Outside the Home Range: Exploring Ward Reservation in Andover

On the trail to Holt Hill, March 2021

When and if you ever find yourself tired of the exceptional trails in Weston, swoop over to the Charles W. Ward Reservation in Andover (about 30 minutes from northern Weston), which is what the Owl did last Friday. For the tiny parking fee of $5 (free to Trustees members), you will find yourself in a delightful fairyland of wooded hikes, sloping field vistas, an orchard, solstice stones and a bog. It will be hard to beat this place when summer warmth and the urge to picnic hits.

Solstice Stones

A trail map at the parking lot is a little worse for wear so download a map before you go. The trails are mostly well-marked (one sign was broken and on the ground when we visited), and the red, yellow and blue loop trails were much-appreciated. Choose your own distances and trails but don’t miss the orchard (Rachel’s trail) on your way up Holt Hill to the Solstice Stones. A tree-lined trail leads you past one residence and to incredible vistas of rolling hills and then up to the highest point in Essex County. From the top of Holt Hill, you can see Boston, if you care to, or listen to history by pointing your device at the QR code sign. Kids will love the solstice stones, and you will love the spring sunshine at the top.

Map available here.

If you choose to go onwards towards Elephant Rock, follow the Blue trail. Or head downhill back towards the bog walk which was ice-covered during our visit but looks like something we’ll have to pursue on our return. From the Trustees website: ” a boardwalk trail traverses a quaking bog comprising of concentric rings of floating vegetation, each with unique growing conditions. The bog is home to a number of interesting plant species, including orchids and insect-eating pitcher plants. Stop at the numbered stations along the way, each of which signals an interesting botanical or geologic feature.”

Pick up picnic food at D’Agostino’s, just five minutes down the road. Get the Italian sub if you’re feeling hungry (oil and vinegar, if you please) or the cranberry walnut chicken salad sandwich if you’re feeling fancy. Menu is here. There is no shortage of great places to eat in Andover–either eat-in or take-out. Support your local businesses.

If you’re interested in experiencing the spring equinox at Ward, along with a bunch of other people, sign up soon for the spring equinox hike. Participants will learn why the seasons occur and why day length changes from season to season. Celebrate the coming of spring at Ward Reservation with poetry, some thoughts on why day length changes and take a walk up Holt Hill to enjoy the beauty of nature, looking for signs of spring and visiting the Solstice Stones at the top of the hill. There will also include be some plant ID opportunities and interesting natural history.

If you’d rather experience the reservation on your own, or with fewer people, make sure you head out early. The parking lot does fill up, and once it’s full, it’s full. There is no neighborhood parking and many signs telling you to check it out another day.

As of this writing, dogs are allowed at Ward Reservation but must be on-leash at all times. Masks are also required. For more information and directions, check here.

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