There are two main entrances to the 204-acre Champlain Farm South (PDF) open space - at the cul-de-sac at the end of Meetinghouse Lane and at the end of Library Lane. On-street parking is available at both locations. The open space may also be accessed indirectly via an Old Lyme Land Trust property at 223 Whippoorwill Road, near the intersection with Jadon Drive. No on-site parking is available at the latter location.
An extensive trail system includes ridges, streams, vernal pools and bogs, with routes ranging from less than a half mile to a two-mile property loop. Spectacular 100-foot granite cliffs can be seen along the "white trail" which starts at Library Lane.
Look carefully, and you will see evidence of past human use. Under the now leafy canopy of deciduous trees, you can see the remnants of a pastoral landscape. Walking along the trails, see the skeletons of long-dead Juniper (red cedar) trees that sprang up in sheep pastures in the early 1800's. At that time, there were over 1.5 million sheep grazing Connecticut's hillsides.
Since the sheep didn't care to eat these young cedars, they eventually filled the landscape. After the Civil War, the wool market declined and farmers moved west, leaving the local hills to revert to forest. Stone walls that held in livestock and marked boundaries now meander through the woods as markers of times past. The new forest overtopped the cedars, depriving them of the light they needed to survive, and they slowly died, leaving the skeletons we see today along these trails.
Another Champlain Farm South point of interest is the old roadway traveling along the ridge from the end of Meeting House Hill north toward I-95. Look carefully at sections of the road where it crosses exposed bedrock and you may be able to discover the tracks of old iron-wheeled carts that traversed the farms of the 17th and 18th centuries. They may have been carrying farm families to the church on Meeting House Hill near where the Old Lyme Country Club stands today!
In June, you'll find spectacular sections of fragrant white and pink mountain laurel blossoming along trails. The beautiful native American shrub was designated Connecticut's State Flower by the General Assembly in 1907.
Please be careful hiking, as there are a few steep trail locations that may be slippery when wet.