The Towle Land is a 112-acre conservation parcel, owned by the Town of Carlisle and managed by the Carlisle Conservation Commission. Eighty-four acres of the property were sold to the town in 1968 by Mrs. Phyllis Towle, widow of Dr. George Towle, a long-time Carlisle resident. Four additional parcels were purchased from abutters from 1968 to 1971.
The property includes a great variety of terrain and wonderful wildlife habitats, including beautiful open rolling fields along Westford Road, low forested rocky hills which show evidence of glacial activity, several small streams, wetlands, and vernal pools. Man-made features include a trail system, wooden bridges, a small pond with an earthen dam, a small parking lot, signs, stone fences, bluebird houses in the field, sugar maple plantings around the fields (courtesy of the Chelmsford Boy Scouts in the 1970s), and possible rock quarry and Native American sites.
The Towle land was used in historic times for raising cattle by Dr. Towle and Mr. Mark Duffy, a Carlisle farmer. The Towle land has hosted a number of uses and exciting activities over the years, including bird-watching walks, cross-country ski training, and kite flying. Hot-air balloons even landed there occasionally years ago!
The gently rolling fields with rocky outcroppings in the northwest section of the property are perhaps the best-know feature of the Towle Land, easily visible from Westford Street. Bobolinks nest in the open field in the late spring and summer; users should be careful of disturbing these birds. The field is reached from the parking lot by taking the main path heading southwest, crossing the dam that creates the small pond on the right.
Be careful of poison ivy on the Towle Field! Learn to identify this plant and avoid touching it with your skin or clothes (and don’t let your dog run through it!).
Woods and Wetlands
Aside from the field, most of the Towle Land is wooded and hilly with areas of swamps and flowing streams. Many native New England trees, including white pines, maples, oaks, and dogwoods, grow in the forest. This is also a good area to spot native wildflowers. Some of the walks along the streams allow inspection of beautiful rock formations and interesting assemblies of mosses, ferns, and lichens. Interesting mushrooms grow here as well!
Native American Sites
Indian ceremonial features include piles of stones clustered in special places, often associated with water; effigies; and features aligned with astronomical events such as the winter solstice sunrise. There are examples of each on the Towle Property.
People in the past have created a turtle effigy by moving part of a large rock to form a head facing the sunrise on solstice morning. Finding the turtle is a wonderful outdoor experience. Here are some hints: follow the path that runs downhill from the eastern end of the parking area for about 250 feet. Turn left at a large pointy stone in the path and go through the woods past a spring a few feet from the trail to an opening in a stone wall. Just past the wall there is a small grove of baby pines. On the other side of the pines there is a hollow with a very large rock at the bottom. Go to the rock and walk to the far side. It’s the turtle!
The southern designated ceremonial area on the Towle Land contains a collection of stone piles (twenty six have been recorded).
The Towle Land has an extensive trail system. Trails are maintained and signs are provided by the Carlisle Trails Committee. The Towle Land trail system is one of the most popular walking, cross-country skiing, and nature-watching places in Town. The trails follow the perimeter of the field from the parking lot and pond area and provide inner and outer loops through the wooded portions of the property. Several wooden bridges cross the streams. Another trail spur leads south to the Bingham Road entrance.
Trail maps are available online on the Trails Committee website and can be purchased in hard copy at Town Hall and at Ferns Country Store.
The property is located on the south side of Westford Road, about one-half mile west of the town center. The Towle Land is completely bordered to the north by Westford Road and has a small frontage on the south along Bingham Road. The rest of the property is surrounded by private land. There are two entrances to the Towle Land. The major entrance and parking lot are along Westford Road; this lot holds about 20 cars. There is another clearly-marked trail entrance from Bingham Road. There is no parking lot at this entrance and users are cautioned to be aware of the narrow road and driveways of the residents.