Why is this land special?
In 1964, the Warwick Preserve was the first New Hampshire property donated to The Nature Conservancy. The preserve is located on Butterfield Hill in a quiet part of southwestern New Hampshire, not far from the Connecticut River. Its rugged terrain includes the rushing waters of Partridge Brook and a mixed forest of hemlock, sugar maple, red oak, and basswood. Forty-foot high rocky outcrops provide views of the river. Large boulders litter the forest floor below the rocky ridges creating habitat for snakes, porcupines and bobcats.
While most of New Hampshire tends to have acidic soils, the calcium-rich bedrock in Westmoreland has resulted in rich, alkaline soils that provide habitat for a diversity of plant life that is uncommon in the state. Rare plants found here are the broad beech fern, a beautiful purple and white orchid called the showy orchis, spotted wintergreen, and long-spurred violet. Other alkaline-loving plants found here include maidenhair spleenwort, spring beauty, and Dutchman’s breeches. A visit to the preserve in late spring or early summer will reveal some of these plants as well as neo-tropical migrant birds, including warbler and thrush species, and scarlet tanagers.
How was this land protected?
The Warwick Preserve was established when TNC received a 36-acre donation from Dr. Ruth Warwick and her daughter Louise Hunninen in 1964. After graduating from Boston University in 1904, Dr. Warwick and her first husband, Dr. Coles, operated a TB sanitarium in West Keene. Dr. Coles died in the 1917 flu epidemic. Ruth married George Warwick in 1923 and they moved to Westmoreland. After observing an extensive clear-cutting operation on Butterfield Hill near their home, Ruth urged George to acquire the 36-acre parcel to preserve the beautifully wooded section of the hill.
Reportedly, Ruth asked a local handyman to clear out a spring on the side of Butterfield Hill to provide water for the animals in the woods – this is still visible at the end of the first steep section of the preserve’s hiking trail. Ruth, George, and Louise enjoyed hiking around their Butterfield Hill property. Unfortunately, George died in 1933 and Ruth returned to Boston in 1938 to set up a medical practice to support herself and her daughter. Louise attended college, married and moved away. They still retained their home in Westmoreland as a summer place for the next 20 years. The parcel was so important to the family that they permanently protected it by donating it to The Nature Conservancy in 1964. When Ruth died in 1973, Louise scattered her ashes on the preserve. Her three grandchildren continue to visit the preserve. In December 1998, TNC accepted a donation of 68 acres from Ann Fisher; this addition increased the size of the preserve to 104 acres.