Near Westford Common is a relatively new conservation area, which rises from Hildreth Street up to the top of Prospect Hill. This hill is the highest point in Northern Middlesex County. The Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary was donated by Priscilla Elliott in 1999. It consists of 8 acres of woodland and an adjoining cornfield. Many wildflowers bloom here in the spring, along with numerous ferns. There are deep-forest birds, including Wood Thrush and Bluewinged Warbler. This interesting land is described by John Hanson Mitchell in his book Walking to Walden.
A huge Shagbark Hickory (state champion) stands off the trail to your left. Continuing on the cart path, the trail rises and curves to the right. Because of the steepness, this trail would not be appropriate for a stroller. As the trail rises, it parallels an old stone wall on the left of the trail. This marks the boundary with town owned land administered by the Water Department.
After reaching the uppermost point on the cart path, a smaller trail leads down the hill, which is very steep. Eagle Scouts Barrett Bilotta, David Gillett and Michael Dennehy organized separate trail improvement projects in this area recently. Thanks to them and their helpers, the trail leading down the steep slope is much easier to walk.
Reaching the bottom, you will be near the cornfield, and walking among some interesting old stone structures. The sanctuary trail returns to the green gate. Or you can walk the new field loop trail. This trail follows the perimeter of the old cornfield, which is now maintained as a pollinator field. This field was the locale of the town’s bicentennial pageant in 1929. Its gate was recently restored and is worth a look. The stone wall bordering Hildreth Street has succumbed to time and heavy traffic, but is being restored through a Community Preservation grant. The entire loop can be hiked in less than a half hour, but some people like to relax and focus on the beautiful surroundings, remarkably located so near the center of Town.
LocationYou can park in the maintenance lot, newly constructed in 2019, across from Wright Lane and through the green gate. In winter, you may park on Wright Lane, near the small traffic island so others can pass. A green gate indicates the trail entrance. Walking through the gate and going to the left, you will be following an old cart path marked with yellow blazes. The path crosses a small brook on an earthen bridge. This part of the forest is darkly shaded by Norway Spruce, all the same age. These trees were planted soon after the 1938 hurricane.
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