Written by GOseacoast Walks
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SCENIC LOCAL WALKS
South Berwick, ME
Among the best woodsy river walks in the Seacoast. Smooth trails in pine forest, but one path leads to the 18th century Hamilton House that stands majestically above the Salmon Falls River. Simply lovely and not far from canoe pond and historic cemetery site.
Name: Vaughan Woods Memorial Park
Location: Take Vine Street off Route 236 in South Berwick, past pond and cemetery. Take right just after Hamiltton House entrance.
Resources: Parking area, outdoor cooking facilities, a few picnic tables, rest room
Rules: 9am – 6pm (5pm off season), technically closed in winter. No alcohol, $2 donation per adults. Take no wildlife, rocks or plants, marked walking trails, some with limited access, lots of roots to twist an ankle on.
Dogs: Allowed on short leash.
Web Site: Maine State Parks
Vaughan Woods comes as close as I’ve seen to being the perfect family park. It sits off a gorgeous South Berwick back road and opens onto a flat sunny field encircled by tall pines. There are shady spots, picnic tables, a clean restroom and – to that point – nothing dramatic or memorable. Whoever Vaughan was, we can find no mention of him or her. Then you take the path through the woods.
The effect is transporting. Suddenly you are in the Forest Primeval, dwarfed by trees in a dark wood that might lead into a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson or the Grimm brothers. You cross a babbling brook that actually babbles and pad along the carpet of pine needles. The river glistens in the background turning the woods two-dimensional. You head, instinctively, toward the water. The trees, covering most of the 250 acres, rise like ships masts.
We always take the path that leads, through a swampy patch, to the regal Hamilton House poised on a terraced rise. The garden there is yet another world, framed by ancient statues and white wooden columns and an ornate trellis. Suddenly you are a wealthy merchant from the 18th century. You wander your little orchard and climb, with difficulty, down granite steps that have shifted wildly on the path to where the great tall ships once stood against the river wharf. From here you could sail to England.
But the dog is restless. He wants to walk the full circuit in the dark woods. He runs up The Bridle Path and down the Porcupine Trail. You pick a bench, at last, among roots gnarled in the sun like sleeping boa constrictors, and stare back up the Salmon Falls River at the house on the hill. There is not, you are quite certain, a finer place to be in all of the Seacoast.
Photos by J. Dennis Robinson
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DOWN THE HAMILTON HOUSE TRAIL
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