Yesterday I joined my 8-year-old Brownie, others from her troop, and Concord-area Girl Scouts of all ages as we “pulled together” to rid Fairyland (the Hapgood Wright Town Forest) of garlic mustard, an invasive weed whose rapid growth chokes out native wildflowers, posing a threat to natural biodiversity. I’ve read various accounts of the weed’s entry to North America (via Europe and/or via Japan); it’s now found in over thirty states and parts of Canada. This page at the Massachusetts Audubon site gives more info about garlic mustard.
The area chosen for the pull was the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, the “fairyland” near the Walden Woods. It’s referred to in the journals of Thoreau, the writing of Louisa May Alcott, and other other historical documents. The area is now town conservation land, and was named in honor of a benefactor in the early 1930s.
From the publisher’s synopsis of Flower Fables:
“Fairyland” was familiar territory to young Louisa May Alcott and her sisters, for they had often romped there and explored its secrets under the guidance of family friend, Henry David Thoreau. Fifteen years her elder, Thoreau led the Alcott girls and their friends on berry-picking expeditions in the wooded land around Walden Pond, which he fancifully called “fairyland.” It was on a piece of this land, owned by neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, that the girls’ father, Amos Bronson Alcott, helped Thoreau build the now-famous cabin where he lived “deliberately” and wrote Walden. With Thoreau as a guide, Louisa and the other children learned much about nature, but Louisa in particular delighted in another aspect of Thoreau’s point of view. The very fact that he called the woods “Fairyland” opened up a new way of thinking in the young writer’s mind. Whether he pointed out a new animal track, made a perfect bird call or discovered a bit of a cobweb and called it a fairy’s handkerchief, it was all magic to Louisa and fodder for her lively imagination. On many of her walks around Walden, Louisa shared original fairy stories with her sisters, Thoreau, and friends. One of these young friends was Ellen, the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Six years her junior, Ellen looked up to Louisa the way Louisa looked up to Thoreau. Ellen was so captivated by the fairy stories that Louisa eventually wrote them down as a present for her.
The Girl Scouts (and assorted siblings) pulled and pulled and pulled! They filled a dozen of those huge lawn bags with the invasive garlic weed, to be incinerated, so it doesn’t further spread. They saw in action the proverb “many hands make light work.”
If you’re curious about where Fairyland is, I’ve attempted a screenshot of a Google map (click to enlarge). Fairyland/Hapgood Wright Town Forest is marked with the A. The Orchard House is about 3/4 of a mile to the north-northeast, and Walden Pond is another half mile south. The green-keyed areas are town parks, town conservation land, and the Minuteman National Park. Walking from Orchard House on Lexington Road to Walden Pond, on a path that follows much of this “green” area, it’s easy to imagine that one is walking in the footsteps of the Alcott sisters to their play Fairyland.
Now I’m in the mood for reading some of these fantasy tales!