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

Hunting Harlan the Gnome

Harlan hunter John Moores and his daughters have been champions when it comes to finding Harlan in the woods.  Here are some of his insights while wandering GCT properties.  Thanks John!

Musings while hunting Harlan

Harlan the GCT Grome will come inside soon!

Thanks for bringing hornbeams to my attention. I think I’ve been confusing hornbeams for beech trees for many, many years. Now I see that hornbeams have more furrowed/corrugated leaves with finely serrated edges.

While we’re on the topic of botany, I was surprised at how few Solomon’s Seals I found on the GCT properties. Therefore, whenever I found any of these plants, I would search the area very thoroughly.

Very nice job of hiding Harlan. First of all, he is well camouflaged next to the dark pine bark. Then there are three pines hiding him from view as you head northbound towards the river – only at very specific spots can he be seen until you are past him.

Kara and Kaitlin Kramer found him!

Former trustee June Johnson started the Harlan game.

Paul Funch got naming rights after finding Harlan for the first time on land donated by Harlan Fitch.

(Loved the emoticons in the 8/9/2017 clues posting on the Facebook page!)

The combination of these three clues: unmarked trail, water, and dead pine with ants were the most helpful to me. Water substantially narrows down the possible locations. “Unmarked trail” was helpful, also eliminating many locations, although some properties (e.g. Lawrence Woods, Skitapet) are completely unmarked, and some are mostly unmarked (Baddacook). And “unmarked” might include trails that are not on the GCT property maps or on, which led me to do a lot of exploration. “Dead pine with ants” was helpful locally on-site, saving me some exploration in areas that otherwise satisfied most of the clues.

The past month has been quite a month of discovery and exploration of trails for me, after I noticed that you had announced that he was on an unmarked trail.  Specifically:

-I had not realized there were any trails on Cronin-Massapoag but discovered there are several.

-I had not been aware of the tree farm entrance with the blue trail marker near Crystal Spring Lane and had never walked in through the trail along the cul-de-sac. I also took the trail (hasn’t been maintained in a long time) that goes north from the trail off the cul-de-sac up to that property’s “hammerhead” and found that the trail eventually gets very close to Cow Pond Brook.

-I had never gone on any of the trails off Whispering Brook Rd (one goes north, then west, then north (not maintained) ; while the other is off the cul-de-sac.

-I went on the West Throne trails that are closest to Townsend Road – had never gone over there. While at West Throne, at the 5-way intersection, I discovered that the trail that goes north from there goes a long way, eventually getting to some wide roads that could be driven on with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle with ground clearance.

-I explored the many unmarked trails on the east side of Gamlin Crystal Spring.

John’s daughter Brynn finding Harland last fall.

-I discovered that there are trails in “Lost Lake Recreation Area” between Weymisset Rd., Moose Trail, Whiley Rd, Shenadoah Rd.that I had had no idea were there.  I went on Dan Parker Trail hoping to find an unmarked trail into Bruner Land, but did not find one. Also tried to find one going west from Gamlin Crystal Spring into Bruner.