MIDDLETOWN NATURE GARDENS
We often don’t associate cities with places where natural beauty thrives. But, I find some of the most urban areas have the best hidden treasures around.
Middletown Nature Gardens is one of them.
In a city, with a population of 47,000, a small 18-acre plot of land holds the key to quiet and solitude.
It is a favorite spot that I’ve come back to time and time again. And, it is the best place for my kids to ‘jump-start’ their vacation with a summer filled with outdoor promise.
Volunteers here have mastered the footprint to this natural habitat. That’s quite obvious as we set out on the flat, gravel pathway that leads away from the parking lot. Beautiful swaths of perennial grasses and wildflowers line the meandering trail that loops around the entire perimeter of the small preserve.
There are so many areas to explore - much to the delight of my kids. A little offshoot brought us to a hidden clearing where a bench implored us to kick up our feet and drink in the view. Another offshoot sent us into the woods where lumbering cedars, dogwoods, and maples reign supreme.
Rounding the southern part of the garden we came across our first real hint of the ‘outside’ world - a small path that opens up onto an overgrown field bordering the Wesley Elementary School playground. As you can imagine, it was too good to resist. So, we took a slight detour in our trek to enjoy some time ‘off’ the trail.
Returning to the preserve, we made our way into yet another garden habitat where a vernal pool and a swampy area filled with red maples stand.
But, the true jewel of this garden is its old field and the towering, 200-year old maple tree in its center.
Dubbed the ‘Bee Tree’ because of its resident bee colony, it is a majestic specimen that invites visitors to sit under its umbrella to watch birds and butterflies flutter by. Bat boxes are also strategically placed to invite even more wildlife into this sweet spot.
There are no cliffs to climb or waterfalls to marvel at here – just a quiet stroll is all - proving once again that even the smallest of nature’s niches can be just as inspiring as the grandest.
Directions: Take CT-9 S to Exit 11 for CT-155/Randolph Rd. toward CT-17/Durham. Turn left onto Randolph Rd. for about two and half miles. The park entrance is on the left between Brown Street and Long Hill Road.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 1 mile