East Quabbin Land Trust
Gilbertville, Massachusetts 01031
Mandell Hill webpage
Mandell Hill map
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Mandell Hill is a working landscape in many senses of the term. One major aspect of the property is the ongoing management of invasive plant species such as Asiatic bittersweet. In concert with this work is the reclamation of acres of former pastures that were lost to these invading plants and are now once again supporting active agriculture in the form of a grass-fed beef operation. The third leg of this operation is the management of the large upper fields for breeding grassland birds such as bobolinks and meadowlarks. Supported with sustainable forestry and other endeavors such as sugaring, the Mandell Hill property is intended to be a model of ecologically sensitive, financially profitable, and culturally appropriate land use.
The Mandell Hill property is a beautiful landscape that the public is encouraged to utilize, but do keep in mind that this is a working farm property and that the ecological management is ongoing. There will be times when there is machinery about, and you may also witness areas of land clearing. This work is always according to a strict, long-term management plan in pursuit of the East Quabbin Land Trust’s mission of preserving the natural, historical, agricultural, and recreational character of the region. At times gates may block trails as cattle are being pastured in rotation. Gates on trails are meant to be passed through, but ALWAYS close the gates behind you immediately. In line with agriculture, especially the cattle and electric fences, along with the ecological practices, especially the promotion of ground-nesting birds, dog walking is discouraged on the property.
The trail takes you upon the plateau of the East Quabbin Land Trust’s Mandell Hill property, through active pastures and high-canopied forests. From the parking lot, walk south through the gate and follow the farm road. Immediately to your left is the reclaimed foundation of the Mandell Farm barn whose rich history has been well documented by local historians. Back on the farm road, views to the east offer Winimusset Wildlife Management Area, the Ware River, and Mount Wachusett. West shows more active agricultural land falling away towards Hardwick center. This is a great spot to take in both sunrises and sunsets. Throughout the pastures, take care to notice the wire fences alongside the trail: they are often electrified to keep in cattle. Continue on, soon coming to a fork in the road. This is a loop trail, so either direction is appropriate, but this description is following the branch left. Take the left branch, and as you walk look off in the distance to see Mount Wachusett visible on clear days. Walk through a farm gate (please close it behind you if it was closed), past the enormous European Beech tree, and bear right, up the low knoll. Once upon the knoll take a look back for a great view of the working pastures, grazing cattle, and the historical landmarks. Off the knoll, the trail continues, bearing right, into the forest and bisecting the steep, wooded slope of Mandell Hill. Soon a subtle jog in the trail left passes through a historic farm lane bordered on each side by stonewalls, now under the forest canopy. The trail continues relatively flat through the forest for another ¾ mile before it turns to the west and climbs steeply back up to the plateau an isolated field. This field is known locally as the President’s Field due to the lore of George Washington’s army setting camp here. Follow the blue diamond markers around the end of the field and bear right keeping the field closely on your right side. On the north end of the field, you will find a farm road. Follow the farm road and blue markers, eventually crossing over the stonewall using a wooden style that will bring you to the Ellison Memorial Birding Platform. The birding platform is twelve feet in the air, giving visitors a panoramic view of the Mandell Hill area and the birds that frequent these large expansive managed grasslands. Continue heading north and the parking area is less than 1,000 feet away.
From Mandell Hill webpage