Thanks to The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), Cohasset and Hingham boast some of the largest and most interesting open space areas on the South Shore. World’s End is spectacular – I’ve written about it here before. Weir River Farm, another gem, has also been featured in this column. But until now, I’ve never quite gotten around to exploring another large and notable parcel, Whitney and Thayer Woods, which straddles the Cohasset-Hingham line.
Comprising 824 acres, Whitney and Thayer Woods offers ten miles of walking trails. That’s a lot! Many of these trails are old carriage roads – wide, clear, and well-trod. It’s a little overwhelming to have so many choices when planning one’s route, which is part of the reason it took me so long to begin my explorations. In fact, when I finally did go there, I asked a friend, who knew the property well, to show me around.
Whitney and Thayer Woods is accessible from three places. The southern entrance is on Route 3A in Cohasset, across from the Stop & Shop plaza. The good-sized (20 cars) parking lot connects with two trails, which in turn branch out into three more. From there, there are a number of small and large circuit trails, providing plenty of variety, and possibly some confusion. Be sure to take a map from the kiosk at the entrance. All intersections are numbered and marked for ease of navigation.
Some highlights from the south entrance include: the very large Bigelow Boulder, left behind by a glacier, now a striking sight in the middle of the woods. Also Ode’s Den, a large grouping of rocks named after a man who lived among them after he lost his home in 1830. The American Holly Grove, although quite a walk, is worth exploring too, as is the Milliken Memorial Path, which is lined with shrubs such as rhododendron and azalea – truly a sight to behold if you catch it while the flowers are in bloom.
The second entrance to the property is also on Route 3A, but in Hingham this time, at the foot of Turkey Hill. From the 8-car parking lot, one trail leads up the hill, and another heads down toward the middle of the property, where there is access to several additional trails.
The third entrance is at the very end of Hingham’s Turkey Hill Lane, just past Weir River Farm, and atop Turkey Hill. The lot will hold only 5 cars, but additional parking can be found if you backtrack downhill to Weir River. The hill itself is managed by The Trustees of Reservations, as well as both towns. It is comprised of 62 acres, primarily meadow, an ideal environment for grassland birds. At 187-foot elevation, it offers quite a view. One curiosity on the hilltop is a cinderblock building with a rich history – it was once part of a Cold War-era anti-missile radar control station.
As you head over the hill and down into the woods, again, you will find access to a number of walking trails. These forests used to be farmland, so the hardwoods growing there now are relatively recent. It’s not uncommon to see vestiges of old stone walls amidst the trees. Many, but not all of the trails within Whitney and Thayer Woods permit mountain biking and horseback riding.
In more recent history, after the decline of agriculture in this area but before the arrival of the subdivision, much of the Whitney and Thayer Woods was dedicated to equestrian pursuits. Henry Whitney purchased some of the former-farms and created the bridle paths and carriage roads that are still in existence today. It’s easy to imagine a horse-drawn buggy making its way along some of the wider trails. The Whitney Woods Association, a horseback-riding group, eventually took ownership of 600 acres. In 1933 this was donated to TTOR, as was – a decade later — additional acreage to the west, owned by the Thayer family. Land acquisition from various sources continued as late as 1999.
Whitney and Thayer Woods, as well as Turkey Hill and Weir River Farm, all are open daily, from sunrise to sunset. Parking and admission to walking trails is free to everyone. Learn more at www.thetrustees.org.
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
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 www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com