Friday, December 20, 2013

Writeup on Herrontown Wood in the Princeton Packet

In the Dec. 17, 2013 edition of the Princeton Packet, there's a wonderful writeup on our Herrontown Wood restoration efforts by Pam Hersch, longtime special writer for the Packet. Pam joined us on our Thanksgiving weekend walk. She writes:
"I created my own event during the post-Thanksgiving days launching the holiday season. I connected with and was inspired by some terrific boulders, sticks, berries, leaves, cliffs, historic buildings, and, most significantly, people, right here in Princeton, without fighting crowds and jockeying for parking spaces. I took a trip into the woods, Herrontown Woods, for the first time ever."

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Old Bridge

On the way out to Herrontown Woods, there's an old bridge hiding in the weeds next to Snowden Lane. A branch of Harry's Brook flows through it. This looks to be the original bridge the Veblens, and farmers like Jac Weller, would have used on their way in to Princeton.
 A closer look shows that some stones are coming loose. What's that old expression, "A stone in time saves nine"? I contacted the town engineering department to alert them to the problem. The response was "The old bridge is on private property..........we are considering a bike path along this section of Snowden in the future. If we are successful in obtaining an easement we could fix the bridge at that time."

That stretch of Snowden Lane currently puts cars in close proximity with joggers and people walking their dogs. Anyone in the Little Brook School neighborhood heading out to Smoyer Park or Herrontown Wood has to "run the gantlet" of narrow pavement, with cars passing by on one side and a ditch on the other. It's good news that a bikepath is being contemplated, but until easements can be obtained from homeowners along the route, the bridge and the bikepath will remain in limbo. As the Veblen House has demonstrated, limbo can linger for a long, long time.

From the plaque on the newer bridge, looks like the old bridge served until 1965. 2015 would mark 50 years. Sounds like a nice round number for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Just Add Snow

Not sure how the snow got activated in this photo, unless I pushed the wrong button on the camera, but it looks like a Happy Holidays greeting card from Veblen House.

Snow adds definition to the landscape, and helps convey how this 1870 farmstead adds to the sense of place at Herrontown Woods.

According to Dorothy Bedford, "My Girl Scout troop Junior troop 1812 did many of the stepping stones on the paths (red, green, yellow trails) and across streams in the fall of 2006 as their Bronze Award service Project, in cooperation with the County. The trail marking tape (red, white, yellow, green dots) are left over from that project so the girls could find their way around the park."

The trees grow Santa Claus beards.

Fallen branches obscure this broad boulder garden, through which a stream flows. The Sourland Preserve has a similar formation called Roaring Rocks, which likely roars when the stream that flows deep within it gets going after a big rain. Herrontown Wood's version might best be called whispering rocks.

The view from the cliff.

Roof lines contrast with the verticals of trees. Nature and culture peacefully intertwined.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Light Snow at Veblen House

A light snow after the most recent workday showed off the front walk recently cleared of dirt and debris. The walk begins and ends with flat boulders--another way in which the Princeton ridge geology is integrated into the landscaping. The wooden planks hold less residual heat from the warmer days prior, so are still covered by snow.

Even with light snow adding definition to the landscape features, the footprint of an old barn still remains obscured by invasive shrubs.

One new rediscovery is an old well near where the barn once stood. The well likely provided water for all the horses and whatever other animals the Veblens had. It will be interesting to see to what extent the water level in the well changes with seasonal precipitation.

Cleaning Up the Grounds

We arrived for another Rotary/FOHR workday at the Veblen House to find the grounds beautifully mown and blown by the county, not only at the Veblen House but also at the nearby cottage, which hadn't been mowed all year. Members of Princeton Rotary and Friends of Herrontown Woods, 12 in all, came at various times from 9-3, cleaning and resetting stones in the front walkway, cutting invasive shrubs and dragging brush to the forest edge to make brushpiles for habitat.

Peter Thompson took on the cutting back of wisteria that has spread over the years across much of the lower garden, including the stone-lined fish pond. In the foreground, you can see how multiple trunks of wisteria intertwine as they reach skyward to smother a flowering dogwood. Judging from a few flowerbuds visible through the tangled mob, the dogwood may have enough life left in it to recover.

In front of the Veblen House, a puddle suggests a location that could be fashioned into a raingarden to catch runoff from the grassy slope.

Rotary and FOHW met with Mercer County officials two days prior, and made good progress towards an agreement that would allow us to restore the Veblen buildings, to serve as community meeting space and exploring the many themes of the Veblen and Princeton ridge legacies.

Thanks to all who came, saw, and conquered on a brisk Saturday.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Volunteer Workday at Veblen House Grounds Saturday, Dec. 7, 9-4pm

The Princeton Rotary and the Friends of Herrontown Woods continue their partnership this Saturday with a workday at the Veblen House grounds in Herrontown Woods. Come by 452 Herrontown Road any time between 9am and 4pm to join in. Among tools, loppers are particularly useful, as we'll be cutting invasive shrubs that have encroached over the years on the landscaping and stone walls around the house. Shovels may come in handy, too. The Veblen site connects with the many preserve trails for those who want to explore the woods. 

To reach 452 Herrontown Road, head out Snowden Lane, past Smoyer Park, turn left where Snowden deadends at Herrontown Rd, then take the first driveway to the left, just where the small pasture ends and the woods begins.