Donovan Fields, Circuit St, Norwell, MA 02061, USA
Owned By: Town of Norwelll
Norwell’s Conservation Commission owns these woods and open fields, located at the intersection of Circuit, Forest, and Pleasant Streets. The property consists of 150 acres. Fifty acres of fields are leased out for agricultural purposes. Another 100 acres, mostly woods, are home to wildlife habitat and walking trails.
Donovan-Wildcat is one of many access points to Norwell’s Pathway, a paved bike and walking trail.
The Town of Norwell acquired this property for conservation land in 1997. In earlier times, it was known as White Oak Plains. It was part of a large, Colonial-era land grant to the Clapp family. Cleared for farming in 1820, it later became a commercial apple orchard. Evidence of this exists today — a low brick building that was once used as a cold storage shed. Nearby you can also see a smoke shed and a stone fire pit.
The portion of the property that lies south of Pleasant Street is known as Wildcat Hill. Some of the Clapp family’s freed slaves originally settled these lands. Their community grew as other emancipated families from Hingham, Plymouth, Duxbury, and other towns joined them. Many of these individuals were of African American descent, but some were Native Americans.
A trail around the Donovan Fields begins at Pleasant Street, on the north side. Look for the root cellar near the trailhead. The trail (D1) continues along the west side of the field, where you can enjoy a walk along Margaret’s Brook and see the remains of an earthen/stone dam and ponding area. At the far end of the property, you have two options: continue your walk on Norwell’s Pathway (a boardwalk leads to Norwell Middle School), or follow the perimeter of the field all the way around.
There is also a network of trails south of Pleasant Street, through an area known as Wildcat Hill. Past the parking area and across Circuit Street, just a little farther up the road, look for two wooden posts with painted blazes in Norwell’s town colors, blue and gold. This (D2) is one of several trailheads for the Wildcat Conservation Area, which offers a number of intersecting loops trails. You’ll pass along the rear of the Donovan farm, and then into the woods. Route-wise, there are numerous options, and most of them are well-marked with number-and-letter tags — D for Donovan, W for Wildcat, etc.). At a few of the trail intersections, you’ll find a wooden bench for rest or contemplation. Eventually the trails connect with Wildcat Lane, where there is another small parking area. The trails are rough at some points. While they are relatively flat (with the exception of those that climb Wildcat Hill), they can be rocky. They can be muddy at times as well.
Habitats and Wildlife
The woodlands at Donovan-Wildcat are diverse – some pine, some maple, some beech, plus the occasional holly. Watch for red fox as they hunt for smaller mammals such as mice and rabbits. White Tailed Deer enjoy the fields for grazing and the forest for protection. The brook and surrounding wetlands are perfect for such local amphibians like spring peepers.
The Donovan fields, defined as a Cultural Grassland because of their creation by humans (as opposed to natural conditions) and their sandy, low nutrient soils, are important an habitat for grassland bird communities.
Margaret’s Brook, also known as Wildcat Brook, flows through this property and eventually into Third Herring Brook, a major tributary to the North River. Third Herring Brook forms much of the town line between Norwell and Hanover.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 150 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited on-site parking in a small lot on Circuit Street. Additional parking off Wildcat Lane.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Informational kiosk at the parking area. Benches at some of the trail intersections. Several benches along Margaret’s Brook.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes