“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep,”
These famous lines from Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” drifted into my mind as I trudged through deep snow on the outskirts of a Fenwick forest.
It was a deathly cold night; the air was crisp, the stars partially hidden by clouds. Walking the silent snow-covered woods of Pelham is a pastime of mine, particularly at night.
Although our town has been radically altered by urban sprawl and subdivision housing projects over the last decade, fortunately enough of rural Pelham survives to make walking in forests still possible.
Pelham enjoys several nature parks: the large expanse of Short Hills Provincial Park in North Pelham, nearby St. John’s Conservation Area, and in Fenwick, Bradshaw Park.
As of late I had devoted quite a lot of time to walking the woods of North Pelham on nocturnal excursions searching for the eastern cougar. After completing that quest, I thought a change in venue was in order: so I turned my attention to Pelham’s nature park, Bradshaw.
This fifty-acre property is located on Chandler road amongst the fields and woodlots of rural Fenwick. It was bequeathed to the town by Harold S. Bradshaw, who passed away in 1982 and stipulated in his will that his property was to be made into a park.
In the late 1990s an ill-advised plot to transform Bradshaw Park to a recreational park complete with soccer and baseball fields was mercifully averted. Local residents deserve the credit for saving Bradshaw; they successfully lobbied the municipal council to preserve it.
The park is an excellent place to take a casual stroll or especially to walk a canine friend. Well-groomed trails loop through the mostly wooded expanse, and it is less well travelled than Short Hills Provincial Park, although admittedly not nearly as large or picturesque.
The forest of Bradshaw is not composed of stately trees, such as one will in Marcy’s Woods in Fort Erie, but is rather scrubby, thick and tangled. Although on the southern border of the park grows an ancient and towering red oak.
However, the predominately scrubby habitat is ideal for many species of wildlife, including whitetail deer, coyotes, red foxes, rabbits, grey squirrels, and upland game birds. The park is also most likely home to some wild turkeys.
As I wandered through the park, I noted plenty of deer and rabbit tracks, and in a patch of thick brush I spotted an eastern cottontail as it darted away from me.
Toward the back of the park the trees become somewhat larger. In the fading light of dusk I ventured into a thick grove of ominous-looking overgrown fruit trees.
A slight breeze caused the aged trees to creak eerily; tangled vines as thick as a man’s forearm hang from their ghostly branches. The whole scene had a decidedly sinister appearance to it; I found it rather reminiscent of an Edgar Allen Poe horror story.
If only a coyote had howled it would have perfectly complimented the atmosphere.
Tree species found within the park are mainly deciduous, although there are also some pine, both red and white, and on the eastern periphery of the park is a decent-sized eastern white cedar.
A small tributary of Coyle Creek snakes through the park and drains a small pond. The meandering creek had yet to freeze, and with all the recent heavy snowfall it was brimming with fast-flowing water.
Overall, Bradshaw Park is an interesting place, and well-worth braving the cold and deep snows to take a walk in.