Walks to Visit Stone Walls
Crisscrossing woodlands throughout New England, stone walls stand quietly whispering stories to those who listen. These centuries-old historical markers indicate that land was previously cleared for agricultural use. Now overgrown and often hidden by thick undergrowth and tree roots, and covered with lichens, stone walls tell a story of geology, changing land uses, natural plant succession, and renewal.
Broadmoor, Natick – Mill Lane runs between two beautiful stone walls that once marked the passage for wagons carrying corn to be ground in the gristmill. A huge old shagbark hickory stands beside the wall, located near signpost #7 on Glacial Hill Trail.
Drumlin Farm, Lincoln – Start at the Nature Center for a close-up look at a newly constructed wall that frames a hilltop view, then follow Drumlin Loop trail to discover original farm walls now serving as wildlife habitat.
North of Boston
Ipswich River, Topsfield– Hike Bradstreet Lane Trail, alongside a stonewall that dates to the 1700s when livestock grazed the open landscape. Today, the walls provide habitat for the eastern chipmunk, white-footed mouse, and gray and red squirrels.
South of Boston
Allens Pond, Dartmouth– Varied stone walls define bygone and remaining fields and ancient roadways, and form an impressive bulwark of entry points along Horseneck Road. Some were single-stacked or "tossed" by farmers; others were cut-stone constructed. Most have been lovingly restored by a dedicated volunteer.
Oak Knoll, Attleboro – A hike along the trail to Lake Talaquega passes several stone walls. One favorite wall is located in woods where the understory dramatically changes from sun-dappled open, mixed forest to one filled with dense wetland plants and shrubs, with the wall bordering both habitats.
Cape Cod & the Islands
Felix Neck, Edgartown –Follow the Green Trail to newly uncovered Old Stone Amphitheater. Explore the granite stone foundation and wonder how and who built and used this structure.
Long Pasture, Barnstable – At Site 8 along the Lichen Trail, walk along a stone wall and discover both crusty lichens and several leafy species that prefer rocks. A good example is rocky greenshield lichen, which is leafy and yellow-green.
Wachusett Meadow, Princeton – Look for a six-foot-long cantilevered stone in an ancient wall that steeply ascends Brown Hill. The stone extends into the air from a small ledge top and once prevented sheep from falling.
Connecticut River Valley
Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Williamsburg – The stone wall viewed from the loop trail tells a tale of human toil and industriousness. The farmers are long gone, but moose, bear, and bobcat cross that trail now.