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The Shirley Conservation Commission’s annual Fall Foliage Walk took place on the pleasantly warm and partly sunny Sunday afternoon of Oct.14. Saturday had been fairly chilly, and Sunday morning was rainy, so it was a pleasant suprise to see the weather cooperate so nicely when the time came to do the walk. The walk starts out from Farandnear on Center Road.

The Trustees of Reservations, which now owns Farandnear, kindly provided parking for the walk, and held an hour-long gathering before the walk to talk about the plans for the property. Present representing TTOR were Leigh Rae, Chris Rodstrom and Ryan Hrvatin. Offering apple cider, pastries and TTOR literature, they handed out a survey form, and noted that TTOR is still in its planning stage and has not formally opened the property, hence the locks on the gates. They do plan to open it soon, free of charge to the public. Long-time Farandnear caretaker Dan Stephens had left the employ of TTOR and was not present.

When the time came for the walk, those interested assembled and headed out through the access gate in the deer fence that surrounds the house and its landscaping. Among the walkers were several Shirley experts on Farandnear’s hiking trails. As a result, a new route to and through the cranberry bog was selected which managed to cross both causeways through the bog, an unprecedented feat for the annual walk. At Whitney Road, it was elected just to do a long walk under the traditional guidance of John Rounds. The traditional shorter walk was omitted. The long walk proceeded through the Ronchetti Conservation Area and beyond without controversy. But then the tree with two trunks that merge into one was reached. Along with John’s traditional theory of the genesis of the oddly formed tree, the feisty walkers suggested some other possibilities, and these ideas were vigorously discussed, and the tree closely examined.

Due to beaver activity, the water by the hiking trail continued at the high levels observed on previous walks, and trees newly-toppled by the beavers were evident. The walk proceeded through the Birchwood Hills Conservation Area, and then headed for Valley Farm (much of whose land is under the management of the New England Forestry Foundation) where refreshments were provided by Alan Field and Donna Wainwright, bread, apple cider and soup being the staples. Alan kindly led interested participants on a tour through the historic house of Valley Farm.

Thanks to all who contributed to this pleasant afternoon.