Lay of the Land

The Trustees of Reservations continues to connect people to Hingham’s natural playgrounds.

By Kiley Jacques | Photography by Jack Foley and courtesy of The Trustees of Reservations
Pictured above: 
Jeppe Hein’s “A New End” was installed in World’s End in the fall of 2016 and will remain for a full year. The sculpture is part The Trustees’ Art and the Landscape initiative, which brings contemporary art into some of its preserved properties, giving visitors a new perspective on the local landscape

Hingham residents are likely no strangers to World’s End, Weir River Farm, Whitney and Thayer Woods and Turkey Hill—especially those who harbor an affection for natural beauty. An aerial view of the region reveals nearly 5,000 green acres, which may come as a surprise, given the amount of residential and commercial development that typically characterizes the area. A notable portion of that acreage belongs to the nonprofit organization The Trustees of Reservations, which owns and manages the four Hingham properties, in addition to more than 100 others across Massachusetts.

At 700 acres, Whitney and Thayer Woods is the largest of the Trustees-owned Hingham properties. World’s End comprises 251 acres and lies a quarter mile from 80-acre Weir River Farm; Turkey Hill, measuring 70 acres, sits above the farm.

Providing visitors a window into the natural world, all four serve to further The Trustees’ mission to connect people to exceptional places.

Weir River Farm

“Weir River Farm, Whitney and Thayer Woods and World’s End represent some of the most picturesque and culturally significant landscapes in our statewide collection of natural, historical and agricultural sites,” says Barbara Erickson, president of The Trustees. “They provide countless year-round opportunities for [people of] all ages to experience, first-hand, the healing power of the great outdoors.”

“I think they are respected and admired for just that reason,” adds Matt Slayton, general manager of a portfolio of Trustees properties on the South Shore, which include those in Hingham as well as Dune’s Edge Campground, Norse Reservation, Holmesfield Reservation and Two Mile Farm. “It’s pretty unique to drive by a monstrous red barn and see 30 belted Galloway cattle, expansive upper grassland habitat, pastoral fields and stone walls instead of … commercial activity.”

Each property is distinct in its offerings. Turkey Hill is popular with dog walkers due to its expanse of open fields and grasslands, which provide vital bird habitat—something The Trustees works to protect. With miles of trails and carriage roads, Whitney and Thayer Woods welcomes  hikers and cyclists year-round.

“I’m surprised to see how many cars are parked there on a frigid March day,” says Slayton.

Weir River Farm connects the community to a sustainable local food source; livestock operations are the heart and soul of its operations. Visitors will find meat and eggs for sale, and the hay is harvested to feed the cows—Slayton describes it as “a very localized agricultural circle.” And World’s End offers complete submersion in a carefully cultivated, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed natural landscape.

One of Weir River Farm’s monthly Farm Dinners.

Weir River Farm and World’s End are where Slayton and the rest of the staff spend the lion’s share of their time, as they are the most frequently visited and generate the most revenue. With headquarters at the farm, two stewardship staff members, two engagement employees, a livestock manager/farmer, multiple seasonal hands and a cohort of volunteers steward the land.

One of those volunteers is 14-year-old Abbey Drinkwater, who has been visiting Weir River Farm since childhood. It’s fair to say the place has shaped her; the affection she feels for animals is obvious, as she rattles off the long list of farm residents. In fact, her five years spent volunteering on the farm have made clear the professional path she plans to follow.

“I definitely want to go into veterinary medicine,” says Drinkwater, adding that “the farm sums up the things I love—it’s away from the city and I get to see the animals; it’s the perfect place for me to wind down.”

The Trustees’ programming at Weir River Farm and World’s End is meant to draw the Hingham community; ideally continuing to attract young families whose children will remain engaged through their teen years and possibly into adulthood. Slayton describes a desirable scenario whereby a barnyard visit leads to summer camp participation, which, in turn, yields a camp counselor. The idea is to foster a deep, lifelong relationship with these places.

So far, their efforts seem to be paying off. So popular are the properties and programs that The Trustees are in the position of needing to determine new ways to accommodate large groups of visitors and interested parties.

World’s End | Jack Foley Photography

One event that promises to cater to a crowd is this year’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at World’s End.

“[World’s End] really is one of our flagship properties,” says Engagement Site Manager Peter Marotta, whose enthusiasm for the place is palpable. “You get out on these 251 acres and … are transported back to this turn-of-the-century landscape. You start developing your own connection with the property.”

According to Marotta, the history of World’s End is tied to Hingham’s own. The highest point on the property, Planter’s Hill, is called such because it was farmed by the town’s settlers, who valued its fertile soils. From the mid 1600s until about 1890, land deals were common commerce in Hingham; the land at World’s End always sold for the highest price in the town because of its fecundity.

The two drumlins that characterize the place were once individual islands that are now just barely attached by a fine strip of land. Colonial-era settlers built causeways and dams to connect the mainland to the first drumlin and a causeway from there to reach the second. “That really speaks to the value of this land,” notes Marotta. “They really wanted to get out there and use it.”

World’s End | Jack Foley Photography

When The Trustees purchased the property 50 years ago, the plan was to preserve it in such a way that it would continue to appear as it did at the turn of the century—with its overlapping landscape of Colonial-era fields, tree-lined carriage roads and fieldstone walls. “We are determined to keep the property looking this way,” says Marotta. “Part of what we do to manage that and make the best use of the landscape is preserve some of the larger fields for nesting and migrating bird habitat, which is more and more rare in Massachusetts.” Other fields have been planted for hay production. “We are still using some of these fields agriculturally, as they have been used for hundreds of years. I think it really speaks to the authenticity of the property.”

In honor of its 50th anniversary, World’s End programming will include guided walks covering topics such as the site’s ecology, significant trees, Olmsted design, wildflowers and curious features, including old foundations, inscriptions and other hidden treasures. The idea? To tell the story of World’s End in hopes that visitors will cultivate a relationship with this special place and share the vision of it as “. . . an island of beauty where we can still enjoy the satisfaction of lying in a field of warm grass and looking at the sky; where we can still watch wildlife undisturbed by the noise and confusion of the city; where we can still walk on beaches washed by the sea without seawalls and hot dog concessions; and where we can turn momentarily to simple pleasures such as seeing a child explore the mysteries of the coming spring.”

–The Trustees of Reservations


Friday Farm Dinners
July 28
August 25
September 29
October 27

Open Barnyard
Saturdays, through November

Barnyard Stories
Through October 25
Preschool Farm Explorers
Tuesdays in September
Mondays in October

Fall Equinox Garden Workshop
September 22

Boo in the Barnyard
October 28

Weir River Farm


Big 50 Challenge – Year-long

Trees Walk – July 7
A guided walk describing the significance of the carriage road trees, pointing out historically important trees, giving tree identification tips and finding notable trees off the beaten path.

Curiosities Walk – July 21
A guided walk showing some of the more unusual features of the property, such as old foundations, stone inscriptions, lost logging roads and unique geological formations.

Olmsted History Walk – August 11
A guided walk focused on the design influence of Frederick Law Olmsted and the impact he had on World’s End.

50th Anniversary Exhibit
August through September
View historic photos, maps, artifacts and other material at the Hingham Public library; attend one of the three lectures that will be held to tell the story of the property.

50th Anniversary Celebration
September 9

Full Moon Hike Series
July 9
August 7
September 6
October 5
June 21

World’s End | Jack Foley Photography

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