The Ripple: The River Will Rise

The River Will Rise

Bridge remains at Chesterfield Gorge. (Photo credit (c) Sienna Wildfield)

This shivery month of melt, please bring your family to the upper neck of the Chesterfield Gorge and look across the Westfield River. You’ll see a twenty-foot tall stone wall tower— the remains of an old colonial bridge, a massive abutment built in 1769 by meticulous stackers of dark granite schist.

I remember looking at it a few years ago, marveling at the brawn and artistry of the backwoods engineers who made it. They must have believed their incredible backaches were worth it, that their bridge would stand for centuries, and they and their progeny would make a living collecting tolls where hemlocks now cluster and choke.

Over two hundred years have gone by, the bridge is long gone and the road it extended is a deer and porcupine highway. Another two more centuries will go by, I imagined then, and the abutment will remain unstaggered, a gratifying, even beautiful, example of our manipulation of the biome to achieve economic goals. And aside from this, I thought, the imperturbability of the stacked stone next to the swift and crashing rapids is, itself, a story that offers a lesson… Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Winter Hike Series in the Hilltowns with the Trustees of Reservations

Weekly Hike Series This Winter with the Trustees of Reservations

Families with younger children and homeschooling families are welcomed to join in a new winter hiking series with the Trustees of Reservations on Thursday mornings in Ashfield, MA.

Even though it’s cold outside, and the snow and ice will be here soon, walking in the woods is a great way to get some exercise and fresh air, and stay fit and healthy this winter.  Join the Trustees of Reservations for a new weekly walk series on Thursdays at the Bullitt Reservation, Chapel Brook, and other destinations in and around Ashfield, MA.  The walks will be easy to moderate guided group hikes in the woods.  Come look for signs of winter wildlife, meet  some new neighbors or catch up with old friends, get your blood pumping, all while enjoying some new and familiar places!

The first walk will be on Thursday, December 13th at 10am, for 1-2 hours at the Bullitt Reservation (332 Bullitt Rd.) Ashfield. The next two hikes will be on Thursday, December 20th at 10am at the Chapel Brook (Williamsburg Rd.) Ashfield, and Thursday, January 10th at 10am at Bear Swamp (Hawley Rd.) in Ashfield. We will meet every Thursday, weather permitting, through the winter.

The hikes are free and open to all, but please register to be notified of inclement weather cancellations, directions to hikes, and for more information by calling Ryan Pennesi at 413-628-4485 x1 or emailing

This series is sponsored in part by The Trustees of Reservations and the Student Conservation Association.

– Submitted by Wendy Sweetser.

Women’s Weekly Trail Run at the Chesterfield Gorge

Trail Run at Chesterfield Gorge

Trail along Westfield River beginning at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA is a great place for running, walking, biking and hiking. And in the winter it's good for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing too! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Leslie Charles of Chesterfield, MA writes:

Last year, a few of us started running at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA on Sundays at 8am. We would like to extend the invitation to all women at all levels to join us!

Meet at the Chesterfield Gorge parking area at 8am on Sundays now until the late fall (directions). Around an hour or less (or more, depending on your distance)

We run on River Road–the dirt road that’s next to the beautiful Westfield River. We all start together on a slow trot for almost a half mile then we stretch (and chat). It’s an out and back so you can go as far/long as you want. After the stretch we go at different paces and different distances. A favorite distance is to the gate and back, which is almost 3 miles (when my daughter joins us, we go a mile out then back). Once people start feeling comfortable with that, they go longer. One can go up to 9 miles out (18 miles round-trip).

OPEN TO ALL LEVELS: It can be very intimidating to start running (or start back up after a long haitus-especially when you used to think of yourself as a runner but now can’t even run around the figurative hilltown block). I assure you that many women who have shown up felt that way initially but then realized what a no-pressure run it is. You’ve already succeeded by just showing up! You can walk/run/ take a dip in the Westfield River (I tend to do a combination of that). AND…if you’ve never been to the Chesterfield Gorge–it’s really worth just checking it out. AND…it’s great to run in the woods knowing a bunch of other women are around.

We try to leave right at 8am, so if you think you’re going to be late and want us to wait, you can either call me or shoot me an email before 7:30am in the morning so we can wait for you.

So, pass this around to all your lady friends.

Leslie Charles 413-296-4753

Win an Entry: Gorge aprés Gorge 5K!

7th Annual Gorge aprés Gorge
Sunday, November 28th, 2010
Chesterfield Gorge, West Chesterfield

Leslie Charles of Chesterfield, MA writes: "Join us for the 7th annual Gorge aprés Gorge. We decided to add a run to it this year, so join the run and then hang around for the family fun run/walk. For both, we start at the Chesterfield Gorge and run the rough fire road out for 1.5 miles then back, following the beautiful Westfield River. If you have never been, this event is a must! The road can be muddy/icy and a bit rocky. (But easy enough for bikes and jogging strollers). After: complimentary hot chocolate/tea/coffee. Bring some treats and join the fun!" (Photo credit: Leslie Charles)

For the past seven year, families have gathered at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield on the Sunday following Thanksgiving for the annual Gorge aprés Gorge, a FREE community walk/run. New this year is a 5K run to benefit the Trustees of Reservation, and Hilltown Families has two entries and two mugs to giveaway to one lucky reader! Deadline to enter to win is Wednesday, 11/24/10 @ 7pm (EST). More details below.


Hilltown mother Leslie Charles of Chesterfield, MA has organized the event for the past seven years, a tradition she brought with her from the West Coast when she moved to Western MA with her family. The inaugural Gorge aprés Gorge was in 2004, and in the years that followed was supported by the Chesterfield Cultural Council. Join by organizer Tanya Rapinchuck of Worthington, MA this community walk/run and grown from a small group of participating families living in the Hilltowns to a community-wide event with families from the Pioneer Valley and Berkshires joining in the fun. Children who have participated since they were babies look forward to the Gorge aprés Gorge as it has become part of their yearly celebration of life in the Hilltowns.

New this year is an exciting 5K run ($10) to raise funds for the Trustees of Reservation, starting at 9am. This is timed race with unique top finisher awards (you won’t want to miss these awards!).

The free family fun walk/run begins at 10am.  Please leave the dogs at home and bring your own mug.


Your chance to win two entries and two mugs for the Gorge aprés Gorge 5k on Sunday, November 28th (9am) at the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, MA is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. POST A COMMENT BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 11/25/10 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win you should still go!  Pre-register for the 5K at, or contact Tanya Rapinchuk: 238-5595  The commumity walk/run is free and open to all.  No need to pre-register.  Just pack up the family and join in the fun at 10am!

Bullitt Reservation Grand Opening in Ashfield

The Trustees Encourage Visitors to Dream Big about Making Small Impacts on Local Land

Farm that Once Swirled Near the Center of History Returns to Community as The Trustees of Reservations’ Newest Property in Ashfield, MA.

When globe-trotting Ambassador William Bullitt needed a place to ponder the world and relax with family, he retreated to the woods and fields of his farm in Western Massachusetts on the Ashfield-Conway border. Now, visitors can enjoy those same pursuits on a property that once hosted diplomats and dignitaries, as The Trustees of Reservations welcomes the public to the grand opening of its new Bullitt Reservation on Saturday, October 23rd. Festivities begin at 3PM.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009. Although most recently part of the estate of Ambassador William C. Bullitt, Jr. —best known for his role as the first U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and for his service as the Ambassador to France at the dawn of World War II— the land has deep community roots. The farm even served as Ashfield’s town poor farm from 1839 to 1874.

One of 13 Trustees properties located in the Pioneer Valley, the Bullitt Reservation encompasses 262 acres donated to The Trustees in March of 2009.

Today, the Bullitt Reservation looks largely as it did in centuries past. A quintessential New England agricultural landscape, it abounds with a mix of forests, fields and streams, which provide natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and a diversity of species. It was the wish of Ambassador Bullitt’s daughter, Anne Bullitt, that the property be conserved and the legacy of her father be carried on at the site for the community and future generations to enjoy.

After guidance from local residents and a year of planning, the Bullitt Reservation will now offer a place for the community and visitors to meet, hike, stargaze, and connect with family and friends, providing opportunities for both people and wildlife to interact with and be enriched by the land. In keeping with Ambassador Bullitts’ legacy of looking outward, the Bullitt Reservation will also serve as a resource for learning about ways to lighten our individual and collective impact on land, and to significantly reduce our contribution to the indelible marks that a warming climate will etch on the nature and culture of our local hills and valleys.

The 18th century farmhouse on the property receives a complete renovation and "deep energy retrofit."

At the center of those efforts, The Trustees have nearly completed renovation and a “deep energy retrofit” of the 18th century farmhouse on the property, thanks to a gift from the Bullitt Foundation and a recent $100,000 stimulus grant received from the Patrick Administration’s Department of Energy Resources. Slated as the future offices of the Highland Communities Initiative and the Hilltown Land Trust, the renovated farmhouse will combine readily-available electric heat pump technology (with plans to add solar power as funds are available) and super-insulation to increase energy efficiency, cutting energy consumption by more than 50%. Thanks to the creative energy of general contractor Mary Quigley of Quigley Builders in Ashfield, nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

Nearly all of the materials from the farmhouse deconstruction have also been recycled or reused.

When complete, The Trustees hope the new Bullitt structure will have earned Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a building rating system established by the United States Green Building Council to measure the “greenness” of buildings), and showcase a viable selection of energy conservation strategies for area homeowners and businesses.

The grand opening of the Bullitt Reservation will be on Saturday, October 23rd with family activities, pumpkin decorating, cider pressing, live music and potluck. Festivities begin at 3PM.

Guests are welcome to attend the grand opening of the new Bullitt Reservation on October 23rd and explore The Trustees of Reservations’ newest special place, take a tour, and enjoy the views over a potluck dinner with friends and neighbors. The day will begin at 3PM with tours of the ongoing green transformation of the old farmhouse, a guided hike on the new scenic Pebble Trail (moderately difficult), leisurely strolls through the wildlife meadow, and family activities including pumpkin decorating and cider-making demonstrations. At 4:30PM there will be live music, a potluck dinner, and toasts to the new reservation. The Trustees will provide hot soup and fresh bread. Guests are asked to bring a dish, snack, or beverage to share. The event is free and open to the public and will take place rain or shine.

For more information and to RSVP, please call 413.268.8219 or email

More About The Trustees in Ashfield

In addition to owning 262 acres of conservation land, The Trustees hold a conservation restriction on the majority of the remaining Bullitt estate land, comprising approximately 103 acres on the northern side of Bullitt Road, which was sold with the main Bullitt house and barn to a private buyer late last year. Together, these complete an important missing piece in a large puzzle of connected conservation land in the area. The Trustees also own and manage two other properties in Ashfield – Bear Swamp and Chapel Brook Reservations – both popular community recreational sites and important ecological habitats. The new reservation will add to The Trustees’ diversity of program and property offerings in this corner of the Pioneer Valley.

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