Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sally's Pond in Ipswich

"Sally's Pond in Ipswich"
The preservation and continued accessibility of the urban
meadow surrounding Sally's Pond in Ipswich
highlights the benefits we all reap through the careful
stewardship of our local wild spaces.

Monarch Butterfly ~ Photo © Judy Hallberg
You'll find this meadow featured in the Ipswich Chronicle.
Judy Hallberg, Chairperson of the Ipswich Museum 
Gardens Committee, was kind enough to bring this article 
to my attention and the attendant update about trail
maintenance, as well.

Winthrop School Students in Meadow ~ Photo © Judy Hallberg

Sally’s Pond, a part of the Ipswich Museum property on South Main Street adjacent to the Whipple House, was created in 1975 as a memorial to Sally Lunt Weatherall, chairwoman of the conservation commission of the town of Ipswich, who was instrumental in the acquisition and planning for the Ipswich Riverwalk.  Everyday, walkers, strollers, pond-viewers or photographers visit this quiet pond in the meadow.

A meadow in a small urban setting is a rare thing. It benefits all by cleansing the air and providing a refuge for small wildlife and a great variety of native wildflowers. It is essential that the meadow be mowed once every year, in late October or November, to prevent trees like Norway maple and sumac from taking over. This annual mowing also prevents some invasive plants from overwhelming everything else. For many years, the meadow was also mowed in July, cutting down all the wildflowers that host and feed butterflies, dragonflies, and bees. Following a summer when the July mowing was impossible due to heavy rains and flooding, as the resident of the Whipple House and the Museum’s gardener, I noted an obvious maturing of the wildflowers and an obvious increase in both dragonflies and butterflies. I decided the following year to do only a late fall one-time-per-year flat mowing of the entire meadow and see what that did for the flora and desirable insect population. Again the result was an even greater apparent increase in butterflies, notably monarchs because the milkweed, where they cocoon, was left to mature. There are now clouds of beautiful multi-colored dragonflies and, finally - bees, the good kind.

It is accessible to walkers via paths maintained by the Ipswich Museum, which owns the meadow, the pond, the woods on the south side and the trail along the river to South Cemetery. There is a narrow but well-trodden trail into the northwest corner of the meadow from the sidewalk at S. Main St. and a wide mowed path around the pond is maintained by the Museum. Many people enter at that corner and either continue along the riverside trail to the South Cemetery or, once they reach the pond, take the meadow path east to the Whipple House back lawn and then through the Whipple House gardens to South Village Green. In a winter with sufficient natural ice, the pond is a favorite place for ice skating.

The walking traffic has increased every year since I began having the wide meadow path mowed in 2003. Groups of school children visit the meadow in the spring and in September to see the butterflies and dragonflies and the wild plants. The wide and comfortable mowed paths, safe from ticks and poison ivy, make this possible. When the Knight House is finished, a mowed path into the meadow at the Three-Sisters garden by the Whipple House driveway will be relocated to begin at the sidewalk between that driveway and the Knight House.

All the Ipswich Museum Gardens, most of which surround the Whipple House, are open to the public at all times. The fenced 17th Century Housewife’s Garden created by author Anne Leighton is viewed most often and a large area of the Old Rose Garden, named for Margaret Austin, was restored and re-planted 4 years ago. A new shade garden borders an access path into the rose garden from South Village Green at the south east corner of the property. The Three-Sisters garden is planted according to Wampanoag tradition with companion plantings of corn, beans and squash and is in the meadow next to the Whipple House driveway. An early 19th Century style Formal Garden is on the west side of the Heard House, it’s entry sometimes obscured by a vigorous chestnut tree with low hanging branches of large dense leaves.

I don't know the names of most of the plants that grow in the meadow garden, but, as an almost full-time gardener during the summer, it's a pleasure to wander along those meadow paths and simply enjoy the flowers instead of trying to manage them. I regularly trim around the bench to insure it is a comfortable spot to sit and watch the wild life and I’ve added signs and frequently point visitors to the paths. Soon, I hope, more people will be aware of the access paths to Sally's Pond and will use them to discover this wilderness in miniature, here in downtown Ipswich, just a 3-minute walk across a bridge from Zumi's. Is there a better way to enjoy a latte' than sitting on a purple bench beside a pond blooming with water lilies, waiting for the visiting egret to float in on his great white wings and settle silently in the reeds?
Judy Hallberg 
Chairperson, Ipswich Museum Gardens Committee
Walkers in December ~  Photo © Judy Hallberg
And now, courtesy of Judy Hallberg, we have this important update to the above press release...
The Town of Ipswich has agreed to assist the Museum's community outreach by cutting and maintaining a new path into the Museum meadow garden surrounding Sally's Pond from South Main St. The Museum's plans for this path have previously been delayed for budgetary reasons and an ongoing construction project in the same area, the 17th Century timberframe reconstruction of the Wm. Knight house. With the cooperation of Rick Clark, Ipswich DPW Director, the town will mow and maintain this new path and the Museum will continue to maintain the network of paths that have provided safe walking access in the meadow since 2003.

Child in Meadow ~  Photo © Judy Hallberg

Special thanks to Judy Hallberg for her tireless efforts to increase public awareness of the importance of conserving wild spaces in general, and the meadow surrounding Sally's Pond, in particular... and, of course, for permission to reprint everything, including the great photos.

'GardenAuthor' Blog text & photos, except as noted, © Deb Lambert 2012

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