A lovely woodland hideaway in Little Compton

  • Access: There are two trailheads. One is on the east side of West Main Road (Route 77), just north of Treaty Rock Road. The other is on Meetinghouse Lane, a half mile east of West Main Road.
  • Parking: Available at both trailheads.
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Difficulty: Easy, on flat dirt, grass and board paths.

LITTLE COMPTON — Three different paths lead to Dundery Brook and the surrounding forested lowlands in the John C. Whitehead Preserve.

One follows a dirt and grass trail over plank bridges and around several tiny ponds. Another crosses a three-quarters of a mile raised boardwalk under oak, beech, holly and red maple trees. And the third winds along an old farm lane and by meadows lined with wildflowers on what was once Bumble Bee Farm.

I decided to hike all three to get the full experience of the 188-acre preserve named for Whitehead, the late naval officer, investment banker and diplomat who founded the Rhode Island chapter of The Nature Conservancy. A nonprofit organization, the conservancy acquired the property from the heirs of former landowners and established the sanctuary in 2001.

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Hope’s Path: A trio of ponds surrounded by woods and meadows

Setting out from the trailhead on West Main Street, I headed east on Hope’s Path, named for Hope Burchard Purmont, who used to own the property. The grassy trail ran along the banks of the small, man-made ponds that were covered with lily pads, cat-o’-nine tails and tall reeds. I noted a bat box and a birdhouse on poles above the edge of the water.

A birdhouse and a bat box stand among the wildflowers on the banks of a pond along Hope's Path.

Purmont’s father, Leeds Burchard, dug the first pond by excavating to the groundwater level and letting the depression fill, a once-common practice to create watering holes for livestock. In the late 1960s, her sons, George and Wayland, dug the other ponds and stocked them with fish.

Hope’s son George Purmont and his wife, Daune Peckham, a landscape architect, planted native wildflowers and shrubs around the ponds, which attract birds and pollinators in spring and summer.

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