Monday, December 22, 2014

Stony Brook Preserve

By Beth Sullivan
Tucked off the south side of Sommers lane, between Wheeler Road and Taugwonk Road, is a nine-acre parcel of land owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy. Look for the small green and white Avalonia signs posted on trees along the stone wall frontage. Named for the stream that begins to emerge and come together here, Stony Brook is a pretty and varied piece of land. There are no formal trails but in most areas the woods are open enough to make a way through and deer have made paths as well.

In places Stony Brook runs fast and clear, in others it spreads out over the forest floor

Deer use the preserve and have created small trails to follow.

An old cemetery to explore

The East and West sides rise up quite steeply in places while the brook runs along a sandy bed in the deep center. If you enter from the western side, there is a break in the wall, an old barway which actually leads to an old cemetery that is on one the edge of the preserve. Members of the Beebe and Davis family are buried here, and the lovely old stones are very readable. Before reaching the cemetery, the rough path passes through an old Pine grove that took a devastating hit during the double punch of Hurricane Sandy and the following winter blizzard; Tree tops are cracked and broken. There are no plans to try and clear the grove as we will let nature take her course, and the trees and downed trunks provide food, forage, and shelter for numerous species of wildlife from insects to birds and small mammals.
The old headstones are still readable.

Pine trees in the grove suffered after the storms.

The southern portion of the preserve is comprised of a wonderful red maple wooded swamp. The brook stays in its bed as it flows under the stone bridge opening in the wall, but before it does, it spreads out into hummocks of moss and holes of water. Not easy walking and best done with boots. Or, to preserve the area, avoid it all together! Typical wet woodland plants, ferns, violets, and several mosses can be found here. Even in December, the tight spikes of skunk cabbage break the ground well ahead of next spring. There they will remain, covered with snow and ice until March when they will flower. In spring these vernal pools will host amphibians that require early shallow water sources for egg laying.
Moss hummocks and wet holes hide Skunk Cabbage spikes.

An old snag is great for wildlife.

Rough ledges show Earth's force

The east side is very interesting as the land rises suddenly with a craggy upheaval of rocks. If you have walked the low center along the stream, you will find yourself at the base of a rough ledge, hung with ferns, and on a cold day, icicles. The slabs of rock are thrust up in a way that makes one wonder at the geological forces within Earth that pushed them up.
Craggy ledges have become covered with ferns and saplings.

A small parcel of land, that is at the head of the Stony Brook that runs from here all the way south, through Fennerswood and Paffard Woods Preserves and all the way out to the Quanaduck Cove, it makes for an interesting ramble . Enjoy it.

 Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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