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2011 - Issue 5

August Double Header

Most of the summer's big events have taken place, but on Sunday, August 21, there is a not-to-miss double header for those who enjoy exploring the Valley. At 9 a.m. the Northern Connecticut Land Trust will lead a guided hike of the Talcott Ravine area which will include information on the history and old mills located there. And from noon to 3 p.m. the Friends of Valley Falls are hosting area artists whose paintings of the Valley Falls Farm and park will be auctioned at 3:30 p.m. See below for more information on both events.

Artists' Day at the Valley Falls Farm is a rare opportunity to explore this piece of our history. The Valley for over a century was primarily mills and farms and this is the last of the nineteenth century farms that is intact and maintained. To help you learn more about the farm and park we've added a history of the Valley Falls area as compiled by Carol and Ronald Burke. It's a fascinating area that has been lived in and developed by a series of interesting people.

Also in this newsletter is a slide show of the Vernon Garden Club's 2011 Garden Tour in case you missed it. We also introduce you to the Belding Wildlife Management Area's Wildflower Meadow, a very different form of garden. Take a trip down our first roadway tour on Bamforth Road. And lastly look back in time with aerial photographs of Vernon from 1934 and 1965.

So get outside and enjoy the closing days of summer before school begins and we'll be back next month with ideas for the fall.

Jon Roe   

» Go to The Tankerhoosen website.

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Nature And Art

You have a wonderful opportunity to explore the Tankerhoosen Valley on Sunday, August 21 with a guided hike of the Talcott Ravine area in the morning and in the afternoon an opportunity to roam Valley Falls Farm while area artists paint the landscape and buildings.

Talcott Ravine Guided Hike

Earlier this year the Talcott Family deeded the scenic Talcott Ravine property to the Northern Connecticut Land Trust (NCLT), thus preserving and making available to everyone this unique natural resource. This property is not only known for its scenery, but was also home to two of the Tankerhoosen River's early mills and is next to the Hopriver Rail Trail and historic Talcottville.

The 9 a.m. hike on August 21 will be led by NCLT's GAIL FAHERTY, who leads the Talcott Ravine Stewardship Team. In May several of us toured the area with local historian and researcher SCOTT LENT, who has collected old photos and area history, which he shares on his website. Gail will have some of these photos to view and information on the Ravine's history. The hike will include a short walk on the popular Rail Trail, then along the Tankerhoosen River through the Ravine for a total distance of 2.6 miles/2 hours.

» Go to hike information.
» Go to Talcott Ravine Loop hike.
» Go to Ravine mill history.

Artists Day at Valley Falls Farm

In the afternoon enjoy walking the grounds of the scenic Valley Falls Farm at 345 Valley Falls Road in Vernon and watch 25 Connecticut artists painting "en plein air" from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. An auction of the paintings will follow at 3:30 p.m. Other art works by the participating artists will be for sale in the historic red barn. Music by Judy Handler and Mark Levesque on guitar and mandolin will be played from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Admission is free. Park in the parking lot of Valley Falls Park at 312 Valley Falls Road. A shuttle van will be available between the parking lot and the red barn. The event is sponsored by the Friends of Valley Falls, and co-sponsored by the Vernon Arts Commission, and the Vernon Parks and Recreation Department. Enjoy a full afternoon at the Valley Falls area: explore the Farm and watch the artists, enjoy some outdoor music and an art auction, hike the trails in Valley Falls Park and the adjacent Belding Wildlife Preserve, or bike on the Rail Trail.

All proceeds from this event will go towards the preservation and restoration of the Farm. The event will be canceled in case of rain. Notice will be posted on the Friends' website or call (860) 875-4623.

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History: Valley Falls Park & Farm

The history of Valley Falls dates back to the 1700's when the first mill owner dammed Railroad Brook and built his mill. Mills operated here for over a hundred years, the railroad was constructed along Railroad Brook and a series of wealthy land owners turned the area into their summer estates and gentleman's farm.

CAROL and RONALD BURKE, who have lived in the area for over fifty years and worked to preserve Valley Falls, wrote a short history of the park some years ago. With their blessing their history has been posted on our website.

» Go to Valley Falls History.

We plan to draw from the Burke's history to present you with a series of articles on the people and the area. Our first is on Valley Falls Farm, a local historic property and one of the loveliest vistas in the area. The 10-acre farm and seven outbuildings were saved when the Friends of Valley Falls purchased the property in 2001. The buildings include a historic stable and herb gardens. One day the farm may be a museum, but for now a good time to visit and look the buildings and grounds over will be Sunday, August 21, when FOVF holds its annual Artists Day.

Have you ever wondered just where the fields were that were part of the farm? They are gone now and not at all obvious as you pass through the area, but the 1934 photo, as linked below, clearly shows them along Bolton Road.

» Read about Valley Falls Farm.

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Events: Vernon Garden Tour

Every two years the Vernon Garden Club conducts a tour of some of the best private gardens in Vernon. The 2011 tour was called "Garden Reflection" and held on Saturday, July 9. It was an opportunity to peek behind the fences and into the backyards of some of Vernon's best gardeners.

Although this year's selection of eight gardens did not include any that are within the Tankerhoosen Valley, the base of operations for the day was the Tolland Agricultural Center on Route 30, which is, perhaps, the most under appreciated gem in the Valley.

If you missed the tour we posted online a slide show that will give you a taste of the gardens. A few photos don't do them justice, but may convince you not to miss the next tour.

» Go to slide show.

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Places: Wildflower Meadow

Perhaps not a garden in the traditional sense, the Wildflower Meadow on Bread and Milk Road is part of the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection's (DEEP) Belding Wildlife Management Area. Loss of habitat is the biggest threat facing wildlife as in recent years over 95% of our wildflower meadows have disappeared.

In 2008 four acres of wildflower seed were planted to start the project under the direction of JANE SEYMOUR, who is a technician for the Wildlife Division's State Lands Management Program. As described on the informational signs in the meadow: "Native wildflowers and grasses have been planted in this field. A variety of flowers bloom here from spring to fall providing nectar sources for butterflies and other insects through the season. Seed from these flowers continue to provide food for resident birds and small mammals throughout the winter. Native plants in this field include lupine, wild bergamot, black-eyed Susan, partridge pea, ox-eye sunflower, purple coneflower, New England aster and Indian grass."

Our webpage for the Wildflower Meadow provides more background and shows the meadow as it changes throughout the year.

» Go to Wildflower Meadow.

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Roadways: Bamforth Road

There are many ways to arrange all the places to visit and learn about in the Tankerhoosen Valley. This section will be arranged by roadway so that as you drive, bike or walk you can learn more about what you are seeing or what is just out of your sight. Where available there are links to other articles on the website for more information on the sites along the way. There are also links to information on other website.

Our first roadway is Bamforth Road, a short road, less than a mile long. It begins at Route 30 and descends into the Tankerhoosen Valley ending at Bolton Road. It is an old road that is part of the connector from Rockville to Bolton. For such a short road it includes a number of interesting features including a Chestnut Restoration Project, the oldest cemetery in town, the Belding Wildlife Management Area, a butterfly garden and Clark's Brook, an important feeder to the river.

» Go to Bamforth Road.

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Tank Tales: Aerial Maps Trace History

In 1934 Connecticut became the first state to complete a statewide aerial survey. That means we can see in detail what the Tankerhoosen Valley looked like before the highway split the town, cut through wetlands and eliminated Dobsonville. At that time we were mills and farms, including many tobacco farms - all long gone.

A second aerial survey was done in 1965, before the highway widening took place around 1980. This was the time when housing developments started to spring up. The two surveys available through the Connecticut State Library (CSL) system show the evolution of the Valley. Adding Google Map images brings it up to date. What did the area where you live look like eighty years ago?

The photo shown here is of the lower Tankerhoosen River including Talcottville, Dobsonville and the three lower lakes. The railroad, Routes 30 and 83 are visible including the crossing that will become Vernon Circle. Note also the many fields. Try to trace the route of I-84 through the wetlands between the river and Route 30.

As the Tankerhoosen website develops we'll use these old aerial photos to illustrate the history of the area and how it evolved. The link will take you to CSL's 1934 and 1965 photos of Vernon. The maps allow you to zoom in for a close look.

» Go to CSL aerial photos.

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Our Facebook Page

Between newsletters stay current with news and updates on our Facebook Page. Recent postings include notice of upcoming events and hikes, photos from area events, and news items relating to the area. Visit the Page to receive updates.

» Go The Tankerhoosen Facebook Page

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