Location: North of West Acton Center, off Central Street
Loop trail: 0.5 mile
Terrain/Trail Conditions: Almost level, easy terrain; trails near brook may be wet
- West side of Central Street, 0.3 mile north of Idylwilde Farm (Parking, Kiosk)
- From Guggins Brook Conservation Land via connector trail behind Idylwilde Farm fields
- Cul-de-sac on Reed Farm Road, Boxborough, off Liberty Street, via Boxborough’s red-blazed trail
Most of the Jenks Conservation Land is a broad, sweeping meadow, once part of the apple orchards that were extensive throughout Acton. A yellow loop trail makes a circuit of this attractive meadow, which is a favorite haunt for birdwatchers. One local resident has recorded over several years 170 species of birds in this property, of which the most notable are the blue grosbeak, black-capped vireo, chat, and golden-winged warbler. At the highest point in the meadow, several apple trees have been planted alongside the several older ones that still dot the meadow. Birdhouses for songbirds have also been erected here. A short blue trail bisects the meadow at this rise, providing a panoramic view of the meadow and marshlands and, on occasion, the excitement of watching the hectic flight of bluebirds. Notable along the western portion of the meadow is a wide, quite massive stone wall, now largely obscured by a tangle of vines and bushes. This wall separates the Jenks Conservation Land from farm fields on the other side as well as marking the boundary with Boxborough. Occasional blackberry patches may be found in the meadow.
Fort Pond Brook, visible from the meadow’s high point, flows from north to south along the eastern portion of the meadow, meandering first through a broad marsh. After broadening out into a small pond, it narrows through two concrete culverts and then widens again into a larger pond that provides homes for numerous species of ducks and songbirds, particularly red-winged blackbirds. This is the same brook that forms the northeastern corner of the Guggins Brook Conservation Land, beyond the Idylwilde Farm field. From the culvert and along the red central street access trail there are beautiful vistas of these ponds with their marshy edges of typical wetlands vegetation.
Between the culvert and the junction with the loop trail, blue secondary trails on both sides of the access trail follow the bank of the streambed and afford scenic views of the surrounding marshland upstream and of the large pond downstream. These side paths, through mostly wooded areas, are well worth taking, both for the good views of the brook and ponds that they provide and for the chance to observe species of both vegetation and birds not commonly seen elsewhere. In the 1950’s and 1960’s dredging occurred on the west side of the small pond to remove nutrient rich soil for use in making loam. Large “mixing piles” remain along the blue trails. The most prominent grass growing by the brookside is foxtail millet, whose seeds are eaten by many birds, and elsewhere in the world is grown for human consumption.
To the southwest, the MBTA commuter rail line crosses the Jenks property. On the westerly side of the railroad bed is a small, 7-acre triangular-shaped extension of the conservation land that is accessible by crossing the railroad bed via a path that leads away from the loop trail at its southwest corner. Walkers crossing the tracks should use caution, as trains no longer blow whistles. The red-blazed trail beyond the tracks leads to a stone wall at the edge of the Jenks property. Beyond this, the trail, still blazed, continues behind the Idylwilde Farm fields and connects to the nearby Guggins Brook Conservation Land. Also, just beyond this stone wall is a short trail leading in a northerly direction to the end of Reed Farm Road in Boxborough; it is marked with Boxborough’s red wooden-block blazes. Two registered vernal pools may be found in the southern corner of this extension, but they should only be approached very carefully in order to protect the sensitive habitat.