(Courtesy of Bellingham Bulletin) The High Street sports fields in Bellingham are used for ball games by many groups in town, but a broad walking trail at the edge of the woods behind the ball fields offers recreation of a different sort. The trail leads toward a substantial floodplain of the Charles River. The river itself crosses under High Street, quite near North Maple Street. There were mosquitoes aplenty on the trail the day we walked there (typical of floodplain environments), but with cooler weather this will be a nice trail to explore.
There is ample parking for sporting events at the High Street fields; thus, convenient parking for the trail is also available. Portable toilets are available in the parking lot. There are no signs prohibiting dogs, but we encourage You, as always, to clean up after your four-legged family members. The fields can be reached by heading north on North Main Street (Rt. 126) from the center of town, then turning right onto High Street just a half mile or so north of Bellingham Center. The fields are on the right, about 1/2 mile on High Street.
There are three ball fields at the recreation area, one close to the snack bar, on the right, and two back toward the woods. To get to the trail head, walk toward the ball field on the right near the woods and look for the tall black bat box, which was built by the Boy Scouts. The trail is nestled into that far right corner. As of press time, a sign marking the trail entrance had not yet been placed, but it should be installed soon.
Shortly after you enter the woods you’ll encounter a small stream along the trail. There is a battered but serviceable footbridge across the stream. Once over the small waterway, which is clearly headed for the Charles River floodplain, continue along the path. Relatively level, the path has few rocks or tree roots. There are no trail markings, but the trail itself is obvious, and it is wide and walkable.
The closer you get to the flood plain, the wetter and more challenging the trail becomes. This time of year—and through the winter as well—the trail should be fine. The mostly pine woods is a quiet respite from the rush and hurry of other sporting events.
There has been a lot of discussion about restoring the Charles River and about the costs to keep it clean. Natural floodplains are an important part of maintaining a healthy river system. The land behind the High Street fields is a valuable part of this flood-control system and is essential to ensuring the maintenance of a healthy river. Often called “The Hidden Charles” hereabouts, this trail will heighten your awareness of a waterway that is important to all of us, whether we see it all the time or not.
written by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Bulletin Contributing Writer
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! New England Regional Chair for the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com