Lathrop’s Meadows, #1

by Barbara Walvoord

Want to hear a fascinating ecological and historical exploration of the area called the “Meadows” in Northampton? This Sunday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m., in Weinstein Auditorium in Wright Hall at Smith College, our Lathrop consultant Laurie Sanders, renowned naturalist and speaker, will talk about the role of the 3000 acres of meadowland that have played a key role in the city’s settlement and history. Many of you will remember Laurie’s dynamic presentation to us last year about the natural history of Lathrop land. For more information, visit http://www.historicnorthampton.org/sanders-lecture-series.html

“Farmed and managed by the Nonotuck for centuries,” Sanders explains, “the fertile soils were the base of Northampton’s agricultural economy in the 17th and 18th centuries, while in the 19th century, the Meadows’ pastoral beauty epitomized the nation’s aesthetic and was the focus of writers, artists and travelers from around the world.”

“Today,” Sanders adds, “the wilder areas within the Meadows provide habitat for a number of rare and unusual plants and animals, while the cultivated areas continue to yield an array of crops.  And yet, aside from quick glimpses from Route 91, many Valley residents have never explored this vast area.”

As opposed to the area called “The Meadows,” biologically a “meadow” is defined as an open area of grasses and wildflowers. We have four areas of meadow on the east campus: behind Cranberry/Spiceberry/Teaberry; in the middle of the woods behind the Inn, and also on the north and south ends of our property. There’s a small meadow at the top of Bassett Brook Road, just off Florence Road, and patches of meadow elsewhere at both east and north campuses.

I’ll be writing more about our Lathrop meadows. To see an interesting description of how one organization protected and enhanced its meadow, see http://www.bhwp.org/explore-bhwp/Our-Meadow.htm.

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