Week Five #explorethereserve: Woodstock Park
#explorethereserve week five brings us to the gentle winding trails and peaceful fields and forests of Beallsville’s Woodstock Equestrian Special Park. Slow down, breathe deeply, and savor the solitude this park offers.
What is #explorethereserve?
Welcome to #explorethereserve week five! This community project will highlight weekly locations with ideas for getting off screens and heading outside to improve mental and physical health, explore our corner of MoCo, and provide inspiration for COVID-safe adventures in and near the Ag Reserve.
Click here to read more about #explorethereserve. Check out past #explorethereserve adventures linked at the bottom of this post.
Don’t worry, no horse required–the 850 acres of Woodstock Equestrian Special Park can also be enjoyed on foot. Set on rolling hills and broad fields once owned by George Washington, Woodstock came into being thanks to the generous land donations by 2 families, sparking a 13 year park development process. Woodstock honors the Agricultural Reserve’s farm and equestrian heritage.
The 16 miles of trails are not especially well-marked other than periodic sign posts with trail names and directional arrows. That being said, just pay attention to your surroundings and landmarks and enjoy the serenity of Woodstock. The display maps show paved trails but in reality these are just coarse gravel and would be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair or with a stroller. There is a lot to explore here, definitely meriting multiple visits.
East Side of Darnestown Road
This section of Woodstock Park is the most developed and has the most historical features and markers of the three sections. There is a large gravel parking lot, notice board with map, and one ADA portapotty. This side has 6 trails to explore.
I suggest you begin across from the arena at the site of the old Brewer Farm homestead. Check out the interpretive sign with the map showing the existing and vanished buildings that once made up this farm, a mix of the beautiful local red Seneca sandstone and white clapboard. The Brewer family was wealthy and well-established, with members also living nearby at Greenwood and Aix-La-Chappelle farms. As the historical signage notes, part of this wealth was derived from enslaved people on the farm; read the incredibly moving ad placed for a runaway slave and imagine the desperation of such an existence for some juxtaposed with privilege for others. Peer into the underbrush in this area–you can see the remains of the house and some outbuildings that once stood here.
You have plenty of long and short trails to choose from, including one named for the Potomac Hunt. Up the hill from the parking lot is the Big Woods loop trail, which follows a ridge and crosses the right away for the enormous power pylons. The view is both pastoral and modern–my kids enjoyed the view and wanted to come back later for a picnic.
West Side of Darnestown Road
This section of Woodstock Park is comprised of trails, forest, and fields. There is a large gravel parking lot, a notice board with a map, and an ADA portapotty (though its entrance faces away from the lot for some reason). There are also a couple benches near the parking lot and driveway with meadow views. This section has 4 trails.
The Meadow Loop trail is not strenuous and gives you a chance to appreciate the wildflowers, insects, and bees in this ecosystem. The Montgomery Parks webpage lists this trail as ADA-accessible but I don’t see how it could be comfortably used by people in wheelchairs.
My favorite trail I’ve taken at Woodstock, the Two Bridges trail crosses a small stream, winds through forests, and meanders along fields. These verdant green fields beg for frolicking under the enormous clouds swirling overhead.
The final section of Woodstock Park is the least developed and seems to also be the least visited. There is not a parking lot, notice board, or portapotty. Don’t write it off, though, because there are some fascinating features to explore here. Trails here are a bit overgrown, though inviting, and some trails are marked on signposts but not all appear on the online trail map or on the display boards at the other sections. This section has 4 trails to explore, according to the online map.
The first feature here are the ruins of the post Civil War era Jones Farm, still apparent though overgrown. Please approach these with caution–structures can be unstable and there may be rusty nails and other dangerous objects concealed under leaves–best to observe at a safe distance. You can see a dilapidated outbuilding, ruined walls from vanished structures, and a section from an old silo peeking through the feral flora. Check out the Jones Farm link in the Dig Deeper resources section below to learn more about the buildings that were once here, as well a bit about how the farm once hosted Camp Adventure.
The second, and most notable feature in this section is the circa 1800 Seneca Stone Barn, constructed from the local red Seneca sandstone. We accessed it by walking down the farm road trail and cutting across to the barn. This 18th/19th century English-style barn was in danger of falling into ruin when it was restored through a Montgomery Parks project. Admire the beautiful materials and craftsmanship and look for the historic JRF initials carved into its front. There is an interpretive sign at the site which gives more information about its history and restoration.
Sharing the Trail with Horses
Obviously Woodstock Park was designed primarily for equestrian use, but it also welcomes hikers. Here are some important safety and etiquette tips for sharing trails with horses:
- Hikers yield to horses; stop and move to the right side of the trail in the horse’s sight. If your dog is with you, keep them calm and shorten their leash. If you have young children with you, ask them to be still and use a quiet voice for the moment.
- Greet the rider and ask them if you should wait and let them pass or if you should continue. Horses have different temperaments and some are more nervous than others.
- Take extra caution if approaching a horse from behind,and give lots of space. Call out to the rider and ask what they advise. Since horses are prey animals, their instinct is to kick behind if startled.
An online shared trails campaign offers the easy advice of “stop, speak, smile” when encountering a rider on trails. Enjoy the surprise of seeing these beautiful animals while on your hike.
OPTIONS & IDEAS FOR WEEK Five #EXPLORETHERESERVE: Woodstock park
Woodstock Park has a mix of fields, meadows, forests, trails, and farm ruins to explore and enjoy. Pack a chair or blanket and hike to an open spot you can settle in to.
- Cloud gazing
- Kite flying (be careful near horses)
- Forest bathing
- Blanket and picnic
- Jam session–bring your guitar, harmonica, etc.
- Plane watching–Woodstock is under a flight path and gets steady traffic
- Native plants–species rare to Montgomery County have been documented here (page 29)
- Bird watching–the mixed habitat attracts a variety of species
DIG DEEPER INTO LOCAL HISTORY, NATURE, & CULTURE:
- Bread and Beauty: A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve This wonderfully photographed cookbook captures the beauty and flavors of the Ag Reserve.
- The Cloud Spotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds Get your head in the clouds with this fascinating look up
- Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region, National Audubon Society Up your birding game with this guide
(AFFILIATE MARKETING NOTICE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you purchase a book from any of the Amazon links above, I will earn a small commission fee.)
Websites and Organizations
- Brewer’s Farm Maryland Historical Trust historic property inventory form Learn more about the historic farm at the heart of Woodstock.
- Jones Farm Maryland Historical Trust historic property eligibility form Discover what the farm ruins were and be surprised by what once was on this section of Woodstock when it was part of Camp Adventure.
- Woodstock Trail Map Note this map is different from the on site version.
SUPPORT AG RESERVE LOCAL BUSINESSES
While you’re out and about, help support local businesses by stopping in for a snack or meal. Please check operating days and hours via business websites/social media. Many of these are small, family-run operations with funky opening hours. I recommend:
- Cafe 107 Grab a quick bite to eat or a coffee
- Calleva Farm Cafe Enjoy a farm fresh breakfast or lunch in the fresh air.
- Mexican Grill Best Mexican food in MoCo
- Rocklands Farm Historic farm, vineyard, and great picnic spot
- Windridge Vineyards Vino and food trucks with a view
LET’S KEEP EXPLORING THE AG RESERVE!
New adventures will be posted each Wednesday morning on the Taste Travel Teach website and linked via the Taste Travel Teach FB page.
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Suggestions for upcoming #explorethereserve adventures? Click on the Contact button here.
Thanks for reading and taking part in #explorethereserve. I hope you enjoyed learning, exploring, and discovering more about Montgomery County’s Ag Reserve. See you next Wednesday for a new adventure!
ABOUT TASTE TRAVEL TEACH & CHRISTINE RAI:
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