|Great Esker Park in North Weymouth.|
Winter puts me in hibernation mode, and as much as I love it, there’s only so much time I can spend curled up on the couch with a book. As the days become noticeably longer and brighter, I’ve resolved to get outside more, particularly on Sunday afternoons, when my hours of free time seem most fleeting. The day may pass more quickly when I spend an hour or two outdoors, but it never fails that I feel more alive on account of my excursions.
These days I’ve set my sights on broader horizons, leaving the familiar sanctuaries of my hometown and the communities that surround it, and branching out further on the South Shore. I’ve been delighting lately in how much Weymouth has to offer in terms of open space.
Weymouth is a large town, but I tend not to think of it as coastal. Mostly what I see of it are the commercial routes — the highway, Routes 53 and 18. But in the northern part of town, the area spanned by Route 3A, is a tapering finger of land extending out into Boston Harbor and delineated by two tidal rivers, the Back and Fore. This peninsula contains several open space areas, all with spectacular views.
Last spring my husband, whose years as a newspaper photographer have made him an expert on the South Shore’s little-known parks and nature preserves, introduced me to Weymouth’s Great Esker Park, a narrow strip of high land bordering the Back River to the west. We walked our bikes up a tall hill, and then set off down a winding and often steep (but paved) wooded road that extended along the edge of the salt marsh. Eventually the path led us out onto the marsh, where we left our bikes behind to walk among sand and pebbles. There was so much to see and explore . . . I knew it was a place that had a lot to offer, but the offerings would have to unfold over time. I’m looking forward to going back sometime soon.
More recently, we visited Webb Memorial State Park, all the way out on the tip of the peninsula, due north of the Hingham Shipyard and the commuter boat docks. Because of strong winds and a considerable chill in the air, we chose the slightly more protected inland paths; but had we chosen to, we could have spent our entire walk tracing the river bank and the edge of the sea.
The view from Webb Park is panoramic — Quincy’s Germantown and Hough’s Neck to the northwest, Boston’s skyline and Harbor Islands, Weymouth’s Grape Island to the north, and to the east, much of Hull, plus World’s End Sanctuary in Hingham. At that’s just at first glance! Taking a longer look, you can make out the brick buildings of Thompson Island, the oddly shaped structures of Deer Island, the Quincy Shipyard’s giant crane.
Like many of the South Shore’s coastal conservation areas, Webb Park has a military history. A large stone memorial commemorates the Grape Island Alarm of 1775, where “Weymouth militiamen repulsed an attempt by the British to secure supplies from Grape Island from General Howe’s beleaguered Army in Boston.” The park was used again by our armed forces as recently as World War II and the tense days of the Cold War. As my companions and I stood gaping at a seemingly inexplicable exhaust fan emerging from an otherwise ordinary hill, a fellow walker explained to us that there was a bunker underneath, and that the site was once a station for Nike missiles.
Getting There: For Webb Memorial State Park in Weymouth, take Route 3A northbound, and turn right onto Neck Street (across from Dunkin Donuts). Neck Street eventually becomes River Street. The park is located at the very end of the road. For Great Esker Park, again from 3A northbound, turn left (at Dunkin Donuts) onto Green Street, and then left again onto Julia Road. The park is accessible from the Julia Road playground.
by Kezia Bacon Bernstein, Correspondent
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.