Waltham volunteers work to restore historic orchard

For centuries, a pasture outside Wellington House on Trapelo Road was home to cattle, sugar maples and a vegetable patch. Over time, it fell into disrepair as invasive species and other plants invaded the area; but today, hundreds of volunteers are working to restore the area for public use.

A multi-year project is underway to clear the area and return it to public use.

“A lot of residents and neighbors have asked what we are doing here, they are concerned that new apartments will be built, and I tell them we are just trying to restore a farm that was once here,” Waltham City says Councilor George Darcy .

The group works on a five-and-a-half-acre property near the Wellington House at 735 Trapelo Road. Every other weekend over the past year, different groups of volunteers have spent time cleaning up the area, installing the first steps of a walking path, plowing the old pasture and restoring the area to this. that she was.

The property was once part of the Wellington House, built in 1789, and served as pasture for cattle, as well as a vegetable garden and orchard. The property ended up being sold to Middlesex County Hospital, which for a time used the land as a garden for crops used in the hospital. The property was also used as a communal farming area for a few local families, before falling into disrepair in the early 1990s.

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The city eventually took control of the property after Middlesex County Hospital donated the segment of land near Wellington House to the city in the mid-2000s.

Darcy said that from there, various members of the town, including members of the Waltham Historical Society and the Waltham Land Trust, were motivated to restore the property to its old state. A request for funding from the Community Preservation Act Committee was approved in 2019 and restoration work has begun.

Volunteers work in the orchard outside Wellington House on Trapelo Road.  Volunteers are planting seeds as part of an effort to restore the historic orchard and pasture, which dates back to the 1700s.

“There was a proposal, working with the Recreation Department, and it ended up getting $ 50,000 in funding approved,” Darcy said. “The recreation department is in charge of the upkeep of the property and it is a pleasure to work with them.”

Volunteers make things happen

Funding went to clearing land, restoring a stone wall dating from the 1700s, and restoring some downed or dead trees. Darcy said it was understood that the CPA funding would only get them so far, and from there volunteers were called in to help.

Together with the Waltham Land Trust, volunteers mobilized to complete work on the site and prepare it for future public use.

“We’ve had a great group of volunteers,” said Betty MacKenzie, a steward of the Waltham Land Trust. “We had tons of different people, including groups of Bentley students, who helped us keep clearing the land and setting up the pasture.”

Volunteers, including a large group from Bentley's Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity, were instrumental in the restoration of the property.

Volunteers have established a walking path covering a third of a mile around the property and planted in the ground to try and prepare it for its return to its former glory.

“With the earth, it is not good that it remains unused for long periods of time, so the volunteers planted what are called cover crops, that is, rye seeds that grow in the ground then die. We planted this. around the property and in the pasture so it’s ready for new seeds in the spring, ”said MacKenzie.

Darcy said the goal would one day be to have an orchard in the area, where historic crops such as pumpkins or the Waltham butternut squash, which was developed in the city, can be grown and harvested.

“We worked with the Wellington House Historical Society, and we worked to clear the views from inside the house towards the pasture,” Darcy said. “I wish it would someday be an orchard where people can come and pick crops.”

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