Managed by the Hilltown Land Trust, the Conwell Property is a scenic, forested landscape in rural South Worthington, Massachusetts.
Once owned by Russell Conwell, the 70-acre area has three miles of trails with historic and natural features that include Conwell Pond and Eagle Nest Ridge.
Join Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan as he treks through the woods of Hampshire County to learn more about the nature area.
In a digital exclusive interview, Hilltown Land Trust Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Welch talks about the calming effect spending time in nature can have on kids and adults.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Managed by the Hilltown Land Trust, the Conwell property is a scenic, forested landscape in rural South Worthington, Massachusetts.
Once owned by Russell Conwell, the 70-acre area has three miles of trails, with features including Conwell Pond and Eagle Nest Ridge, and Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan brings us the story.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Route 112 may be one of the lesser traveled rural highways here in Massachusetts, but the natural beauty and New England charm found in this 54-mile stretch of road that cuts through parts of Hampshire and Franklin counties, can surely hold a candle to some of the more well-known travelways in the area.
Drivers passing through can soak in the sounds of the west branch of the Westfield River, or get an eyeful of the engineering marvel known as the Knightsville Dam in Huntington.
But today, we’re heading to the town of Worthington. Or, more accurately, South Worthington.
The destination? The 70-acre Conwell property, which has about three miles of out and back trails. It’s a parcel that the Hilltown Land Trust has had since 2017 but weren’t able to open it to the public due to a lack of parking. That all changed after this bridge over the Little River was renovated in 2021.
Sally Loomis, Hilltown Land Trust: When we received the donation of land, the property had a lovely network of trails, but there was no place to enter the property from a public road where people could safely park their cars. So, we explored a variety of options for parking before opening the land to the public.
And, eventually, through a partnership with MassWildlife, the State Department of Fish and Game, created a parking area on MassWildlife’s land just to the south, where people can walk over a bridge along 112 that goes over the Little River, and then enter the network of public trails on this property.
Brian Sullivan: Proximity to the modern world quickly becomes a distant memory, as hikers trek across the hilly landscape. Aside from this little stream, which requires a hop to get across, the trails are pretty dry and can be taken on in a pair of sneakers. Winter months with the snow on the ground may require more substantial footwear, but the property wasn’t officially open to the public until early spring of this year — which in New England is a great time to watch and listen to the sounds of winter melting away.
It was also a relief for the Hilltown Land Trust, who’d been holding on to this property for nearly five years.
Sally Loomis: Opening up this property has been very gratifying. It’s a great piece of land for people to enjoy, to experience nature without having to go through a lot of effort.
In addition to that, it’s a great parcel of land, in terms of wildlife habitat. It connects some really large parcels of protected land and creates these north-south corridors, which are really important for wildlife.
Brian Sullivan: Luckily, in my travels, I never come across any of that wildlife, which could include anything from bears to moose and possibly bobcats. Although, I would have loved to see the woodpecker that created these holes and left this enormous pile of wood shavings.
But more than just the simple enjoyment of taking in the sights and sounds of nature, there are healthy, psychological and physical components to heading out to trails like these, as well. If it seems like there’s some kind of primal urge that brings us back to nature, it’s because there probably is.
Studies have shown that being in the forest helps to boost the immune system and lower blood pressure. It increases focus and energy, and it improves sleep. I’ll take that.
As easy as it is to feel comfortable walking along these trails, it’s just as easy to get lost in any woods here in New England. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for the abundance of markings on the trees to make sure the travelers stay on the right path.
It’s also important to remember that these markings and these trails didn’t just appear here by magic. They were put here by other nature lovers who, in all probability, didn’t get paid for their efforts.
Sarah Welch, Hilltown Land Trust & Terra Corps: It’s people who donate their time to us because they care about places like Conwell. They have joined us on workdays to come out and clear some of these trails and do some blazing.
And they’ve been a big part of helping people become aware about this place and getting people to come out here. But the reason we’re able to join each other today in Conwell is because of our volunteers.