By Beth Sullivan
Part of my goal for this year was to visit all the trailed preserves that Avalonia owns, to know them and to try and better describe them. By necessity it meant branching out into towns other than my home town of Stonington and enlisting those who may know the secrets each preserve may hold.
|The east track offers off-street parking and a Rhododendron grove|
This past week I had the pleasure of walking the Avery Preserve with Karen Askins, the new Chairperson for the Ledyard town committee of Avalonia. As a Ledyard resident she has walked the trails often and could offer insight as well as direction to our walk.
|An Ebony Jewelwing found along a stream.|
This preserve is actually two tracts. On the East side is a wetter, less familiar parcel that is home to a gorgeous and somewhat rare population of Native Rhododendrons. Blooming in July, later than our cultivated showy ones, they can be overlooked because walking in swamps during the hot, humid, and buggy July weather can be a deterrent. Honestly it is worth the trip. As evergreens they form a dense jungle of dark foliage, but their white blossoms in clusters often tinged with pink make a lovely show.
|The white blossoms of our native Rhododendron are late bloomers.|
The west side is very different, mostly upland woods but containing some stream crossings and vernal pools. Probably the most intriguing aspect of this preserve is located immediately off a side trail near the entrance-the sheep wash. This is a rock walled impoundment beside the brook, where the sheep were corralled and controlled and led through the water to be washed, most likely prior to shearing. I do not know the exact process, so if anyone reading this has an explanation, please send it to Avalonia so we may include it in the history!
|The Sheep wash- bit of history still standing.|
The rest of the property contains numerous stone walls and some old “nooner trees”. These are trees deliberately left along walls and in corners as a place for farmers or shepherds in the former fields to find respite from the noon day sun.
There are also stands of beautiful Beech trees, many large and stately with smooth gray bark, even those bearing bits of history with names and initials carved into the bark long ago.
|The old Beech trees carry a bit of history too.|
The day we walked was shortly after a rain, the woodland floor was dotted with numerous colorful an diverse mushrooms. The stream was quite low, and vernal pools were nearly dry, but we encountered newly emerged wood frogs that spent the spring in the pools and are now roaming the moist woods searching for insects.
|Mushrooms were abundant on a recent humid day.|
Eagle Scout project keeps feet dry
We also crossed the rocky stream bed on one of the two beautiful new bridges created by a local Eagle Scout, Travis Joyce, and sponsored by local businesses including Christo’s Pizza, Lenihan Lumber, Brandon Graber, and Millstone. The names etched are into the wood.
|One of two new bridges making wet crossings much easier.|
Below is a note from Karen:
Avery Preserve in Ledyard now has two new bridges thanks to the work of Travis Joyce, who carried out the project as a requirement for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. The bridges span two small streams previously crossed by stepping stones but impassable during very wet periods without getting wet. The bridges mean that at all times of the year now the Orange Trail forms a complete loop. Speaking as someone who has, on occasion, had to find some creative ways of crossing or being faced with retracing my steps, this is a huge improvement. Thank you Travis!
Take some time to visit the preserves, they are well mapped and a pleasure to travel.
Photographs by Beth Sullivan.