Town commons are, well, common throughout New England, but this doesn’t mean they have remained static throughout their history. Many town commons have been altered, “improved” and in Bellingham’s case, built on and almost forgotten. But today, Bellingham has a vibrant town common that is well-situated, beloved, and much visited. Community events take place there often, and visitors, both adults and children, spend time there daily throughout the year.
I dropped by recently and grabbed some heart-stopping photos of the blazing foliage in display.
When I returned a few days later to tape my latest episode of the Cable TV show, “Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are,” that stunning foliage lay in tatters on the ground. The resulting video is available for viewing at ABMI Cable 8TV or live-streaming 8PM Mon: 7PM Tue: 1PM Wed: 2 & 730PM Thur: 9pm, or on youtube at this link: https://youtu.be/eHkrUlIAb0A
Autumn is fleeting–weather reports promise snow in the near future. But on this day, children played in the playground, adults got their exercise, and we strolled from monument to monument reflecting on Bellingham’s past, and enjoying its present.
As I wandered the paved paths of the common, bright movement caught my eye at the edge of the woods at the back side of the common.
A pair of bluebirds had found something of interest and managed to stay in range for me to grab a few photos.
A chickadee joined them in the hunt for food. I had never noticed the ravine right at the edge of the common, away from the bustle of traffic flowing by on routes 140 and 126 that box the greenspace in on two sides. Clearly, the birds had noticed, and found it was good!
What fun to stroll from one historical marker to the next with my ABMI Cable 8 buddy Tyler trailing along, capturing scenes of the town common. We talked about the townspeople who could envision a common on the site of an abandoned grocery store, with most of the area covered with pavement. It took a lot of imagination to see what could be. And thankfully, we are all the beneficiaries of that imagination.
We stopped at both the Civil War monument, commemorating those who served during the American Civil War. At the end of our taping we spent a few quiet moments at the site of the other war memorial, remembering those who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm, with other, less well known conflicts added to that portion of the monument.
I love that benches have been places at intervals along the walkways, inviting visitors to stop and stay awhile. Mothers perched on benches near the playground keeping an eye on their little ones. Children ran to gather leaves and examine them more closely.
The gazebo stood quietly, waiting for its next visitors. Brides posing for wedding photos? Musicians setting up for a concert? Friends meeting underneath the roof of the gazebo as they keep out of the rain? You never know. So many towns have commons, or in other states, more generally called “Greens.” What a special place for all of us to share, to care for, and to enjoy. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.
2 responses to “Walking through history at the Bellingham town common”
This is a delightful and stunning post, Majorie. Bellingham’s town common as it is now looks amazing. There are many places over here where I have been the local government CEO and it’s the same re the town commons being ignored. It hasn’t helped that most of them are located in out of the way places.
Thanks so much for both reading and commenting, Sean. As I noted in the article, it’s taken a number of town’s people with imagination and determination to make a difference. Accessibility is huge–we also have another much small green space in the south end of town that is cut off from all foot traffic by roads is sits unused. It takes effort and planning to make these green spaces usable. Many of those who first conceived of this newest town common in Bellingham are gone–We are in their debt.