What’s Up with Walnut Hill

June 1, 2016
One of three ponds on the property

Coming up in just a few weeks, a unique opportunity awaits for those who hike in the eastern parts of TLC’s reach. We have a great sneak peek lined up to hike and learn about the amazing biodiversity that exists on this 405 acre parcel that’s slated to become our 8th public nature preserve in the years to come. From the 100+ acres of old agricultural fields and pastures to an amazing hardwood forest along winding creeks, this property has a lot to offer. What TLC will do with the vast majority of this property is yet to be decided. Staff is hard at work finding partners and working to create a great master plan of how to protect the amazing diversity this property has to offer and also continue to have a working farm on the property to provide local food to the community, protect and enhance the wildlife habitat, and honor the history of the property.

The main hay barn, with new and old siding

My first visit to Walnut Hill left me feeling overwhelmed on the sheer size and work that I knew this property would need in the future. To make matters worse, I only saw the top 40 of this 400 acre preserve. The good thing about my personality is that the overwhelming feeling after my initial visit changed to a personal challenge to do my best to move this amazing project forward.  Last summer we began work on many of the old farm buildings to stabilize them and repair leaky roofs to minimize further damage. They truly don’t make things like they used to. The craftsmanship of the old tobacco barns, hay barns, and the pack house on the property is an amazing tribute to those who built them many decades ago. Investing in these structures will play a role in continuing sustainable agriculture on the property and it also respects and honors the legacy of the Walnut Hill Historic District and the Williamson Farm. So far, the general upkeep of the buildings and property has been the majority of the grunt work that yours truly gets to do. The rest remains in the planning stages.

EQUIPMENTSaving antique equipment from old barns

The futures of the large amounts of old fields throughout the property are a major portion of the planning work. I won’t talk much about them because it’d mostly be speculation at this point, but there’s some neat ideas on the table that include early successional habitat restoration like that at Horton Grove Nature Preserve, continued farming on some of the acreage, and even potential longleaf pine restoration! And of course trails will also be a feature of this unique landscape. There will be an amazing network of hiking and some biking trails that will take you from the historic buildings up along the northern boundary all the way down through pine forests, open fields, and a large section of hardwoods complete with  a rocky stream filled with wildlife. There’s even a busted up still on the property, rumored to have been operated by the famous runner, Percy Flowers.

Note the axe marks from when the still was busted!

So, get excited for Walnut Hill! It may be many years out, but the list of reasons to be excited about this property is extensive. We’ll be having hikes periodically of the property and even have one coming up on June 4th, Land Trust Day!

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