our parents.

In order to get to the bogs, we had to cut through a neighbor’s yard, follow a wooded path a short distance, cross a small stream, and then head up the access road. There was a pond to one side of the road, where snakes, snapping turtles, and other fearsome creatures lurked. There was also a rather intimidating drainage system, through which water poured furiously all the year round, which no one ever wanted to stand very close to.

A river flowed through the property, snaking around the different sections of the bogs. Beyond the river was a forest that marked the boundary between the bogs and a small residential area.

For years I had gazed at this forest from my bedroom window, across the pond, but it had never occurred to me that anything interesting might be found there. Perhaps on some level I knew that it was private property, and that it wasn’t to be considered a playground. Perhaps that’s what made it so appealing once my friends and I realized we could explore it.

One day, emboldened by the presence of spring in the air, a few of us decided to venture across the river to see what was on the other side. At first, we stayed on the grassy area between the river and the woods, but then someone remembered that there used to be a shack nearby, and we set off to find out what remained of it. We found some old household items, including a refrigerator, in a ditch at the edge of the woods.

Following a ridge further into the forest, we came to a bowl-shaped area that I now know to be the result of a receding glacier. Our neighborhood had its share of hills and fields, but we’d never seen a landscape that seemed so sculpted – not so close to home, anyway. We were fascinated.

Convinced that no one else knew about this place, we decided to declare it our own. We were going to carve a place marker from wood, with all of our names on it. But our intentions far exceeded our skills. We ended up painting our names on a board we found in my father’s woodpile using in the most permanent substance we could think of — nail polish.

We then buried the board in the ground at the highest point of the ridge. I don’t quite remember why we buried it, but I’m guessing it had something to do with providing a discovery for some future explorer.

I had completely forgotten about the buried board until recently when I was walking at Jacobs Pond Conservation Area in Norwell with my parents. We were resting at Lookout Point, after a half hour’s trudge through the snow on one of this past winter’s rare sunny days, when we were joined by a group of girls, all around age ten, who had entered the woods from the residential area nearby. The girls were whispering. It was clear to me that they didn’t want us to hear what they were saying — and that they preferred to have Lookout Point to themselves.

So my parents and I continued our hike. As we walked away, I thought I heard the girls say something about finding a secret notebook. I would never endeavor to unearth their secret stash, but I’ve been wondering ever since if I could find that board that my friends and I hid so many years ago. It would be fun to go back and explore those woods again.

Finally, after years of good intentions, I’ve been spending some time at Jacobs Pond Conservation Area in Norwell. While I’ve been aware of the trails there for years, until recently I’d never gotten around to exploring them. I’ve visited three times now, once in fall, once in winter, and once in spring.

The Jacobs Pond Conservation Area is quite large, probably more than the average person would want to explore in a single day. So far I’ve hiked most of the Wes Osborne and Jacobs Pond trails — the former runs along the perimeter of the pond, while the latter leads through the woods to Lookout Point, where one can enjoy a long view of the water. From there you can take the Esker Trail, which follows landforms left behind by the glaciers through a cedar swamp and laurel and hemlock groves. All of these are accessible via the parking area on Jacobs Lane, across from the South Shore Natural Science Center.

There are at least two other entrances to the park, one across the relatively new Cliff Prentiss footbridge from the town landing at the back of the Jacobs Trail neighborhood and another off of Prospect Street.

One of the great things about the Jacobs Pond Conservation Area is its size. Even though the parcel itself is surrounded by residential areas, it feels expansive — there’s lots of room to breathe. This is especially so in winter with snow still on the ground and the absence of underbrush. The beech trees, many with yellow-brown leaves still hanging on, seem so peaceful.

Another interesting feature is a forestry demonstration project, just inside the Jacobs Lane entrance. The yellow and orange bands around some of the trees will catch your eye. Stop to read the sign offering detailed explanations of unmanaged, partially managed and properly managed woods.

It’s a great place to visit in any season.

by Kezia Bacon Bernstein, Correspondent
April 2003

Kezia Bacon Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.