262 Union Bridge Rd, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA
Owned By: Town of Duxbury
344 acres of wooded property along Phillips Brook, owned by Duxbury Conservation. 2.8 miles of intersecting trails through forest and red maple swamp, with occasional boardwalks. Look for the remains of Howlands Mill in the northern portion of the property, near the brook.
Formerly known as Trout Farm Conservation Area, this property is dedicated to Dr. Lansing Bennett, who served as chair of the Duxbury Conservation Commission from 1967-1979. Dr. Bennett helped to develop a greenbelt plan for Duxbury, specifically seeking to preserve land and wetlands along the rivers and streams. During his tenure, the town obtained over 1200 acres of conservation land! Bennett has an interesting biography, especially his post-Conservation Commission years. If you’re curious, look him up online.
The Town of Duxbury purchased Lansing Bennett Forest from the Lot Phillips Company (a wooden box manufacturer) in 1970. Howland’s Mill was built at this site around 1830, on the banks of Phillips Brook. Originally a grist mill, it later became a sawmill, but it struggled due to low water flow. To remedy this problem, the mill operators dug a ditch under today’s Franklin Street to Black Friar Swamp, to channel more water into the brook. The ditch, as well as portions of the mill’s foundation, are still visible.
After the sawmill closed, part of the property became a trout farm (trout were prevalent in the Phillips Brook). Fish were raised here, and then sold to markets and restaurants. Both wild brook trout and brown trout still inhabit the brook.
Before this property’s milling era, there was a charcoal pit on site. The local shipbuilding industry in the late 1700s used charcoal in the process of smelting bog iron ore. Remnants of this pit are visible from the trail that leads from the parking area into the property.
Prior to European contact, the Mattakeeset band of the Massachuseuk (or Massachusett) Native American tribe lived for thousands of years in the North River watershed. Their village included most of today’s Pembroke and Hanson as well as parts of Duxbury. Meanwhile the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe inhabited the Jones River watershed, and the area now known as Kingston, Plymouth and Duxbury. This property lies within the upper portion of the South River watershed — right between those two territories. It’s possible that both tribes utilized the area.
2.8 miles of intersecting trails, marked with red, yellow, white, green, and blue blazes. (The blue loop measures 1.1 miles.) Occasional boardwalks and footbridges. Some sections of the trails are steep.
There are four access points on Union Bridge Road, plus two more on Franklin Street. There is also trail access from Cross Street and Summer Street (Route 53). A half-mile portion of the Bay Circuit Trail extends through the northeastern part of the property. Look for white markers and Bay Circuit Trail signs near the Summer Street and (lower) Union Bridge Road trailheads.
Habitats and Wildlife
This property is mostly a pine and oak upland forest, with a small portion of hemlock, yellow birch, and holly, and lots of fern, sweet pepper bush, and high bush blueberry. You may also see wild strawberry and raspberry. But be careful, as poison ivy is also present! Wetlands areas are primarily red maple swamp. Some of land here is within the watershed of Phillips Brook, a tributary to the South River. The terrain is far from flat, with lots of kettle holes — pits or depressions formed by melting chunks of glacial ice.
Mice, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums call this forest home. You may also spy a white-tailed deer. In the wetlands, look for turtles, salamanders, toads, and frogs. Birders might spot chickadees, sparrows, blue jays, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks, or even a great horned owl.
Wild brook trout and brown trout are drawn to cold water streams like Phillips Brook. They especially favor secluded spots where they can hide, such as deep pools, whirlpools, and the covered edges of stream banks.
The pond at Lansing Bennett Forest (near the Summer Street entrance) is named Phillips Mill Pond. It is not a natural pond, but instead was created by the construction of a mill dam. Phillips Brook flows through the pond, heading northeast, and then flows through Peterson’s Sawmill Pond a little farther downstream. It continues northeast into the Camp Wing Conservation Area, where it flows into the South River.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 344 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Limited parking along Union Bridge Road.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Boardwalks in some of the wetlands areas.
Dogs: Dogs are permitted, but must be under control at all times.
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: No
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Phillips Brook (South River watershed)