TRIP REPORT: On a recent crisp fall afternoon, Girl Scouts from Tewksbury and their families enjoyed a walk along the newly dedicated Vale Trail, just over the town line in Andover. Parking is available at the Ballardvale Commuter Rail Station for four dollars, and it is monitored, so please be sure to put your money in the slot. The trail head is well marked with a handsome kiosk, a Boy Scout project that was part of the formal opening of the trail in April of this year. Part of the AVIS network (Andover Village Improvement Society), this new trail is extremely family friendly, and pets and strollers are well accommodated. Bicycles are welcomed, but no motor vehicles or ATVs are allowed.
Meandering along the Shawsheen River, the Vale Trail offers approximately two miles of uninterrupted time with nature. Crossing the properties of the Vale Reservation and Shawsheen River Greenway, the trail starts in a forested space and then quickly reveals an open, grassy field. Several sturdy bridges make passage quite easy and enable visitors to traverse marshes, swamps, and streams. The landscape is peaceful, save only for the occasional passing of the MBTA Commuter Rail, and on the day we visited, the Amtrak Downeaster train from Maine.
Visitors will also note an abundance of birds on the trail. The Vale Reservation is a haven for the Eastern Bluebird, and several bird houses have been constructed in the fields of milkweed which provides an ideal haven for the tiny birds. The trail offers wonderful granite blocks for sitting and absorbing river views. Maybe you’ll set up your binoculars and do some bird watching while you picnic. As you wind your way toward the Abbot Bridge, a keen hiker might spy a recently-chewed tree, evidence that beavers are busy at work. Even in winter this would be a terrific place for snowshoeing or trudging with kids in their snow boots, the trees sparkling with icicles glinting in the sun.
Several groups in Andover such as the Boy Scouts, Conservation Commission and other civic groups came together to clear brush, remove rocks, and build the boardwalks that span the water crossings. The trail shows that even a small area of green space can be transformed into something truly special, and provide an outdoor experience for all who are experiencing the so-called “nature deficit disorder”.
Bundle up, bring a snack and water, and set out for an hour or so to enjoy this nearby trail. Take a deep breath and reset for the week.
Nature warning: always check for ticks after any hike in the woods or tall grasses.
Ballardvale Commuter Rail Station, 195 Andover Street, Andover, MA.