Early last week friend Becky suggested we go to Brimfield on the 11th. “Great,” I said, “never made it there, and I am searching for a chaise/cot/seating for my porch.” We headed there sadly, but wisely (to get there) on main roads – I-91 to the Mass Pike exiting for US 20. I was successful in my search at Brimfield, but Becky was not unfortunately. Upon leaving, I exclaimed “I have a shunpiking treat for you on the way back.” She was game. Yes, back roads home!
I have been around the northern part of the Quabbin Reservoir which was built between 1930 and 1939 – the largest body of inland water in Massachusetts and the main water supply for Boston. Many towns were moved before the flooding occurred, and most of the land in this part of the state is preserved. Years ago I discovered New Salem which is one of the most original and beautiful Town Commons I have seen – she agreed with me, and the 1838 Academy building was open. It was derelict on my last tour through, and how impressive the restoration. From there we jogged through Orange (get your maps out, actually Massachusetts maps are hard to find – cheap Commonwealth – so grab as many as you can when you see them), picking up Route 78 through Warwick (another fabulous unspoiled Town Common) into Winchester, NH and home.
But why tell you this? Since getting home I have been reading a book (of course I have several on the area) about the towns north of Quabbin. And since today I was planning to go to a “car show” in Bernardston, Mass. Ray said, “Ray, what a perfect time to go back and fill in some more spots on the map!” A plan was hatched.
I am not a “car show” person – I am an old car driver. I cannot relate to the 1970 Detroit iron. My Dad was a car buff and restorer (yes, we had an 8 car garage filled), and we were always off to car events – but back then nothing newer than 1930 was allowed. I can make an exception, I do enjoy cars up to the mid-1930s, but hot-rods and muscle cars – sorry, NOT RAY. But the Sunday event at Kringle Candle in Bernardston was “on my list,” partially because I wanted to put a “Wanted to Buy – 1930-31 Model A Ford Tudor Sedan” sign on the windshield, and I had not yet stopped at Kringle Candle and explored its shops and restaurant, The Farm Table.
Having the impression you had to arrive at 8 AM and stay until 11 AM, I was on the road shortly after 7 – yes down I-91 again. BLACK BEAUTY was the 15th car to arrive and register just before 8 AM. The time went fast sitting on a comfortable bench reading my book on the Quabbin area, and then walking through the shops and looking at the restaurant – yes I did walk the line of cars once – the 3 or 4 vehicles older than BLACK BEAUTY (1958) had been hot rodded, and everything else was “new” and for the most part modified. Just before 11AM, phase two of today’s plan went into effect, but as you will read in my recommendations – a visit to the shops and lunch or dinner at The Farm Table is a must.
Off I went, a tad over a mile back on US 5 to Route 10, and east to Northfield to find the back road to Erving. Stopping at a furniture restoration shop on Route 63, the friendly owner, Ray (we agreed that we have a great name, and there are few of us) and I chatted about life, and he provided recommendations. “There are 9 series of hills in Northfield, and you should take South Mountain Road. When it ends turn right, but make sure you detour to Laurel Lake.” So I did.
If you look at your map (trust you went off searching for one before continuing this journey with me) you will see the area is mainly State Forests: Mt. Grace; Warwick; and Wendell. South Mountain Road was amazingly steep, and then you go down – wow, in low gear. And my detour to Laurel Lake through pristine forest (but rough road) was a delight, and a delight to see how many people were enjoying the area. Arriving in Erving I picked up Route 2 and headed east turning off on 2A towards Orange and Athol. Remember, whenever you see the Route number with the suffix A – that is the old road, so make your shunpiking turn to follow it. Orange is an old industrial town which I have explored, but Athol is much larger with more old brick industrial buildings which sadly are not as utilized as it their heyday. From Athol I wanted to head to S. Royalston, and turned on South Royalston Road which soon turned to dirt and then ended. Well, not every turn works out, so I backtracked to Route 32 and headed north shortly turning right to Royalston. Having read the history of South Royalston I will find it next trip.
First I discovered Doane’s Falls and hiked down the path for awhile before driving over to Tully Lake which was built by the Army Corps of Engineers between 1947 and 1949 for
flood control. The recreational area is another worthy of a family daytrip including rivers suitable for canoes and kayaks. Back tracking to the main road (well bigger road) I rounded the bend and came upon a music festival in a field. BLACK BEAUTY pulled in on
the grass in front of the US Post Office. Perfect, not having found any place for lunch I was able to support the Fire Department and EMS and purchased a hamburger and drink for $4.50 (yesterday at the Alstead Vilas Pool Day my cheeseburger, chips and drink was $1 – 1970s prices). I then roamed through the museum which itself should be in a museum. The Old Royalston Schoolhouse, built in 1835, is untouched – I love original. In the entryway is a packed bulletin board for town gossip, and to the right a door opens to the post office. Peeking through the door glass I saw about 3 feet in front of me the clerk’s window and to the left several dozen post office boxes. The post office “lobby,” so to speak, measured about 3 feet by 10 feet – worth the trip!!!
One more bend in the road, and there was the Town Common – the all time best and totally untouched, and buildings exceptionally well maintained. I will have to go back with all my cameras to study it in detail. Picking up Route 68 I cut back to Route 32 crossed the border into Richmond, NH arriving soon in Swanzey and continued through Keene arriving home about 3:45. This is a route that I will do again and again, and:
RAY RECOMMENDS: Take I-91 to Bernardston for lunch at The Farm Table. Then head to Northfield and take the road to Warwick (googlemaps tells me it is Warwick Road in the center of Northfield). Then head down Route 78 to Route 2A and head east through Orange to Athol where you will turn north on Route 32 and quickly turn right to Royalston. Stop and explore Doane’s Falls, and then savor Royalston. From the common take Route 68 to South Royalston (I need to do that) and then back track on Route 68 to Route 32 back to New Hampshire.
Or, go in reverse and have dinner at The Farm Table and then scoot home. ENJOY, and let me know when you go!!!