Monday, March 16, 2009

March 16, 2009 - Beechwood Street, Wompatuck State Park, Hingham and Cohasset, Massachusetts

1770. That's when Cohasset broke away from Hingham. By that time, Beechwood Street had already been established, offering the people of Hingham Center something they had wanted for a long time: direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, not via thew channel into Boston Harbor. But you can 't get there from here anymore.

The Beechwood area was settled in the 1670s, divvied up between several landowners. Beechwood Street transected private properties on its way to Cohasset Harbor. That part that is now in Wompatuck State Park, beyond the granite marker indicating the town boundary (with a big "C" and the year 1829 carved into it), comes to a halt at the edge of the Aaron River Reservoir. It picks up again beyond the reservior and continues into the heart of the town of Cohasset.

The reservoir is only 31 years old, meaning it wasn't even here when the adjoining lands were acquired to become the state park, and obviously not created by the time the Hingham Naval Annex was opened in World War II. Back then it was mostly a sandpit with a few meandering streams.

This is all a long-winded way to get to this point. There's an old foundation at the Wompatuck end of Beechwood Street. It's an amazing site. This family chose to build their home - the central chimney, front door, back door, cellar window (probably for a coal chute) and other features are plainly discernible - directly next to a large glacial erratic. Today, it looks as if it must have been absolutely idyllic. The door would have opened directly onto the water. Except for one thing. There was no water there in those days. It opened into the woods, perhaps near a stream.

Elsewhere, history has been changed in other ways. The ammunition storage bunkers I knew so well as a child have been closed off and filled in. Oh, I still can tell where they are. As I said a few days ago, there are no straight lines in nature, but there are in these woods.

As I was leaving the woods today, they shook. The pileated woodpecker that has been inhabitaing these lands for a few years was trying to attract a mate, drumming so loudly that it echoed throughout the forest. I stumbled across a tree he had decimated, stripping it in three-to-four-inch splinters, but never got closer than that to a visual identification. But there's no mistaking its audio offerings.

Time: 108 minutes.

New species: pileated woodpecker (117).

Stranger hellos: 1 (144).

What else happened: picked up some blocks to cap my driveway wall; worked on an article for Plymouth County Business Review; Tweeted a bit; more nonprofit work.

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