Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pelham Bay Park

Today was a heavenly 23 degree spring day. It called for a hike through Pelham Bay Park way up in the Bronx.

Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in NY. It offers 2,700 acres of forest, wetlands, rocky coastline and a lovely Long Island Sound beach. Unfortunately my excitement at visiting this enormous park was a little premature, as the trees hadn't even started budding. But I had a great history lesson, learnt alot about the importance of rocks and had an even bigger lesson on the total disregard people in the Bronx have for nature.

First up was Glover's Rock. This giant stone marks the spot of a pivotal battle against the British in 1776. When Washington and his army evacuated NYC after the Battle of Harlem Heights, the British landed thousands of troops and cannons not far from this spot in Pelham Bay Park. The British General, Sir William Howe, had a cunning plan to intercept Washington's underfed, underarmed and dispirited troops retreating along the Bronx River. But sadly for Howe, a certain Colonel John Glover and 800 of his merry men confronted the British and acted as a barrier between the far superior British soldiers and Washington's weak and weary army. Although seriously outnumbered, Glover's men inflicted great casualties on the Brits, and Washington and his army were able to get away. This historical moment is now commemorated by a rock!

Next up, some lovely lagoons and marshes that were once home to the Siwanoy Indians. 9000 acres of this once rich aquatic hunting ground was purchased from the Native Americans by a Mr Pell in 1654.

The trail then wound through what will be in a few months, leafy forest containing oaks and chestnuts, then onto another important rock.

The Siwanoys named this rock "Gray Mare" and it was very scared to them. Apparently this glacial rock was carried to this spot and left here when the ice sheet receded all those millennia ago. However, I'm sure that when the Siwanoys were worshipping this rock in the 1600's, they didn't pollute the marshes nearby like the present natives seem to do.

On the stretch home, the path follows the rocky coastline and you get wonderful views over Long Island Sound along with a lovely blast of salt air. Not sure why, but my camera decided to get artistic at this point in the walk. These following shots all have a blue wash over them. Maybe the camera was as excited as I, to see the sea.

Finally, the forest and coastline end at the fabulous mile long Orchard Beach. Absolutely heaving in summer, it was lovely and empty today.

Whilst I enjoyed this 7 mile hike, I think I will return in late summer when the park looks more like this. It looks like a completely different place:

Images: 13, 14, 15)  andrew cusack, nature calendar, nycgovparks

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