Walpole has an extensive town forest system, one section quite well known and well traveled since it abuts the town high school on Common Street.
But another section of the forest (the East Section) is on the east side of Washington Street, with parking on South Street.
We found parking and a trail map at the kiosk directly opposite a house at 673 South Street, but I would caution travelers to download a map prior to walking this area if it is a new destination. The kiosk map is not up to date, and offered no information about where the boardwalk was. I had visited before when the boardwalk was under construction, and wanted to get some photos of the completed boardwalk and thought I remembered how to get there. Turns out I did not remember so well, so we got a tour of the forest before we came upon the boardwalk. Success, finally!
Small patches of ice remain in heavily wooded sections of the trail, but the trails are, for the most part, clear, wide, and marked. This is the kind of place where you can enjoy walking and talking with companions since the trail is so clear and wide.
We encountered very few other visitors. Unfortunately, this very lack of visitors means those with dogs think it’s ok to allow dogs to run loose. It probably is most of the time (although stated rules for the trail says leashes are required). I use hiking poles to keep me upright on the trail, and we encountered two very friendly, very jumpy dogs on the trail who persisted in jumping till their owner caught up with the dogs. Thankfully my hiking buddy stood firm next to me helping me stay upright and uninjured.
This kind of encounter does not discourage me from getting out, but certainly leaves me feeling cautious about how I handle myself, and vigilant in educating my companions about what I need from them in these unfortunate situations.
And indeed, we persisted, and found once again the beautiful boardwalk that takes walkers over the Neponset flood plain that flows through this area. Kudos to the Recreational Trails Grant (RTP) program, administered by DCR (Division of Conservation and Recreation)
and the volunteers of the Walpole Trails Committee, who pitched in to build this boardwalk.
Just beyond the boardwalk is a series of palettes and ramps to help walkers get over seasonally wet areas just beyond the boardwalk, on their way over to Jarvis Farm, another Walpole open space property. I chose to turn around at the boardwalk, rather than risk tottering over the ramps.
Along the way we spotted lots of holes in trees, presumably created by woodpeckers pecking out holes for nest holes. We heard lots of birds, but spotted only a few on our walk.
Noah also spotted a frozen animal track in the snow.
If you go, and want to head directly to the boardwalk, be sure to take the immediate left fork in the trail, not the right fork. Either way is interesting, but if you head off to the right, you will travel a lot farther before finding the DEP signs that indicate the boardwalk on the left. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.