I was standing on the little bridge (more like a paved over culvert) that spans Jepps Brook taking pictures when Geoff Harris drove by. Twenty years ago we moved into the neighborhood he’s lived in all his life. He asked if I’d ever hiked on the lower section of the brook?
Jepps Brook, like most of the little waterways that run through these short hills is well hidden. Across the street from me it runs through backyards. In other places it marks meandering property lines.
Back in the woods the brook answers only to the terrain. It speeds up as it cascades through rocks and down briefly steep hillsides.
I’d explored the lower brook a handful of times over the last few decades. It was during the summer when the brook runs low under a canopy of leaves. I’d never walked it in winter and certainly never with a guide who’d spent his life near it.
A few days later I knocked on Geoff’s door. There was no answer, so I walked around back and down a snow covered hill to Jepps Pond. This four acre pond is visible from satellites but not from a road or anything publicly accessible.
Geoff and his grown son were on the ice with large snow shovels. They had cleared a space for skating. The ice was smooth. It was full of subsurface bubbles giving it an organic look. This was not ice rink ice!
Today the brook and pond are places of beauty and tranquility. In the past this little piece of water was the power source for mills.
We walked downstream past the dam that regulates the pond. “It’s changed,” Geoff said. With construction in the area more silt flowed down the brook. A few sand bar islands had been born as the brook evolved.
Geoff pointed across the bank to some indentations on the far side. At one point channels had been dug into the rock rich soil to bring water downstream outside the natural limits of the brook. That water was directed to a wheel which powered a mill.
“Look at the size of that cornerstone.” Geoff was pointing to a pretty substantial boulder in the retaining wall. It had been moved into place a few hundred years ago with horses and block and tackle. It just boggles the mind.
It’s easy to lose sight of this area, especially in the winter when I’d rather be someplace warm. It just might be the most beautiful place in the world.