There are many ways of appreciating Field Farm, especially in the autumn.
The hayed field, covering nearly one-third of the 316-acre property, provides broad views of the Taconic Range to the west and the Greylock massif to the east. Four miles of trails circle the land. They pass through a fine stand of oak and maple. Brooks dissolve and pass into limestone cliffs. The house and the guest house are architecturally interesting. Outdoor sculpture graces the grounds.
From most of Berkshire County, head north on Route 7 to the junction with Route 43 at the Five Corners in South Williamstown. Turn left on 43 and then right on Sloane Road. The signed entrance to Field Farm is on the right, at a bit over a mile from the intersection. The small gravel parking lot is on the right, next to a kiosk and trailhead. Sloane has fine views, by the way, particularly on the return trip.
No wheeled vehicles are allowed on the trails. Dogs are allowed, on leashes. The trails are suitable for cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, as well as hiking. Limited elevation change makes the hiking suitable for family outings. (I cannot report on a discovery room in the garage by the parking lot.) Today’s route: the three-mile perimeter of the northern part of the property, saving the south part across Sloane Road for another day. There are several opportunities to abbreviate the hike, if the group feels so inclined. Trail blazes, mostly yellow, do not correspond to their colors on the map.
So — take the Pond Trail, through numerous, shrubby invasive species, such as multiflora rose and barberry. Pass the exit to the South Trail. Muskrats plow through the cattail marsh. This section can be wet. The building across the pond is the Folly, a whimsical design by architect Urich Franzen, built in 1966.
Turn right on the North Trail, which follows the edge of the hayfield, providing views of the Taconics. You pass through a gap in a hedgerow and then continue to follow on its other side. Bear right on the Oak Loop. All the trail intersections are well marked, including maps. Note that this is a chance to make a shorter loop, by staying on the North trail.
You are in the woods, about to enter a formidable oak forest well worth the walk. The trees are widely placed, with an open understory. Cross a couple of small bridges and then a more serious one. Just beyond stands an impressive oak, four feet in diameter, breast high. On the right, the tubing of a neighbor’s sugar bush in a maple grove.
A ‘Y’ intersection offers another chance to shorten the trip; otherwise take the Caves Trail, right. It begins to gain elevation among some “muscle wood” (hornbeam) and white birch. You come across marble outcrops, the final stage of seashells to limestone to marble. Soon, a drop-off forms on your left. A woods road enters from the right and becomes your trail. There is another chance to shortcut.
Soon you sense that you are curving left to head back the way you came but at a lower elevation. Then, looking down on your right you come across one, two, three places where the stream disappears underneath the limestone cliffs, forming the “caves.” Limestone is water soluble.
When you reach the junction with the Oak Loop, bear right. This is a wet area, with mosses and ferns, leading you to the second serious bridge, over the same watercourse as before. You get to pass through more of the oak stand. As you approach the pasture, you pass more invasives, many prickly. At the ‘T’ intersection with the North Trail, turn right. A few feet farther you could short circuit by about a half-mile by turning left; otherwise turn right to keep on.
A bit more climbing, including a switchback that doesn’t really show on the map; then you follow the west property line all the way back to the main house, passing more beech trees, and large sugar maples, with barbed wire embedded, that probably were allowed to stand as property markers. Once again you’re following a mowed trail along the edge of the pasture, enjoying good views of the Hopper on Mount Greylock over the field.
Lawrence and Eleanore Bloedel bought the farm, once owned by John Field. They turned to Edwin Goodell, like Bloedel a Williams graduate, to design their international style home, constructed in 1949. The flat-roofed structure now serves as a bed-and-breakfast, run by the Trustees of Reservations. Lawrence Bloedel, son of a northwest lumber baron, served as Williams’ librarian — and collected art. After his death his art went to the Whitney and the Williams College Museum of Art, except that some outdoor pieces are loaned back to the Trustees. After Eleanore’s death, the property passed to TTOR in 1994.
Past the house and garage you see the parking lot. You have toured the grounds.
Happy trails to you.
Lauren R. Stevens is author of “50 Hikes in the Berkshire Hills,” Countryman Press/W.W. Norton, 2016.