I have been to Cummings as much as I can and have come to adore the place. Being up there makes me relaxed and happy. It really is a gorgeous piece of property with the contrast between the fields and woods. I always liked it, but as I get to know it better, I like it more and more.
It's so big that you can get a really good walk like you can at Horn Pond. Right now I can't even cover the whole place in a three hour walk, but, of course, that may be because I am stopping to observe almost everything. One thing I like is I rarely see anyone else; I love the sense I have of privacy. The people I have seen have been just as nice as the people I meet at Horn Pond, which means good people. Dog walking is not as good as at other places because there is no place for a dog to swim.
Once, on a weekend I did encounter about 8 ATVs, but that's it. Another day, I noticed a truck parked along Blanchard Road with ramps down for an ATV; also, two police cars were pulled in by the blue water tower. Connection? Another day one person was flying an airplane. The airplane people have cut the grassy area they use really well, and there is no trash around the area. Most of the trash seems to be where the kids have parties on weekends. Rodney said he got $50 from the cans we picked up the day of the walk. We were only two, but we still filled his car up and mine partially while we were trash collecting the other morning. Along other trails and paths, the trash situation is not bad with one or two exceptions. I have been carrying out three or four bags each time. There are three or four rusty cars around, and a red Honda that's been trashed but good. Nothing is ever all bad; I found a lovely Buddahist sanctuary someone had built.
As an amateur naturalist, I haven't found all I might because I have been concentrating on plants. I have a list of plants, vines, shrubs and trees that is 186 species long. The folks at New England Wild Flower Society are impressed I could find so much in October, but I've been studying winter plant ID for some years now. There are no 'rich soil' plants that I could find, nor is the place by any means botanically boring. I was impressed with the ratio of Native to Introduced plants in the large area that is Oak/Hickory. I think most of this Oak/Hickory area belongs to Woburn. A surprising number of the plants I found can't be found at Horn Pond. I was bushwhacking up a stream bed on two occasion and saw two deer. What a joy to see them so naturally.
The area that used to be farmed which became fields is, not surprisingly, not as botanically interesting. It, also, harbors far more troublesome invasive plants than I'd like to see. I saw a dead Robin on the ground the other day and had to wonder if it hadn't eaten one too many Common Buckthorn berries. As Common Buckthorn's Latin name suggests, Rhamnus cathartica, it is a laxative for both birds and most especially humans. Bird's don't seem to know that at eat the berries with great glee. I don't know what happened to the Robin; it wasn't eaten by a hawk or the like; I just don't know, poor little thing. There are more Common Buckthorns at Cummings than I have ever seen anywhere else, and the branches of many are loaded with berries.
The was a very small Black Swallowwort patch there two years ago. Last year there were two patches of it I wouldn't call very small. This year these were still there and there were new vines and seedlings all over. It's impossible to eradicate. The best that can be hoped is that it will grow over the Oriental Bittersweed and Buckthorn and destroy them. Hopefully it won't grow over two native plants that grow prolifically in the area, Red osier Dogwood and Panicled Dogwood. There is, also, a patch of Porcelainberry which is said to be better at taking over Oriental Bittersweet than Blackswallowwort. It also is unstopable.
All of the wetlands have been delineated and studied. I don't know who did it for what reason, the City of Boston, potential developers, who. Some of the wetlands could possibly be vernal pools which would make them more valuable. I'm told Theresa Harrington would know. A lovely natural feature is a spring, which according to a friend of mine who just died at a very old age, who grew up almost across the street from the Cummings property, had the most delicious tasting, cold water. Wouldn't it be nice if it could be tested and made accessible to walkers? I bet the grasses have never really been studied, and it would be nice if I could do that to discover rare wetland ones.
I have worn your ear off, I'm sure. What I have to do now is take many, many, many GPS point so that I could build a somewhat accurate map. My GPS is the simplest on the market, and what I do will not be like what the professionals do. Then I need an empty map to plot the points on. I've never done this before so could use any ideas and help I could get from anyone. First of all I need an empty map. Can you help Cathy?
I hope you don't mind that I'm sending a copy of my letter to you to the Woburn Chat. As I got going on this, I realized it had a lot of good stuff I didn't want to write twice. I look forward to lunch where you work at the end of this week or next. It will be fun to see you again.
I have fallen in love with the Cummings place. It has to be saved. Curiously the Woburn 40 acres seem much more botanically rich than the Burlington area. But open fields are so rare these days anywhere that the Burlington area offers a lot of interesting habitat.
I went back to the Cummings property again today and had the most marvelous walk. Cloudy days make some leaves brighter, and the Spicebush was gorgeous. But the Winterberry Holly with its bright red berries in wonderful beyond all. I found some more wetlands with their bands around their trees showing wetland delineation has been done. The soil appears to be rich acidic which means I don't really expect to find any rare plants. Today I got to where I was looking at the corner of Bedford and Rt. 3. Then I worked my way back of the greenhouses. As you get towards a road, you get more invasives. Up from them are pristine, gorgeous woods that are perfect for a walk at any season. It seems that half the total place is covered with hardwood and half is open with succession going on which I find curious. The stone walls are of various ages and conditions. The hardwood forest appears to be 50 to 70 years old. To the Rt. 3 side of Northeastern to a tall handsome stone wall, it looks like the invasives are so bad that the place is unrecoverable. Oh, is the place full of Poison Ivy!! I'll keep you posted as my explorations progress.
I want to take my camera up there to start an album (with the help of others) that we can show to lawyers, pols and the like. I'm off to Topozone to see if I can get myself a map - I have GPS coordinates. If I can't, I'm going to draw an out of proportion map showing trails as I am beginning to understand them. I,also, have about 100 names to start a Floral Inventory list. It's amazing what you can do in October in the way of plant ID.
But best of all, I had the most wonderful time. It is spiritual alone in the woods as well as beautiful. And Cathy - I don't need a compass. Whenever I want to know North, I turn on my ears and listen for 128. That's good enough to orient me. But I have been doing this for 25 years so I do have a lot of practice.
- Betty Wright