In the Borderland

Borderland. The name brings to mind many of the period romance novels I’ve read over the years. The militant hoards descend from the “borderlands” or the retreating army makes a run for the “borderlands”. Of course in today’s news are the “borderlands” along the Mexican border which cause so much concern over illegal immigration. So it was with some curiosity that I headed off to visit Borderland State Park with a friend of mine.

Nancy had run across this hidden gem of a State Park one day while she was looking for a place to amuse her children while repairmen worked in her house. She figured it would be easier for everyone with the children occupied elsewhere. What she found was a lovely park with trails, fields, brooks and ponds…and a mansion. It was a hit with the kids that day and now she was going to introduce me to it as well.

Borderland State Park is located , where else, on the border of the towns of Sharon and Easton. Oakes Ames, a Harvard botanist and his wife Blanche, an artist named their estate “Borderland”. The property remained in their  family for 65 years before passing into the possession of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1971.

The Park is approximately 1,772 acres. When you arrive there is an automated parking kiosk. The cost to park is a mere $2.00 and the parking lot is nicely maintained. The park is open until 7:30pm. Perfect timing for nice sunset pictures.

The State has kept the grounds much as they were when the Ameses resided here. The family home, a “modest” 3 story, 20 room stone mansion has been retained with the same furnishing; many of Blanche’s paintings adorn the walls. The mansion is impressive when you first view it across a large open area from the parking lot. On our visit the building was not open but we followed the paths around to the side and found a nice little fountain, a grape arbor and flowers.The mansion is open for tours from April to November  on a limited basis. The best bet so you are not disappointed is to call the park for tour schedules and hours.

But back at the Visitor Center we found maps and literature as well as many local events on the schedule. It is clear that this little park is very active in the communities it borders.

A great deal of the beauty of “Borderlands” is actually due to human intervention. It may all look natural but if it were not maintained it would soon really revert to its natural state. The fields would become forests and the ponds would slowly fill becoming marshes and swamps.

Digging into a bit more of the history I learned that the earliest inhabitants were Native Americans. The land was actually a territorial boundary between the Massachusetts and Wampanoag tribes. It would appear that there is a long tradition of this area acting as a “border”.

We did not have the time on this first visit to explore all of the trails that meander through the park so we started with the Leach Pond trail. This is a short , easy trail that opens onto a beautiful pond.

There is a “babbling” brook that runs out of the pond and under a picturesque wooden bridge. Even this early in the spring there were others enjoying the beautiful day. We spotted a black dog that was obviously enjoying a swim in the pond. Working our way over the owner very graciously allowed me to take pictures of her dog as she enjoyed the water.

Nearby was a rustic cabin of some kind. The was a fireplace inside and stumps were gathered around obviously being used for seats. The smell of wood smoke attested to recent or current use of this building. As abandoned as it might appear, it was clear by the freshness of the lingering scent of smoke that this was not truly abandoned. Although we didn’t know at the time, the map seems to have the building identified as the “farm-house”.

As we strolled the trail we spotted robins and  nuthatches. All together there are 6 ponds within the park and a rich mix of habitats. I’m told that the area supports rabbits, squirrels, geese, an occasional otter, and deer. Sometimes a great blue heron stops by.

All too soon we had to wrap up our visit and return to the “real world” of errands and housework, laundry and shopping. With such a lovely park so close to home I am sure I will be returning often.

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