Westport, Dartmouth, etc.

In the southeast corner of Dartmouth, on the edge of New Bedford, is the quiet, historic, seaside village of Padanaram, where old houses are mixed with newer houses. About six miles west of Padanaram is Westport Point, which is smaller than Padanaram, and has almost exclusively old houses; while Padanaram has a few shops and restaurants, Westport Point is almost entirely residential.

There’s a small, historic village at the head of the East Branch of the Westport River (the village is called “Head of Westport” or “The Head of the Westport”). The historic village of Adamsville is at the head of the West Branch of the Westport River. About five miles east of Adamsville, at the head of Slocums River, is the historic village of Russells Mills. Like many old villages, Russells Mills was based on water power, which was used to grind corn, saw logs, etc. And like many old villages, Russells Mills is easy to find on a map because all roads lead there, it’s a “crossroads town”; as the spokes of a wheel all come together at the hub, so all the roads in an area come together at the village.

About ten miles east of New Bedford is the town of Marion, which has a harbor, a good view of Cape Cod, and lots of historic architecture. Marion has an old private school (Tabor Academy), an old town hall, an old public library, and a Civil War monument. The streets are quiet enough for biking.

If you prefer nature to architecture, Horseneck Beach is quiet off-season, and is just south of Westport Point. Elephant Rock Beach is just west of Horseneck Beach (Elephant Rock Beach is separated from Horseneck Beach by the Westport River).

At the eastern edge of Horseneck Beach is Gooseberry Island, which is now joined to the mainland by a causeway. Gooseberry Island is a nice walk; you can go down the middle of the island, or along the water; it’s possible to circle the island. There’s a dilapidated tower; the tower was probably a Navy observation-post at one time. The general shape of Gooseberry reminds me of Angelica Point, but Gooseberry attracts more visitors, perhaps because it has enough space for dogs to run around.

Just east of Gooseberry is a large Audubon refuge, Allens Pond. Like Trustom Pond in Rhode Island, Allens Pond is near the sea, and is popular with bird-watchers. The Treetop Trail at Allens Pond has a large rock that’s perfect for picnicking, though Audubon may not allow picnicking at this spot.

If you’re interested in biking, check out the South Coast Bikeway. During the warmer half of the year, you can rent a kayak on the Westport River. The Lloyd Center, near Slocums River, organizes canoe and kayak trips, and also has about five miles of trails. Westport Town Farm (owned by The Trustees of Reservations) has a short trail near the Westport River. If you want to explore an island, Cuttyhunk Island is about five miles from Horseneck Beach; New Bedford has a ferry and water-taxi to Cuttyhunk. In an earlier issue, I argued that Shakespeare’s Tempest is based on Gosnold’s 1602 voyage to Cuttyhunk.

Drift Road in Westport makes a pleasant drive. Start in the north at the village called “Head of the Westport,” then follow Drift Road south to Westport Town Farm, then keep going south to Westport Point; you can go further still to Horseneck Beach.

If your taste runs to spirits, consider visiting the wineries in the area.

In the Czech Republic, places often have both Czech names and German names; for example, the biggest Czech river is called the Vltava in Czech and the Moldau in German; the most popular spa town is called Karlovy Vary in Czech, Karlsbad in German. We find this in other Central European countries, too; for example, Poland’s main port is called Gdansk in Polish, Danzig in German; the largest city in western Poland is called Wroclaw in Polish, Breslau in German. During the last century, as German influence over the region has diminished, German names have begun to fade away.

We find something similar in New England towns. Many towns have both Indian names and English names. The Indian name for Fall River is Quequechan, hence the main social club in Fall River is the Quequechan Club. The Indian name for Westport is Acoaxet, which is now the name of a community within Westport. The Indian name for Marion is Sippican (or perhaps I should say, “the Indian name for the tribe that lived in Marion is Sippican”). The Indian name for Little Compton is Sakonnet.

Below is a 2-mile path (4 miles round-trip) along the Quequechan River in the town of Fall River; it’s called the Quequechan River Rail Trail. If you start at the northern end, there’s a park (Britland Park) and a parking lot. You can also park at the southern end, near Route 6, near a restaurant called LePage’s Seafood.

The river flows toward the northwest, eventually emptying into Mt. Hope Bay, which is the mouth of the Taunton River (actually, several rivers flow into Mt. Hope Bay: from east to west: the Taunton River, Lee River, Cole River, and Kickamuit River). Once the river was the life-blood of the city, its falling water powering the mills. The southern end of the trail is at a large pond, South Watuppa Pond. If you like seeing ducks, there are ducks at both the southern and northern ends of the trail, but the trail is rather drab in the middle section.

On the west side of Dartmouth, not far from Westport, is Destruction Brook Woods. Below is a 2-mile route at Destruction Brook (the brook is a tributary of Slocums River).

Destruction Brook is a pleasant refuge with a pond, a brook, and flat trails. You’ll see Holly, Oak, lots of White Pine, and some rare White Cedar. If you want to go further than two miles, the refuge extends toward the northwest. On the map above, I marked two spots that will interest history buffs: Allen’s Mill, and Russells Mills Historic District.