Southborough–Turenne Wildlife Habitat and Town Forest

Massive rock outcroppings are throughout this area–very cool

We headed to Southborough recently to explore a trail new to us, the Turenne Wildlife Habitat. We hoped to find a quiet spot unnoticed by other weekend visitors. We mostly have time to get out on weekends because of my husband’s work schedule, and crowded trails have been a challenge throughout this pandemic, when the outdoors has become a refuge for many of us.

In my presentations I often urge people to hunt out town-owned conservation land, as well as property overseen by land trust organizations. We recently became members of the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT), and received their wonderful Trail Guide: 42 walks west of Boston. The surprising secret is that there are many more than 42 trail systems included in this book, since the maps for each property reveal adjacent open space 9with parking access locations) overseen by other entities beyond SVT.

Entrance to Turenne Wildlife Habitat. Yes, drive in on what looks like the trail, to space for about three cars

The parking area was not apparent when we arrived at the trail head for Turenne. Yes, the guide book explains you must drive in to the designated parking area, but it was our first visit. Now we know. Because we were feeling our way, we headed down the street and found a trail access to what turned out to be the Southborough Town Forest. This is land adjacent to and sharing a boundary with the Turenne property.

Up close and very noisy–walking alongside the MassPike, in the Southborough Town Forest

The town forest has some interesting ups and downs, but the drawback to visiting here is the noise level of the adjacent MassPike. The din of traffic is rather overwhelming, despite the solitude we found on the trails of the town forest itself. This section of our walk was not what I would call an Easy Walk, mostly because of the lack of trail maintenance. Several large trees block the trail.

Easy Walking on this former cart path through the woodlands

Despite this challenge, we were able to navigate our way north, away from the highway, and found some wide open trails, clearly cart paths in an earlier era.

More cool rocks along the trail

Massive rock outcrops stood here and there, providing intriguing glimpses of the geology of the area.

We found stone walls throughout this area

Despite the rocky soil, we found a number of stone walls, which always give me pause. This ground was so difficult to cultivate–no wonder many New England farmers abandoned their farms and headed west when the land in Ohio opened up to white settlers. And yes, that’s a whole other story…

Stone walls line either side of this old cart path

We encountered a total of one other visitor the entire two hours we spent exploring this area. Once away from the highway, we found quiet, solitude, and Easy Walking trails that were a joy to stride along, with few rocks or roots on the trail.

View from the edge of Turenne, looking north

The Turenne property is actually small, only 18 acres, but its location adjoining the town forest makes this space an area to spend several hours in. We found a small wildflower garden with a loop trail and stone benches.

Strangely, as we neared some houses, the trail suddenly was completely clear of leaves. We have seen on some other trails that well-intentioned neighbors bring leaf blowers onto trails adjacent to their homes and remove the leaf litter, leaving trail bare. In this cleared area, the trail suddenly felt hard as stone, frozen solid, whereas the remaining trail had felt gentle underfoot. This type of “help” actually increases risk of erosion on the trail. We shook our heads and moved on.

After our walk, we circled around to Woodland Road, where we found the far western side of the town forest, and across the street, an entrance to Breakneck Hill. With a little further investigation we realized there was yet more open space to explore that promised another Easy Walk. I’ll share more on that soon. We found even more open space on the opposite side of Rt. 9 from Turenne, DCR property with trails along the edge of the Sudbury Reservoir. For now, happy trails!

Marjorie

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

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