What makes this place special?
NEW: Check out the Sheldrick Forest Retrospective printed in the Monadnock Ledger.
Before European settlement, New Hampshire’s valleys were covered in mature forests of centuries-old, 200-foot high trees. Almost all of that forest was cleared for timber or pasture by the mid-1800s, making mature forests a rare commodity today. Walking into the mature groves in the 227-acre Sheldrick Forest in Wilton is like stepping back in time, its cathedral-like stands of 150-foot high white pines, hemlocks, and oaks provide a glimpse into the pre-settlement wilderness that once stretched across New England. Sheldrick Forest contains trees that reach diameters of 30 inches and have escaped logging for close to 200 years.
The preserve’s rolling topography includes several eskers, a ravine forest, seeps and streams, adding to its wild character. Sheldrick Forest is part of a larger conservation landscape of unbroken forest including the Forest Society’s more than 1,000-acre Heald Tract. These large and unfragmented forests provide breeding habitat for interior forest nesting birds like wood thrushes, ovenbirds and scarlet tanagers, along with uplands, streams and wetlands for wide-ranging mammals like black bear and moose to find food, shelter and cover.
How was this place protected?
The creation of Sheldrick Forest is a remarkable and classic example of grassroots conservation. Beginning in 1897, the land was owned by the Sheldrick Family for close to 100 years. The family had never logged the property, but after the last member of the family passed away in 1994, the property was sold to a developer as part of the sale of the Sheldrick estate. The developer was planning to harvest the timber and mine rich gravel deposits on the property while creating a residential subdivision. Swift Corwin, a forester from Peterborough, was hired by the developer to identify and mark trees over 12 inches in diameter for harvesting. Swift was awed by the size, diversity, and age of the trees in Sheldrick Forest, which he described to the Boston Globe this way, “I think this is a jewel. As much a jewel as climbing to the top of Mount Mondanock.” He discussed the ecological importance of the forest with the developer who agreed to allow Swift to talk with Sweet Water Trust, a Boston-based foundation focused on protecting large tracts of forestland.
Sweet Water Trust directed Swift to The Nature Conservancy who negotiated a $550,000 purchase price with the developer in July 1995, and then embarked on an eleven month long community grassroots fundraising campaign to protect the forest. The local community embraced the fundraising campaign whole heartedly. Neighbors, Randi Stein and Judi Cahoon, made significant donations to help us acquire the property. Other neighbors, local conservation commissions, garden clubs and schools, held fundraising walks, benefit concerts, and art auctions to inspire gifts ranging from two dollars to $5,000. This outpouring of local support allowed the Conservancy to purchase the preserve in June 1996, enabling the mature stands of pine, oak, and hemlock to remain intact and flourish into the future.
How can I explore this place?
Exploring the Sheldrick Forest is an easy to moderate endeavor on the preserve’s 3.8 miles of trails. From the parking area, Helen’s Path drops into the valley of large trees along Morgan’s Brook. The Laurel Ridge Trail climbs an esker ridge which overlooks Morgan Brook and a steep ravine making it a great place to observe the beauty of the forest. Other trails meander throughout the preserve, while the Heald Connection links Sheldrick Forest to another six miles of hiking trails on the Forest Society’s Heald Tract.
Trail maps and further information:
Trail maps of the Shelrick Forest Preserve are available for download as well as at a kiosk located at the preserve’s main parking area.
Special Visitation Guidelines:
• No hunting, trapping, or fishing