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Long referred to as "Beverly Commons," this area is a mosaic of protected land that includes an extensive trail network under a serene forest canopy.
This was at one time an Indigenous landscape with special resources to be found in its vernal ponds, hemlock forest, and trail sides for the making of medicines. Algonquians compounded columbine flowers with herbs to treat intestinal ailments, for example, and used the roots of lady slippers to make a sedative and pain reliever. Infusions of the inner bark of the eastern hemlock were given to treat diarrhea, and steam from hemlock tea to relieve respiratory ailments. The needles of the eastern hemlock are not poisonous but high in vitamin C.
Shamans used the poisonous needles of other species, such as Poison Hemlock, Ground Hemlock, and Canada Yew, as a hallucinogen to aid spiritual contact. Algonquian folktales include stories about these plants. For example pink lady slippers were called moccasin flowers. They represented the moccasins of a young woman who left them by the trailside when she ran away from an abusive husband and married a stag to become the mother of deer.
During colonial times the "Commons" was a major thoroughfare from Salem to Gloucester, and during the witchcraft hysteria of 1692, the area became known as "Witches' Woods" after a number of families took refuge here.
A popular spot for year-round recreation. Open dirt roads and trails crossing hills and forest make this an excellent destination to mountain bike, run and snowshoe. Impressive rock outcroppings and glacial boulders dominate much of the landscape.
Vernal pools and amphibian breeding can be seen in early spring.
This reservation boasts one of the best stands of eastern hemlock, a majestic tree species that lives up to 800 years. Hemlock’s tolerance of low light enables it to form dense canopies that provide a unique habitat for many plant and animal species.
Look for wild columbine, violets, lady slippers, and jack-in-the-pulpits. In later summer, you’ll find native orchid species. Ferns and mosses love the cool, acid environment.
The dense forest provides shelter for a variety of woodland birds such as the winter wren, scarlet tanager and broad-winged hawk. On the ground, watch for the semi-aquatic eastern ribbon snake.
Webster Avenue, Beverly (Opens in Google Maps)
Latitude 42.567341, Longitude -70.819394
From Route 128/Exit 48/Grapevine Road
Go south on Grapevine Road/Hart Street toward Beverly Farms. In 1.25 miles, turn right onto Greenwood Avenue. Trailhead and parking are 0.3 miles ahead.
Park to the right on Stone Ridge Road. Please do not block the gate.
82 Eastern Avenue
PO Box 1026
Essex, MA 01929
Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider