Avoiding crowds in Westport and Dartmouth,MA

Phragmites in the marshland next to Ocean View Farm reservation, Dartmouth

We headed down near the shore to avoid ice on trails, and also because we knew of several places we wanted to check out that we had missed the last time we were in the area. Turns out there are even more open space trails to explore than we realized, which kept us busy exploring for several hours on a weekend morning. Our first stop was at a very small spot that offered views of the Westport River, the Mill Pond Conservation Area part of the Westport Land Conservation Trust and the Trustees of Reservation. The nicely laid out trail brings visitors through a young orchard quite near the street, offering the feel of walking through a local garden.

Alongside the Noquachoke River in Westport, at the Mill Pond Conservation area

The trail soon begins climbing, almost straight up an esker that overlooks the Noquachoke River. While the parking area is small, we noticed several visitors arrived on foot, so it was busier than we were comfortable with. The trail up and then back down the esker to the riverbank is narrow, with a lots of roots along the trail. We had to watch our step, and also watch for other visitors, most of whom were not wearing masks. We grabbed a very few photos and decided to find someplace else where it was easier to avoid others.

At the edge of Ocean View Farm reserve, Dartmouth

We simply stumbled upon another open space, Ocean View Farm reserve, and spent several hours strolling along the wide open trail next to an overgrown stone wall.

There’s a stone wall underneath all that pucker brush! Perfect hiding place for wildlife of many sorts

The wall offers great hiding places for wildlife of many kinds. We spotted holes dug underneath the wall that presumably offer shelter to animals that are happy to explore the working farm on adjacent field. We also spotted a hole dug underneath the fence to Round the Bend farm next door, where animals must easily slip under to browse freely when no one is looking.

Looking back to the farm from the viewing platform

We saw only a very few others the entire time we were at this property, which is a joint project of the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust (DNRT), in partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and Round the Bend farm. The mowed path out to the shoreline offers plenty of room to avoid others in this time of pandemic. Signs posted at the trail kiosk requested all visitors to wear masks and most complied with the request.

View looking toward the marsh and ocean beyond from the viewing platform

We found an unexpected surprise near the shore–a viewing platform that offered great perspectives on the adjacent marshland as well as views of the farmland we had just walked alongside.

Northern harrier soaring in for a meal

After spending some time taking in the views from the platform, we came back down to make room for other visitors, and as we were headed back we spotted a hawk hunting low as he cruised just above the surface of the stubble in the open field. He pounced in the grass, but soon rose up, soaring again. These birds near the top of the food chain have to work hard to find each meal. I managed to grab a very few pictures, which confirmed we were witnessing a Northern harrier, which I’d never seen before. As we headed back along the trail he soared repeatedly across the farm fields looking for something to eat.

Enough people were coming and going in the small parking lot that we decided to head back to Westport, and at Westport beach (open to residents only during summer months, but not monitored in winter) where we found a spot to enjoy our picnic lunch as we watched the seagulls and the ocean waves. The steady stream of cars we could see crossing over the causeway to Gooseberry Island discouraged us from visiting the island on this trip. We’ll have to wait for a day that is not as pretty as the one we chose for our outing. For sure, we will come back. Very Easy Walks for the most part, for sure, with great rewards for our efforts. Happy trails!


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy 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.

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