Richards Preserve
Abbott Lane, Wilton, Fairfield County, Connecticut

From: Wilton Land Conservation Trust


Saw Mill River Parkway north to its end (at mile marker 29); get off at the exit for Route 35; at the light turn right on Route 35 east; at the T-intersection in Ridgefield, turn right onto Route 33 south; head into Wilton; turn right onto De Forest Road; drive 0.5 of a mile and turn left onto Crofoot Road (a dirt road) just before reach house #121; drive 0.1 of a mile and turn left onto Abbott Lane; drive 0.1 of a mile and park  near house #26.  The Kiosk for the Preserve can be seen through the woods. 

Marble-Van Haelewyn/Marianna Richards/Elizabeth Gray Sackett Preserve - Marble-Van Haelewyn/Richards Preserve

 DIRECTIONS: From Wilton Center go west on Ridgefield Road 2.3 miles to DeForest Road. Turn on DeForest Road and go 0.7 miles to DeForest Lane. Turn left on DeForest Lane and go 0.1 miles to Forest Lane. Turn left on Forest Lane and turn right on Abbott Lane. Continue to the cul-de-sac. Parking is allowed in this area and the trail access is on the east side of the cul-de-sac.

ACREAGE: +44.5

PARKING: Abbott Lane Entrance at cul-de-sac
Old Driftway, limited

ACCESS: Abbott Lane Entrance; and off Cheese Spring Road Entrance; from the Sackett Preserve

TRAILS: 2 mile network

OWNERSHIP: Wilton Land Conservation Trust

Hendrick Van Haelewyn donated the northern part of the Preserve (27.5 acres) to the Trust in 1988 in memory of his mother, Isabel Yardley Marble who initially acquired the property in 1920. Mr. Van Haelewyn, like his mother, wanted to provide open space lands for the general public to enjoy. The three Richards children gave the southern portion of the Preserve (17 acres) to the Trust in 1993 in memory of their mother, Mariana Richards. Although two separate acquisitions, the Land Trust treats both parcels as part of one dynamic interacting landscape.

The diverse terrain ranges from flat flood plains and swamps to moderate to steep slopes, cliffs and rocky crests. Rock formations include complex schists and fine-grained gneisses. Huckleberry Hills Brook, a prominent feature of the Preserve, flows from the north. The Brook appears to run continuously over the year. Fed by a drainage system which includes Kent Pond and Henderson Pond, Huckleberry Hills Brook ultimately drains into Rock Lake and Norwalk Reservoir. Approximately 75 percent of the land is covered by rich second-growth mixed hardwood forest. Much of the remaining wetlands is open swamp.

Throughout the Preserve a high degree of diversity in vegetation exists. Primarily red oak, white oak, black oak, tulip tree, yellow birch, black birch, beech, shagbark hickory, white ash, and sugar maple make up the forested sections. A very common understory shrub is maple-leaved viburnum and in some locations mountain laurel. Several species of ferns grow almost everywhere. The deeper reaches of swamp contain many specimens of black ash and red maple along with several shrub species including sweet pepperbush, red alder, winterberry, spicebush and high bush blueberry. Skunk cabbage, swamp saxifrage, water starwort, cinnamon fern and tearthumb are also very characteristic.

A major trailhead begins at the Abbott Lane entrance. A short way beyond the stone fence, a white blazed trail extends to the left or right in a circular loop. The white trail runs through the northern part of the Preserve. This trail took its name after the late V.P. Wystrach. Wystrach, a trustee, played a key role in the original negotiations for the Van Haelewyn property. To the left, this trail descends through former pasture land (some 75 years ago), now covered by young stands of hardwoods. Reaching the bottom of the hill, a side trail (red blazes) crosses Huckleberry Hills Brook via a small foot bridge which leads to a small promontory overlooking a typical red maple swamp. Here a dedication plaque honoring Isabel Yardley Marble and Hendrick Van Haelewyn is located on a rock outcrop nearby. The plaque is offset by many large oaks, hickories and beech. On return to the footbridge one may pick up the white blazed trail again as it extends south to the flood plain of the brook. Eventually, the trail begins to climb to a very large rock outcrop providing a grand view of the deepest and most open part of the Preserve wetlands. From this point the trail goes uphill a bit more, entering dense thickets of mountain laurel (flowering most spectacularly in June) and eventually returns to the original starting point and the Abbott Lane entrance.

A blue blazed trail curves around the base of the large rock lookout and into the southern part of the Preserve reaching a small stream crossing over Huckleberry Hills Brook. Extending south along the eastern side of the brook this trail eventually, after recrossing to the west bank, reaches Cheese Spring Road at the southern end of the Preserve. Return blue blazed loops allow visitors to explore the prominent wooded knolls, characteristic of this part of the Preserve. Magnificent stands of tulip tree, red and black oak and hickory can be seen along the way. At one point the blue trail extends along the very edge of the open swamp for close observations of wetland species. Alternate routes through the Preserve are possible through use of one or more indicated connector segments. Also, the blue blazed trail can be used to access the adjoining Sackett Preserve.

The Marble/Van Haelewyn-Richards Preserve is a significant piece of open space in Wilton. The extensive wetlands play an important role in aquifer recharge and downstream water supply. They offer a secure habitat for many forms of wildlife. Combined with varied topography and large tracts of forested land in different stages of development, this Preserve provides a landscape for many forms of passive recreation and much spiritual refreshment.


9/14/2005.  On a hot day, Ceferino Santana, dog Sonar and I parked at the circle at the end of Abbott Lane.  The main path in the Richards Preserve is shaped like a heart leaning to the left, angled northwest to southeast.  We entered past the stone wall.  Stopped at the kiosk with its trail map.  We walked a short ways to a three-way intersection.  Straight ahead goes the yellow trail (a short-cut trail across the heart), while the white trail heads left and right.  We turned left on the white trail and head downhill through lots of winged euonymus bushes with the Huckleberry Hills Brook running on the left; turn right with the Brook in the valley on the left and the higher part of the hill on the upper right.  Pass by the yellow trail.

We could have connected to the other preserve, mainly on the other side of the Brook and somewhat in the shape of a mitten with a long tail, but I did not want to spend too much time in late summer in the woods.

We made the turn on the southeastern end of the hear and then headed northwest through lots of mountain laurel bushes back to the kiosk and our car.  The walk was short and quick.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.  

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney

*  =  plants blooming on field trip, 9/14/2005

Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Chimaphila maculata (striped wintergreen)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Vaccinium sp. (blueberry)

Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)

Aster spp. (aster)     *
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)     *

Carex laxiflora type (loose-flowered type sedge)

Tridens flavus (purple top grass)

Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)


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