Forest Bells Restoration

The Bells are Back!

George Brackett and bell “rider” during installation. Can you spot him?

Visitors to the Forest Bells on the GCT’s Blackman Field and Woods property know that three of the bells have been missing since last fall. They were removed for repairs, and we’re happy to report that all six bells are up and making wonderful music again.

The Forest Bells were created by local artist and craftsman Paul Matisse in 1995, commissioned by the inaugural Artist’s Valentine project, and installed on land owned by Arthur and Camilla Blackman.  The Blackmans donated the land to the GCT in 2000, and the Trust has been the steward of the land and bells since then.

Like any piece of outdoor engineering, the Bells require attention and maintenance.  Paul and his staff have been both attentive and generous in helping to keep the Bells in good working order.  Over the years, we’ve discovered that the main spring at the top of each bell is prone to failure.  When this spring breaks the hammer rests against the bell, making it impossible to ring.  We’ve also found that the arm and hammer assembly can dent and damage the bells as they swing around.

Local arborist and bell-hanging wizard George Brackett provides the expertise to both install and remove the Bells.  Last fall he took down the three non-working Bells and they were delivered to Paul’s shop in Groton.  Paul’s staff analyzed the failures and found solutions.  Modifications were made to the arm and hammer to prevent further damage, and a wholly new spring design was installed.  The bells were also re-coated with Nyalic a transparent protective coating.

But there were still three Bells in the forest without these improvements.

Ken and Joseph installing a new spring.

Ken and Joseph installing a new spring.

Paul, George and Ken and Joseph from Paul’s staff set out on June 19th to set up a field repair shop in the woods to complete the job.  The three repaired bells were re-installed, and then each of the three remaining bells was taken down.  All modifications were installed and each was re-coated with Nyalic.  The completely refurbished Bells were then rehung in their proper locations.

Paul has since re-visited the site and reports they are again ready to make beautiful music in their hemlock grove.  All they need are visitors to explore, discover, and ring them!

To find the Forest Bells, take Old Ayer Road south toward Ayer from Main Street near the Mobil Station.  Then, turn left onto Indian Hill Road and go all the way to the end.  Park cars, but not near the house at the end.  Walk back to the end and bear left up a dirt road into the trees.  Continue along this road, passing at one point under power lines and continuing down into forest.  At the next obvious fork, with the main path going up to the right, turn sharp left on to the side road.  About 50 yards later there are a group of fallen trees barring an old road leading uphill to the right.  Walking over or around the fallen trees, follow that road up the hill.  Continue until you find yourself in a grove of hemlocks, quite different from the pines and oaks all around.  You are at the Forest Bells.

Joseph and Ken repairing the Hammer Mount.

Joseph and Ken repairing the Hammer Mount.

Paul Matisse and George setting up.

Paul Matisse and George setting up.

George is ready for the last installation.

George is ready for the last installation.


Recent Posts

GCT Supports Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game in Protecting 37 Acres in Pepperell

The McCann property is included in a number of Biomap2 habitat categories and extends the complex of protected lands on the Throne owned by MDF&G, the GCT, and the Town of Groton.

In keeping with the mission and strategic goals of the GCT, the trustees are pleased to announce a recent collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Game & Fish (MDF&G) in the acquisition of 37 acres south of Rte. 119 in Pepperell, adjacent to the Groton border.   Purchased from the  McCann family, the property provides a variety of habitats including mixed hardwood/conifer, shrub swamp, wooded hardwood swamp, deep marsh, and intermittent streams.

Anne Gagnon of MDF&G approached the GCT requesting funds for a required land survey to carve off an existing house lot.   Along with other parties, the GCT quickly voted to provide funds that allowed the purchase to proceed on schedule. “We recognize that sometimes our goal of land conservation requires outreach beyond Groton’s borders,” said GCT vice-president Mark Gerath. “The trust did not hesitate to support MDF&G in this important acquisition.”

Throne Hill and the adjacent lands are one of three areas in Groton that the GCT believes are critical for protection as habitat and as migration corridors.   These adjacent parcels offer buffer and additional sanctuary for protected wildlife.

The GCT is currently working with MDF&G and others to protect another large property adjacent to the Throne complex in Groton.   This effort will likely require a substantial expenditure by the GCT and, if so, this could become one of our first fundraisers for a specific land purchase in many years. The GCT is excited about this possibility, so stayed tuned for more details.

Your support is crucial to our efforts in keeping critical habitats protected. Thank you for your membership and your partnership!