Special Places

During my explorations of the Charles, I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting three sites that are very close together on Rte. 16, a road that runs parallel to the river halfway along the river’s course. About two miles from  Wellesley Center is Elm Bank, site of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society since 2004. Turn left onto a lovely wrought-iron bridge that crosses the river and enters the Massachusetts Horticultural Society on the former Cheney Estate in Dover. Start with the beautiful Italianate garden with statues of the goddesses of grain, flowers, and fruit standing before the nineteenth century brick Cheney mansion. Visit the Bressingham and other demonstration gardens,  including those sponsored by the Daylily Society, the Rhododendron Society, and the Noanet Garden Club, as well as the Historic Daffodil Garden, a garden of the New England Unit of the Herb Society, and a plot with native flowers and grasses. Spend time with your children and grandchildren in the enclosure that is Weezie’s Garden with its central fountain, rabbit-shaped topiary, and oversize chair. Looking for information? Visit the  horticultural library with its incomparable collection of botanical books. Take a walk through a small forest of elms, or visit the nearby gift shop.

Back on Route 16 about a mile west of Elm Bank, you will arrive at the historical Bacon Free Library, a red brick building constructed in the nineteenth century, on a small triangle of land on a hill facing the South Natick dam. Here in the 1600s, Reverend John Eliot worked with a small community of Wampanoag Native Americans who learned how to use the power of a dam on the river to grind their grain (the grindstones remain), and constructed a bridge to cross the river while living in the weetu style of their tribe. Eliot translated the bible into the Algonquian language, and a copy of this work is housed in the historical museum on the lower floor. Today the library staff provides a vibrant program of activities for town residents of all ages. You may also want to sit by the river and enjoy some refreshment from the Charles River Coffee House across the street from the library.

Continuing another mile on Route 16, Massachusetts Audubon’s Broadmoor Sanctuary (bordered by the Charles River in Sherborn) is the site of the 625-acre preserve. Nine miles of walking trails, including open fields, wooded areas, and boardwalks over wetland areas offer views of the protected habitats for the various animals through all seasons. The solar-powered building that houses the headquarters for the sanctuary is the setting for some of the many programs that take place there.

Two good launch sites for your canoe or kayak along this section of the river are: on the one-way road leading out of the estate grounds of Elm Bank at a small arched stone bridge (some parking there) and across from the Bacon Library on the opposite side of the river just below the dam. If you are navigating along the river between the Broadmoor and the Natick dam, two interesting sights are a statue of a praying woman standing on a rock, placed there by a former Harvard professor as his wife requested, and further on is a lovely red footbridge connecting private land.





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