Take in sweeping views at the top of the knoll from the all-access portion of the trail. The trails beyond explore hayfields, woodlands and salt marsh along the tidal Castle Neck River.
Wide swaths of prime farmland soils support active hayfields - home to nesting Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks from May through July. The fields transition to woods, and eventually to the tidal Castle Neck River headwaters, where you can find feeding herons, egrets and waterfowl. Part of the Great Marsh, this property was identified as an important climate-resilient parcel by The Nature Conservancy.
From the knoll, looking to the north, the view expands across Maplecroft Farm, all the way to Heartbreak Hill. Looking to the south, in the distance are the white pines atop Willow Hill at the Donovan Reservation in Hamilton.
One of the best birding locations in Essex County, Castle Neck River Reservation is listed as an eBird hotspot.
Flora & Fauna
The woods are dominated by cedar, hemlock, hardwoods and white pine allowing for fine broad paths carpeted in layers of pine needles for walking or horseback riding.
The river is a great place to see red-breasted merganser and snapping turtles, or try your luck fishing for trout. Deer and other woodland mammals are common, as are owls in the dark woodlands.
A part of the so-called “South Eighth,” referring to the original colonial land divisions of the town, this land was granted at settlement in 1636 to John Perkins, Sr., Thomas Howlett, and John Fawn.
For more than 240 years, generations of the Brown family owned this land that was part of a vast farm extending south of Chebacco Road and into Hamilton. The farm included the “Wilderness Hill Pasture” which is part of Greenbelt’s John J. Donovan Reservation to the south.
Since the early 1980s, Robert Daniels owned the land and kept it in agricultural use as “Pony Express Farm,” a polo training field.
The Castle Neck River Reservation was acquired by Greenbelt, in partnership with the Town of Ipswich and the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, in 2018 and 2019. We are grateful to the generous individual donors and partners who made this project possible.
Greenbelt is grateful to several professional and staff photographers whose work is featured prominently within our website.
Thank you Jerry Monkman / ecophotography.com, Lynne Holton, Kindra Clineff, Adrian Scholes and John Raleigh.