The Pathway at Donovan Farm
I mentioned Norwell’s relatively new Pathway in an earlier article this year as something I was planning to investigate for a more detailed report. Investigation complete, I’m back with great news about all sorts of options for outdoor adventure and fun!
“The Pathway” in Norwell is a project that has been unfolding over the past few years. A network of paved cycling/walking trails, sidewalks and boardwalks, The Pathway provides an alternative to crossing town via Route 123. If you park near the Norwell Middle School (328 Main Street), you can travel more than a mile in either direction – west to the high school or east to the Norris Reservation. What’s more, there are a number of conservation properties along the route, offering various diversions.
Last month I had an opportunity to jog the entire length of the Pathway. If you leave your car in the lot at Gaffield Park, the playground at the corner of Forest and River Streets, you’ll be perfectly positioned for a round-trip Pathway journey. The Pathway is essentially a sidewalk along Forest Street, but it’s a nice new sidewalk!
A short distance past the playground, more or less across the street from 83 Forest Street, is Miller Woods, a 45-acre conservation area managed by the Town of Norwell. There is a small (4-car) parking area, and a network of walking trails through pine forest and red maple swamp. You could take a short walk around the first loop trail, or a longer one, going deeper into the property. All told, the average visitor could walk all of the trails in Miller Woods in about an hour.
The Pathway crosses Forest Street twice – before Miller Woods and a short distance after it. As you approach the intersection with Circuit and Pleasant Streets, you arrive at another town-managed open space parcel, the Donovan-Wildcat Conservation Area. If you travel the back roads of Norwell at all, you’re probably familiar with the Donovan property: acre upon acre of green fields, along with an historic farmhouse. The farm’s fields are leased for agricultural purposes, but there is a short trail around two sides of the perimeter – plenty of space to amble along and enjoy the view.
Just up Circuit Street, toward the Council on Aging, you’ll find an 8-car parking area on the left. This is a great starting point if you’d like to explore the larger, more diverse conservation lands around 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 is one of several trailheads for the Wildcat Conservation Area. 
A bench in Wildcat Conservation Area.
For Wildcat, which offers a number of intersecting loops trails, I recommend you download a brochure and map from the Town of Norwell’s website (see link below). You’ll pass along the back side of the Donovan farm, and then into the woods. Route-wise, there are numerous options, and most of them are marked with blue or white blazes. There are even a few wooden signs with arrows.
On the day of my visit, the property was a sea of green, with the trees in near-full leaf-out and ferns sprouting up everywhere. The woodlands are diverse – some pine, some maple, some beech – and 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. There’s evidence that they can be muddy at times as well.
One of many old stone walls in Wildcat Conservation Area.
Getting back to The Pathway, the intersection of Forest and Circuit Streets is where it becomes a true cycling and walking trail. Wider than the sidewalk, with marked lanes, The Pathway continues to the Middle School complex. Along the way, it skirts the edge of the Donovan fields, and then snakes through woods and wetlands, and even over streams (thanks to some beautifully-built boardwalks). 
One of the aforementioned boardwalks.
Eventually The Pathway emerges at the far edge of some of the town’s soccer and lacrosse fields, continues past the Transfer Station, and dips back into the woods for its final leg. Additional boardwalks and paved sections lead to Cushing Hill Road, a residential street that intersects with South Street. Across the road and down a short distance is Norwell’s high school/library complex.
If you have young cyclists in your family – children who are learning to ride a bike, who would enjoy the adventure of leaving the neighborhood – I recommend the middle section of The Pathway as an intermediate step before attempting larger parks like Wompatuck. Park at the Middle School.
And if you enjoy jogging (walking too!), I’m pleased to report that The Pathway is a great place to run. Starting at Gaffield Park, you’ll pretty much be going uphill the entire way, but that means on the way home, you’ll be heading downhill. It’s a pretty path, safe underfoot, and an excellent way to explore the town of Norwell.
Norwell’s Conservation Commission’s website is an excellent resource for all of the town’s open space properties. Now that I’ve found it, I’ll be exploring more of them in the months ahead. Follow this link for more information, and to download property guides and maps.
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
June 2016
Kezia Bacon’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 or visit To browse 20 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit