Community Spotlight

Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail

SBW team at Distant Hill Gardens
Distant Hill Gardens owners
Distant Hill Gardens tour

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The Mission of Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail is to make nature and the outdoors accessible to everyone, and to inspire children and adults, no matter their ability, to cultivate an intimate connection to the natural world through education, observation, and play.

What does the organization do?

Distant Hill is an environmental and horticultural learning center containing 155-acres of forest, fields, and wetlands. The land is open to anyone from the community to enjoy and connect with nature and the outdoors. Numerous classes and workshops are offered throughout the year on
a wide range of environmental, horticultural, health, wellness, and nature-based topics. The property consists of two distinct parts:

DISTANT HILL NATURE TRAIL is a two-mile network of wheelchair and stroller accessible gravel trails and over three miles of hiking trails that are open daily for the public to use, free of charge. There is a children’s story book trail, a geology trail, a nature play area, ten vernal pools, and a
boardwalk over a quaking cranberry bog to explore. In addition, we offer free wagons, snowshoes, sleds, butterfly nets, and more to help visitors better enjoy their time outdoors at Distant Hill.

DISTANT HILL GARDENS is a two-acre shrub garden created around the energy efficient passive solar home of Michael and Kathy Nerrie, the founders and builders of Distant Hill. The Gardens contain over 450 labeled plants, a raised-bed vegetable garden, a water feature and pond, lots of creative stone work including a thirty-foot diameter Stone Circle, and dozens of whimsical metal sculptures throughout. Distant Hill Gardens is open to the public on the first and third weekend of the month, May through October.

How Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail serves our community

Distant Hill offers a place where children and adults, no matter their ability or background, can enjoy the outdoors. By providing access to our trails and gardens we hope to alleviate existing social, economic, educational, and health disparities within our local community. Here are some

By acting as a venue for nature-based education and accessible outdoor recreation, Distant Hill serves as a vital community hub, cultivating a sense of belonging, collaboration, and social cohesion within our community.

By providing free events and workshops for children and adults, and providing free snowshoes, sleds, and wagons, Distant Hill is ensuring that financial constraints do not hinder visitors to Distant Hill from engaging in recreational activities that promote physical and mental well-being.

By offering free events and workshops, Distant Hill is enhancing educational access for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. And we have ongoing collaborative partnerships with local homeschooling groups, public and charter schools, as well as nearby colleges and universities,
which further democratize learning opportunities.

Distant Hill is one of the few stroller and wheelchair accessible nature trails in our region. Accessibility to nature contributes to the creation of a more inclusive environment, promoting physical activity and social connection among all community members.

Distant Hill offers a space where everyone, regardless of age, background, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical ability, can feel welcome, valued, and empowered to participate in the rich experiences Distant Hill has to offer.

What are some of the programs the organization has created to help support our community?

Some of the initiatives that Distant Hill has created that help to support and engage the local community to better connect them to nature and the outdoors are:

  • Two miles of wheelchair and stroller accessible trails.
  • Over three miles of hiking trails.
  • Distant Hill Story Walk® trail, where the Walpole Town Library installs a new children’s book on the first of each month. The laminated pages of each nature-based book are mounted on metal holders about 50’ apart, with a fun activity for the children to do as they move from page
    to page.
  • Distant Hill Geology Trail is a half-mile trail which contains ten rock outcrops with interpretive signs about a geologic feature of interest.
  • A nature play area with numerous play elements such as play houses, balance logs, a climbing net and cages, a slackline, and a rustic log see-saw.
  • A boardwalk and log bridge across a quaking cranberry bog.
  • Distant Hill is building a timber frame classroom pavilion in 2024 to further enhance the experience of visitors to Distant Hill, and to provide a venue for community gatherings and events.

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  • “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”
    —Robert Louis Stevenson