A New York developer wanted to purchase Balch Hill in Hanover in 1970 and had plans to build 126 condos. The community came together to save this precious piece of land, and today we can walk on Balch Hill and enjoy the easy hike and gorgeous view from the top. The land is owned and cared for by the Hanover Conservancy, the Town of Hanover, and Dartmouth College—each owning their own parcel. With the help of many volunteers, the trails are well marked and well maintained. Among the many volunteers thanked on their websites were high school and middle school students. This experience not only helps maintain the property, but it teaches the children a love and appreciation of nature.
Sue Coakley invited me to join her on the annual Mother’s Day Wildflower Hike led by Hanover Conservancy volunteers Biologist Gail McPeek and Botanist Alice Schori. We joined the group of like-minded folks and set off of a perfect morning. Very soon we were greeted by two barred owls that we couldn’t see but clearly heard say “Who cooks for you.” I like to think in owl-ese, they meant “Welcome to our beloved woods.”
We stopped often to learn about the ferns and wild flowers every few steps. Among the delightful plants we saw were poetically named Sweet Cicely, Maidenhair fern, and Wild Lily-of-the Valley. One type of flower that I would never have seen if Gail and Sue hadn’t led us off the path was the aptly named Spring beauties. We all admired the beauties while a warbler serenaded us.
As I strolled through this magical place, I thought of the people who rescued Balch Hill all those years ago. They have left a legacy for future generations: a place to hear the birds, smell the blossoms, and feed our souls.