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Parks and Trails and Trails and Parks

DSC_0370This picture taken at Charter Oak Park offers contrasting views of the wildness of Hop Brook on one side of the trail and the green playing fields, courts, and playgrounds on the other. 

Basketball rims at Manchester parks were removed, and the playgrounds fenced off to protect the community from the spread of COVID-19. But many trails are wide enough to allow 6 feet of physical distance while providing an opportunity for social connection if walking with a friend.

I am grateful for the green spaces in Manchester. The latest upgrades to our parks and trails have re-connected us with the beauty and tranquility of nature. Substantial revisions and the guidance of friendly recreational staff members provide opportunities for exhilarating play and creative expression. It is a pleasure to anticipate the joyful return to the full use of our parks in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, social distance walking in one of Manchester’s parks or on trails, considering the words of Rachel Carson, is nourishment for the soul during these days of uncertainty.

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”

– Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

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Digital Photography at the Senior Center

It took me more than a year after retiring to enroll in some of the classes and groups at the Manchester Senior Center.  I am grateful to have discovered the varied and appealing offerings and began taking classes in January of this year.DSC_0216

On Monday mornings I spend my time with the Digital Photography Group. We have been watching a series of videos by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore, sharing and discussing pictures we have taken on our own, and creating a bulletin board for some of our favorite photos.


I’ve met some really nice people in this group with an interest in photography and a willingness to share tips and pointers. March 9 was our last session together before everything was cancelled.  It was a beautiful, sunny, late winter day and we took a field trip to the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park in Hartford.

Here are some more of my photos from that trip:

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I am looking forward to re-joining this friendly group of senior shutterbugs when this crisis is over.

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Cheney Rail Trail History Walk

In November, 50 people (including me) set off from the Fuss & O’Neill office building on Hartford Rd. to enjoy a talk about local history and experience the most recent addition to the Manchester parks on the newly completed southern portion of Cheney Rail Trail.

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Map courtesy of Manchester Land Trust:


The group hiked from Fuss & O’Neill on Hartford Rd. to the start of the new trail behind the Lofts at the Mills Apartments.  Then, on the trail, under the Park St bridge and up to Center St where we had to leave the trail briefly to cross Center St.  The new railroad trestle over Center St had not been completed at that time. The walk ended at Center Springs Park.  We returned along city streets.

Susan Barlow led the hike and provided information about the history of the Cheney Railroad and the surrounding area.  The talk came alive with stories of bygone days in Manchester and the use of pictures taken over 100 years ago of the areas we were standing in and walking through. 

The first site of historical significance is Old Engine Company Number One.  The firehouse located at the corner of Pine St and Hartford Rd was built by the Cheneys and donated to the town.  IMG_0872

Next stop on the tour was the Velvet Mill.  The Cheneys were interested in hiring skilled workers.  Some of the most skilled workers lived in Non-English speaking countries.  These workers arrived in Manchester from around the world to work at the Cheney Mills.  To overcome language issues, newly hired workers were given a card with a letter and a number on it similar to the V1 painted on the Velvet Mill in the picture.  This indicated the correct building and entrance to begin work.

Velvet Mill Building

Across the street from the Velvet Mill is the Clocktower Mill.  The smokestack in the background is still in pretty good shape so it has been re-purposed as a cell phone tower.

Clock Tower Mill with old smokestack in background
Smokestack/Cell Phone Tower

Almost all of the old mill building are now apartments.  During the walk we stopped frequently while Susan explained interesting architectural features of the buildings, when they were built, and what was produced in each one.  

Architectural Features Known as Medallions, Ashlar & Pilaster (Built in 1901)

In addition to the Velvet Mill and Clocktower Mill, there was a Spinning Mill, Ribbon Mills, machine shop, dye house, silk storage vaults and a storage building large enough for a railroad car.

Old Silk Storage Vaults (still in use as storage)
Railroad Car Storage

The Cheney Rail Service carried silk and passengers between the north and south ends of Manchester.  Large locomotives weren’t needed for these relatively light loads and a smaller engine called a Yard Goat was used.  Yard Goat?

The trail begins right near the old railroad yard. 


Railroad Yard in 1932 and Cheney’s Yard Goat


Railroad Yard Today

Some of the tracks were in good shape and were kept in place to create a sense of authenticity.

Tracks left in place near rail trail.

One of the conductors lived in this house overlooking the rail yard right before the Park St. Bridge.


Cheney’s Goat is above the front door and on the shutters

The trail is 2.5 miles long and ends at Farr’s Department Store in the North End of Manchester.  The railroad was the shortest line in the United States but had the unique distinction of having more linear feet of tracks in the railroad yard than on the 2.5 mile route.

There are some great views from the bridge overlooking Center Springs Park.

Bridge overlooking Center Springs Park and turnaround point for the hike.
View of Center Springs Park from the Bridge

 The next free rail trail hike on the Cheney Rail Trail is scheduled for this Sunday at 1:00.  This hike will begin at the north end of the trail.  The meeting location is 2 Main St.  I highly recommend this activity!!!

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Chuckles Picks KC

The media arrived in Manchester before sunrise this morning. What’s the attraction? Super bowl Sunday? Road Race? No, just Chuckles making her predications.

Town Troubadours Bill Ludwig and Dan Miller lead the early risers in a song to coax Chuckles out and make predictions.

According to Mayor Jay Moran, who speaks fluent groundhog, Chuckles made two predictions.

  • Early Spring
  • KC will win tonight