In November 2018, a team of UMass students were given an unusual assignment for a class: Go take a hike.
The five undergrads from professor Lena Fletcher’s “Environment & Society” course — Julie Ehrlich, John D’Alessandro, Zachary Peck, Matthew Tran, and Haley Vaitses — visited two conservation areas in Amherst and shared their experience with exploring these places for the first time. Their first visit was to Wentworth Farm Conservation Area. Their second visit was to Lawrence Swamp Conservation Area. Here are their stories, along with Julie’s photos. And, you can see even more of their story in their video, at the bottom of the page.
For people looking for a quiet morning walk, Wentworth Farm provides a wonderful, accessible place to get outdoors in the Valley. In November, I and a small group of friends rolled out of bed at 8 AM on a Saturday to join Jack Sweeney-Taylor, a member of Kestrel Land Trust, for a hike through the conservation area and around the outside of Owen’s pond. Each of us happened to drive or carpool that day, but worry not if you don’t have a car! The number 30 bus along the PVTA route stops at the Rolling Green Apartments, and from there it’s just a short walk on Old Farm Rd to the trailhead.
With beautiful fall weather and scenery, we came across a variety of other hikers, many of whom were walking their dogs. As we walked around, Jack filled us in on many of the things to keep an eye for in this area. You might see a variety of birds, or find people fishing in the pond or on the Fort River, and in the winter the pond freezes over and you can go ice skating! In addition, we spotted several small birdhouses and nests set up around the area, and watched a hawk fly overhead. As we came out the other end of the trail, after a quick jaunt over boards through some wetlands, there was another parking area and a small baseball diamond open for public use on Stanley Street.
To be quite honest, I dreaded waking up early on a Saturday morning to go on a hiking trail. I thought I would hate it. I thought that I would just walk through this trail quickly and go back home to my bed. I’ve never woken up this early to go on a walk before; usually I tend to walk or hike during the midday. However, after visiting Wentworth Farm, it changed my views. Walking along the trail during the early morning felt very refreshing despite the bitter coldness that bit my cheeks. Feeling the sun beginning to rise felt very nice on my skin and really brought out the fall colors on the remaining leaves of trees. It was a peaceful walk, visiting ponds and streams scattered throughout the trail. Hearing the sound of water rushing made me feel at peace. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many walkers along the trail, many with dogs. Towards the end of the walk, it was already late morning, but I felt like I had started my day off on the right foot. It was definitely a change up from waking up at the same time and feeling like I had already wasted half of my day. It caused me to be more productive and happy to be able to see other members in my community.
If you’re looking for a great outdoor experience that is just a bus ride away from the UMass campus, then Wentworth Farm is the destination you’ve been searching for. I live very close to Wentworth Farm and had never been there before, but after recently visiting this set of trails and land that Kestrel Land Trust helped conserve, I was amazed at how diverse the lay of the land is. There are trails to walk and jog on with pets, a small pond that offers the opportunity for water activities and skating in the winter, a river with banks and woods to explore, open fields to roam, and no shortage of spectacular views from the wildlife to the Mount Holyoke Range in the distance. The entire experience could most accurately be described as peaceful, being just far enough away from main roads for little more than wind and animals moving through the trees and the occasional walker with their dog passing by. It was great seeing so many people utilize the trails that Kestrel has helped conserve, and hopefully our story will draw more people to explore this site.
Want to experience an amazing and peaceful hiking trail? Look no further than Wentworth Farm. The trail is extremely easy to locate and is only a ten minute drive from the University of Massachusetts. When you arrive at the location, you will already sense the peaceful and calming vibes of the trail. It is very easy and accessible for walkers and runners to get around, and the trail is also considered dog friendly, so as you are walking around you will find many people walking their dogs.
While walking the trail, there are countless beautiful views to look at and enjoy — ponds, streams, open fields, and gorgeous trees — the trail has it all! It takes about an hour to walk through the trail, depending on if you want to walk all the loops. It is a very healthy and clean trail that I highly recommend to the common hiker who is looking for a beautiful walk.
Wentworth Farm is a great place for those looking for a nice, leisurely opportunity to go outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. As a person who loves photography, I really enjoyed this trail. I was able to photograph different types of nature shots — parts of the pond, streams, bridges, the field, and of course the beautiful fall leaves. While walking, I even ran into another photographer (along with his cute golden retriever) who had his 300mm canon lens and tripod and was trying to take pictures of the local birds. I could not recommend this trail more highly, especially for the summer and fall.