One of Windham’s most pleasant places may well be the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s beautiful Black Brook Preserve. Situated between Route 302 and 202, Black Brook Preserve contains 105 acres of gently rolling hills, mature forests, and meandering little creeks just begging to be discovered. Our family has enjoyed several hikes along the preserve’s well-labeled trails, which offer enough variation to hold even a five-year-old hiker’s attention. This past summer, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust added another attraction to Black Brook Preserve: a pollinator garden.
This 1,000 square foot garden is home to 12 varieties of native plants and will provide much needed habitat for our butterflies, bees and moths. The garden was built this summer with the help of Windham Recreation Department's Summer Day Campers, who came out to learn about pollinators, lend a hand in building the garden, and cultivate the skills they will need as the next generation of environmental stewards. After its construction, the new garden was tended by Land Trust summer interns.
Black Brook Preserve’s pollinator garden is directly in front of the site’s main parking lot off of Windham Center Road. It’s a wonderful place to stop before a hike and search for some of our more colorful local pollinators, like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly or their more famous cousin the orange-and-black Monarch butterfly.
Upon our arrival in the parking lot, however, my two little assistants were more interested in running down the trails than admiring butterflies and bees or listening to their mother describe the vital role pollinators play in the local ecosystem. Happily, with its gentle bends and frequent, clear trail markings, Black Brook Preserve is the ideal place to explore with children. My assistants enjoyed racing up and down hills, pulling our new puppy behind them, while my husband and I tried to keep up. Together, we followed the Diamond Trail along the perimeter of the preserve, stopping to climb on rocks and admire the “bog bridges” spanning muddy sections of the trail. In one muddy section, Sage, my nine-year-old daughter, spotted raccoon tracks crossing the trail. Her five-year-old brother Ian seemed a bit disappointed to learn raccoons are not pollinators.
The western section of Black Brook Preserve is an open field ringed by a large, mown path. Sage decided to race through the field by herself while the rest of the family stopped for snacks and water. A few minutes later, the tranquility of the preserve was broken by screams and squawks as an enormous turkey erupted from the tall grass beside the trail.
“That was huge!” Sage screamed as she ran back to us.
“Was that a pollinator?” Ian asked.
I explained that, while wild turkeys don’t pollinate flowers, they do eat insects. After the turkey incident, the kids stayed closer to us as we followed the trail through the grass, watching butterflies dance above the nodding seed heads and late summer flowers. At the hill’s apex, we found a second, smaller trail access connected to Route 202. If you decide to visit Black Brook Preserve, this is the place to turn around and retrace your steps along the trails; the Snowmobile Trail, as we discovered, is only a trail in the winter. In the summer, it’s home to a very healthy crop of poison ivy.
To visit Black Brook Preserve’s trails and new pollinator garden, look for the parking lot off Windham Center Road just south of Route 4. A full map can be found at the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s website: www.prlt.org