The Green Sanctuary Ministry Team’s theme this church year — “Into the Woods” — is a celebration of forests and woodlands. What better way to celebrate then going for a hike in the woods this coming Spring. Lucky for us there are woodlands right in our own back yard! Two Swampscott forests – Harold A. King Forest (off Nichols Street) and Charles M. Ewing Woods (right behind the church!).
The Harold A. King Forest is 47 acres of wild and rugged forested land that has been dedicated as public conservation land. The Forest is tucked up in northwestern corner of Swampscott. As described in an earlier Town Open Space Plan, “[f]rom its highest point, commanding a view of Nahant and Boston, the land slopes down to an extensive swamp with its unique plant life. The area’s outstanding feature is a terminal moraine, which coupled with a diverse growth of deciduous trees and shrubs, makes it an ideal are for nature study.”
Thickly wooded uplands are rare in Swampscott, and the Harold A. King Forest serves as habitat for both birds and mammals. The most prominent species in the Forest are second growth oak and beech trees, with witch hazel, sweet pepperbush, low and high bush blueberry, catbrier, and bayberry among a variety of other shrubs and vines occurring in the understory.
In the wetland area, duck weed, cat tail, phragmites, yellow birch, a variety of ferns, prince’s’ pine, and striped wintergreen flourish. Primary access to the forest is down an uneven slope from a small paved parking area at the end of Nichols Street. The condition of the forest is very good, with little litter or other signs of human impact – except for a rusty old shell of a car in the middle of the woods! See if you can guess the make and model?
Currently the forest is used for passive outdoor recreational such as bird watching, nature study, dog walking and hiking. There is a two-way paint-blazed loop trail recently revitalized done by a Boy Scout who added circular markers, and who also built a new kiosk near the entrance. (Note that passage at the end of the loop trail is more difficult because of the large boulders scattered throughout the area.)
Charles M. Ewing Woods is located along the southern boundary of the Stanley School and its athletic field. Access to the woods is from the school property, our Church’s parking lot, or the end of Forest Avenue Extension. On school side, there is a dirt path that runs between the Church parking lot and Forest Avenue Extension. There are also several smaller paths in the Woods, including a trail that loops up from this main path to the ridge in the center of the property and then back down to the main Path.
Currently, Ewing Woods is also used for passive outdoor recreational such as bird watching, nature study, dog walking and strolling on the dirt paths. Ewing Woods is of varied terrain. In addition to the ridge that runs roughly from east to west midway through the property, there is a low area north of this ridge that pools with water in the Spring. This low area may include uncertified vernal pools. There are mature oak and white pine in the Woods. Note that there is poison ivy throughout the Woods as well as invasive plants, notably, “burning bush”.