We slipped back into old Cape Cod for a quiet walk on the trails of Little Bay and Monks Park in Bourne, Massachusetts yesterday. From a perspective of scale this park is of modest size, and the loop is quick, but from the perspective of getting you out of modern Cape Cod and back into a time before the place was built up it served us well. A time capsule of sorts, onto shady paths of sand and scrub pine needles with surprising variations in elevation from sea level to 70 feet. Not exactly the White Mountains, but a pleasant departure from the usual flat walks.
The variation in flora matched the elevation changes, with sassafras, scrub pine, oak, highbush blueberries and a fair amount of poison ivy dominated the landscape, with salt marsh and views of the bay sprinkled in. In some ways this feels like its always been this way. But there are hints to other uses in the flora as well. A pair of large beech trees guard the entrance to the park on Valley Bars Road, planted at some point maybe a hundred years ago. A holly on the Loop Trail looks to be out of place in the landscape as well, perhaps planted by someone before this became conservation land in 1980, perhaps by someone taking a walk in the woods who wanted a home for a shrub. The holly keeps her secret from me.
All of this land is preserved because of the work of the Bourne Conservation Trust, which saw the explosion of development on the Cape in 1980 and decided to do something about it. This land was once part of the estate of George Augustus Gardner, brother of Isabella Stuart Gardner, giving it a hint of Boston Brahmin. This area was pretty exclusive back in the day, with President Grover Cleveland summering just up the road. He bequeathed it to his daughter Olga Eliza, who married a man named George Howard Monks, which is where the name Monks Park comes from. The family sold the land when Olga passed away, and thankfully it was purchased by the Bourne Conservation Trust.
The Loop Trail is roughly 1.5 miles, with a few trails that cut straight across the land providing a shortcut of sorts. If you were to walk this trail in late fall or winter the water views would be spectacular. In summer the oak leaves obscure much of the view, making you earn it with a walk down steep grade to the beach from the trail, or simply walk under the railroad bridge from the parking lots. Not the longest trail, but you could walk the loop a few times and try the side trails for variation if you wanted a longer walk. This place is a gem hidden in plain site on busy Shore Road, and worth a visit. A quiet connection to old Cape Cod, to the wealthy who acquired the land, and to those progressive people who saved it from ever being developed. Consider a donation to their future efforts, as Little Bay and Monks Park demonstrates just how much good a few people can do.