You can learn a lot by walking in the woods — especially when someone is kind enough to provide a breadcrumb trail of knowledge along the way. That’s what makes the Simmons Mill Pond Management Area in Little Compton, R.I., so special … as long as you take the time to stop, read, and learn about this 400-acre woodland.
Located off Colebrook Road, the Simmons Mill Pond trailhead leads to a network of old carriage roads to the pond (the mill is no longer there, but you can still see the dam and millrace). Volunteers have thoughtfully placed a series of wooden signs along the way describing the plants, trees and flowers lining the trail — things so familiar to Eastern woods-walkers that perhaps we don’t always bother to learn their names.
Pokeweed, for example, is also known as Inkberry — it’s often confused for blackberries but is poisonous to people. Several types of ferns also are identified, and we also learn that while American Holly is abundant in these Tiverton and Little Compton woods, this is actually near the northern edge of the holly’s range.
There’s also history in these woods: Benjamin Simmons built his mill on Cole Brook around 1750, and hikers can still see the grassy lane that once connected the miller’s home to his place of business (the carriage roads date only to the 1950s). Benches built by Little Compton’s Eagle Scout Troop 29 provide a nice respite for the foot-weary — there’s even a brush provided to sweep away any leaves or debris before you sit.
Simmons Mill Pond is broad and peaceful, lined with cool woods and wildflowers — a great spot for a picnic lunch after a educational walk. We only ventured as far as the edge of the pond, although the trails continued on to an old farm site (next time!). It was obvious from the (again, thoughtfully provided) poop scoops alongside the path that these trails are popular with dog-walkers; we also saw family groups and people on horsebacks enjoying a spectacular September day.
(All photos © Bob Curley)