NATURE
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

For the month of August, NSRWA features the town of Hanover in its 50 Places to Explore Contest. When I began researching Hanover’s conservation lands last year, I knew only a few of the properties on this list. The discovery process has been a delight!

Many of us know only of Hanover’s commercial areas – the mall, and the very busy stretches of Routes 53 and 139. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, there’s a fascinating system of waterways — the Drinkwater, Indian Head and North Rivers, as well as their numerous tributaries. Who knew Hanover had so many brooks and streams? So many forests and swamps?

In general, Hanover’s trails are well-marked and well-tended. My favorite “old friend” is the former railroad bed that runs along the Indian Head River. As for new discoveries, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the trails at Melzar Hatch, Colby-Phillips, Forge Pond Park, and Chapman’s Landing. The list below — pretty much all town-owned conservation lands — provides you with plenty of destinations to add to your To Do list.

Colby-Phillips Trails

The 147-acre Colby-Phillips property offers an impressive start, with a boardwalk that leads across a forested wetland and into the woods. From there, you have access to three miles of looping trails. Other features include a wildlife observation platform, a bridge over Cushing Brook, and the historic West Hanover Cemetery. Park at the Hanover Middle School and cross Whiting Street to find the main trailhead. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/colby-phillips-trails/

Melzar Hatch Preserve

Right behind Hanover Middle School is the trailhead for the 47-acre Melzar Hatch Preserve. Half of this loop trail is set in the woods, with numerous footbridges crossing Longwater Brook and the Drinkwater River. The other half traces the grassy perimeter of school properties and athletic fields. Park at Hanover Middle School, 45 Whiting Street. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/melzar-hatch-preserve/

Forge Pond Park

I was surprised and very pleased to discover that – beyond the grassy fields of this 40-acre athletic complex — there are not one, not three, but five different trails to explore! My favorite is the French’s Stream Trail, where a wooden bridge offers a clear view of the confluence of French’s Stream and the Drinkwater River. Other walking paths include the Forge Pond Trail, along the edge of the pond, a woodland trail through Rockland’s Summer Street Conservation Area, the Old Rockland Fireworks Trail, through a former industrial area, and the Clark Bog Trail, which traverses the woods and wetlands of a retired cranberry bog. You’ll find ample parking at 245 King Street. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/forge-pond-park/ For more information, check out my much more detailed article from last year: (https://www.nsrwa.org/the-hidden-gems-of-hanovers-forge-pond-park/)

Pine Island Trails

While the three previous properties are likely to attract a devoted following, some of Hanover’s other properties aren’t quite as captivating at first glance. This spot, set between a residential area and a power easement, is a great place to visit when you’re seeking a quick walk in the woods and some solitude. The 1-mile trail network extends through meadows and forest, and is bordered by Pine Island Swamp. Limited roadside parking at two different Old Farm Road trailheads. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/pine-island-trails/

Plain Street Trails

As above, the 2 miles of trails at this Plain Street property may not be the most engaging, but they offer a peaceful setting and an opportunity to look closer at the natural world. Bordered by a power easement as well as several residential roads, these woods and wetlands are great spots for wildlife observation. Pedestrian access with roadside parking on Old Farm Road, Fair Acres Drive, Aspen Drive, Tucker Road, and Colonial Drive. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/plain-street-trails/

Denham Pond

Another smaller property, this spot isn’t the easiest to find. Blink and you will miss the access road at 106 Circuit Street. Park in the grassy area between the pond and the road. A 1.2-mile loop trail extends all the way around the pond, through woods and wetlands. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/denham-pond-park/

Nava-Stasiluk Conservation Area

Off Center Street, you’ll find a cluster of three interconnecting trail systems — Nava-Stasiluk, Hanover Senior Center, and Tindale Bog. Park in the small lot at 526 Center Street, and continue through the woods. Various trails lead to Torrey Brook, the Hanover Senior Center, Myrtle Field, and a section of the former Hanover Branch Railroad. Across Center Street, continue on the railroad bed to Tindale Bog, where there is another small woodland trail network. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/nava-stasiluk-conservation-area/

Folly Hill and Bog Iron Trails

These 38 acres of conservation land, with 3.6 miles of trails and the occasional footbridge, are tucked in between residential, commercial, and Water Protection properties. Formerly cranberry bogs, they are now a quiet expanse of woods and wetlands. Iron Mine Brook flows through, on its way to the Indian Head River. Access and roadside parking via Willow Road, Beechtree Road, Broadway, and the Hanover Police Station. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/folly-hill-and-bog-iron-trails/

Phillips Sanctuary and Firehouse Loop

This beautiful 55-acre woodland offers a glimpse of Hanover’s earlier days, when there were fewer houses and many more trees. A 1.6-mile network of loop and spur trails provides a pleasant walk through the forest, with numerous opportunities for wildlife observation. Access and parking at Alden Road and at the Fire Station Museum on Broadway. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/phillips-sanctuary-and-firehouse-loop/

Shingle Mill Brook Trail

If you’re in the mood for exploring a new spot, check out this trail. It leads to a gorgeous grove of beech trees set on a drumlin hill, and then into the mixed woods and wetlands surrounding Shingle Mill Brook. Not all of the trails are well-marked, so be mindful. This is a relatively small conservation property — about 10 acres. Look for the trailhead on Virginia Drive. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/shingle-mill-brook-trail/

Hingham Street Reservoir

The Hingham Street Reservoir wins the prize for the most confusingly-named property around. Also known as the Abington-Rockland Reservoir, because it provides water to those towns, it is located on Hingham Street in Rockland. However, you can access it much more easily from Deerfield Lane in Hanover. Look for the trailhead at the sharp curve in the road, about halfway down. Follow the trail through the woods and you’ll find yourself on a 1.5-mile loop trail that runs the perimeter of this picturesque public water supply. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/hingham-street-reservoir/

Chapman’s Landing and Iron Mine Brook

The end of Indian Head Drive in Hanover was already a great spot, because it’s the location of the Hanover Public Launch, an excellent river access point for canoes and kayaks. But wait — there’s more! On the other side of the cul-de-sac, you’ll find trailheads for the Chapman’s Landing and Iron Mine Brook Trails. A combination of state and local agencies owns these 50 acres of conservation land. Along the 2 miles of intersecting trails, you’ll find several gorgeous views of the Indian Head River, two crossings of Iron Mine Brook, and a large and very curious pile of stones with historic origins. Ample parking at the end of Indian Head Drive. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/chapmans-landing-and-iron-mine-brook-trails/

Indian Head River Trails/Luddam’s Ford Park

One of my all-time favorites, this spot is rich with history and also quite pretty! The park is relatively small (22 acres), but the trail, which extends for two miles upriver to the Hanson town line, follows the route of the former Hanover Branch railroad. In some spots, the views are like nothing else you’ve seen on the South Shore. It’s well worth your time to visit! Limited on-site parking at 243 Elm Street. https://www.nsrwa.org/listing/indian-head-river-trails/

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. You will also find 20+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the 50 Places to Explore Contest, visit https://www.nsrwa.org/get-outdoors/enter-the-nsrwa-50-places-to-explore-contest/