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

Looking Ahead to May

There are many events already posted on our Events page, but here are two worth noting, and marking on your calendar!

Annual Meeting May 1, 2019 – The Groton Inn

We are happy to bring to Groton Kevin Gardner, author and stone wall architect. Kevin will be the featured speaker at the GCT Annual Meeting on May 1. For the first time, our Annual Meeting will be held at the new Groton Inn!

For more than forty years he has been a stone wall builder in a family business widely known for traditional New England stonework, particularly for historic restoration of antique structures. In 2001 Kevin published The Granite Kiss: Traditions and Techniques of Building New England Stone Walls. His second book, Stone Building: How To Make New England Style Walls and Other Structures the Old Way, was published May, 2017.

This event is made possible by a grant from the Groton Commissioners of Trust Funds and is free and open to all.

The First Annual Groton Traverse!  Sunday May 5th 2019

GCT is organizing and guiding what we hope with be the first of many annual tromps across Groton.  The inaugural event will start somewhere in the northeast of town and ramble across our many publicly-accessible fields, woods, and hills to arrive in the village for a light picnic and libations.  The route will be eight to ten miles and will be marked.   We will try to limit time spent on pavement while visiting some of our favorite haunts.   Gina Perini and Peter Benedict have been very generous in offering their beautiful yard as our finish location. 

Our goal is to start at noon and shuttle folks from Groton center to the trail head.    The GCT will provide a leader and a sweep but people are encouraged to move at their own pace and bring their packs with the usual hiking essentials.    Due to the logistics, we have to limit attendance to 30 on a first come, first serve basis – so register early!   If you have questions please contact Mark Gerath at mark.gerath@gmail.com