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.


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Join us! June Events with Groton Conservation Trust

We have some great educational and social events lined up for June. We hope you can join us!

Hands-On Invasives Plant Identification and Removal, June 14th at 6pm

Invasive species pose a serious challenge to maintaining diverse and beautiful landscapes. Join us for a chance to learn how to apply lessons learned on conservation land in Groton to dealing with invasives in your own backyard. Building on recent Groton Garden Club and Groton Invasive Species Committee events, Groton Conservation Trust is offering a hike at Shepley Hill to highlight invasive species and what you can do to stop them in your own local landscape. Join Brian Bettencourt, GCT trustee and chair of the Groton Invasive Species Committee, for some hands-on learning. We’ll examine some common invasive plants, get tips on identification and control/removal, and discuss together on a short hike through Shepley. Special attention will be paid to research plots where our scientists studied and compared invasive plant removal techniques. 

This event will take place on June 14th at 6pm. Groton Conservation Trust current members may enroll in this event for free. Please contact to check the status of your membership. Non-members may click this link to register for a small fee through the Prescott SCC.

iNaturalist Family Scavenger Hunt, 3 Part Event June 23, 27th, 28th

Spring has arrived and our backyards and wild spaces have come to life! Wildflowers are blooming, birds are building nests, and pollinators are buzzing. There is a renewed sense of wonder about the natural world. Do you wish you could identify some of the plants and animals that share our spaces? If so, we invite you to our family friendly event to learn how to use iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a web-based app that can help you identify organisms and allows you to post your observations on a global database. In addition to learning to identify some local species, you can be a citizen scientist and contribute to our Nature of Groton project on iNaturalist. Join us! We’re offering a three-part workshop to learn about and practice using iNaturalist. The workshop includes:

Introduction to iNaturalist: This brief virtual introduction to installing and using iNaturalist is designed for adults. Please note: This session is optional if you can create an iNaturalist account, install the iNaturalist app, and upload at least one photo into the Nature of Groton project on iNaturalist. Children are welcome but not required to attend this session.  Wednesday, June 23rd, 7 PM (45 minutes)

Scavenger Hunt: GCT naturalists will meet you, your family, or friend group on one of our properties, provide you with a scavenger hunt list and a map, and provide field instruction for the scavenger hunt. Sunday, June 27th, 2 PM (1-2 hours, flexible)

Show and Tell: Join us online to share photos of what you found on your scavenger hunt. Prizes will be announced for several categories. Monday, June 28th, 7 PM (45 minutes)

Although this program is designed for families with children ages 8 and older, all ages are welcome. Come alone, come with friends, come with children. There is no cost for this program. Please register at this link:
Questions? Contact

Sunset Party at The General Field to return Thursday, June 24 at 7 PM with live music from Just One Sip!

During the pandemic, we put all of our large gatherings on hold. Now, with many receiving vaccines and the understanding that outdoor activities can be safe, we are delighted to open up with our happiest event: Sunset at The General Field. This year, we will still use great caution: no shared food or drink and a minimum of 3 feet between “pods”. Feel free to bring your own picnic!
We are happy to offer an unplugged concert from local band Just One Sip (featuring our own John Llodra) for your entertainment. This is an all ages event and free for everyone.

Lupines at The General Field