Woods and fields

Ashintully — Serenity on the Brow of the Hill

Four standing Doric columns are holding up the sky. They mark the site of Ashintully, the last remains of a Georgian-style mansion lost to fire in 1952. The columns guarded the entrance to a 35-room turn-of-the-20th-century “Berkshire Cottage.” Now the serenity of the view of brilliant white columns along the shore of a flower dotted…

Ellsworth Kelly leaves — Berkshire Botanical Garden

A line curves into a ripe pear, or a petal, or a stem. Walk through earth banks planted with larch, hawthorn and sporobolus grass. Pass the stone lip of fountain with a flame at the center. Enter a doorway in a living wall of cyclamen, maidenhair fern and ivy. And here, in a restored 19th-century house,…

A walk on the Ashuwillticook

Berkshire Naturalist Thom Smith strolls down the bike path on a winter afternoon. Pronounced Ash-oo-WILL-ti-cook, the Ashuwillticook bike path between Lanesborough and Adams in the Hoosac River Valley takes its name from the American Indian language. Ashuwillticook literally means “at the in-between pleasant river” or, more commonly today, “the pleasant river in between the hills.”…

Ice sculpture on the rocks

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith goes prospecting for ice. In what we like to call an old-fashioned winter, when temperatures fall well below freezing, we live in a shining land. Throughout the Berkshires I have photographed waterfalls and cascades both summer and winter, but locally few frozen spectacles cause as much excitement as the massive natural…

Finding color in the winter woods

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith revisits a favorite winter walk. What a difference a year makes. Thanksgiving morning, 2016, with camera in hand I hiked through the woods around Wahconah Falls, carefully avoiding the gorge and falls, as I was alone and the rocks were very slippery. It had snowed the previous day and night, and…

Springside Park in winter

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith explores the wildest corner of the city.  Springside Park’s 237 acres of mostly undeveloped field and woodland fit gently into the residential neighborhoods of Pittsfield’s North End. Far more trees — and squirrels — live in this part of town than any other, in the city’s largest park. How large is…

Choosing a homegrown Christmas Tree

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith goes looking for holiday evergreens. While dreaming of a white Christmas, consider making it greener. Christmas trees, the living kind, fresh cut locally by a family or the farm, continue a New England tradition. Christmas trees give open space for wildlife. They help cleanse the air and produce oxygen, and it’s…

Mountain Meadow on a fall morning

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith takes a fall walk in the northern hills. With land in Pownal Vermont and Williamstown, Massachusetts, I cannot think of a lovelier autumn walk than the preserve we call Mountain Meadow. Choose an afternoon with few clouds, when walking will be even more pleasurable if skies are blue and foliage contrasting, and…