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Posts Tagged ‘Madame Sherri’s Castle’

In the 1930s a French lady named Antoinette Sherri bought several hundred acres on the east side of Rattlesnake Mountain in Chesterfield New Hampshire and built a house there. The house, which some called a “castle,” was built of local stone by Italian stone masons and stood until 1962, when it was vandalized and burned. The photo above shows some of what little is left, and also shows how what little is left is slowly crumbling away. The arches are letting go.

There is a beaver pond on the property but I don’t think the beavers are active any longer.

The lodge looks unused but that was okay; I was here for the beauty, not the beavers or the stonework.

Oaks are turning some amazing colors this year.

Beeches are wearing their usual yellow but they’re still very beautiful.

Here’s another photo of the forest at Willard Pond that I took far too many of when I went there. It’s beautiful enough to see again, I think.

Though we have a long way to go to drought abatement we have had some rain and it’s nice to see the streams flowing again.

I saw a few fallen oak leaves and that means the bare trees of November must be just around the corner.

I love how lake sedge (Carex lacustris) seems to flow like the waves of the pond and lake shores it grows on. It is really the wind and its own weak stems that make it bend so, but I think it makes a pretty display. Lake sedge is native to Canada and the northern U.S. and can at times be found growing in water. Waterfowl and songbirds eat its seeds. Even when it isn’t blowing in the wind it seems to have movement.

I took the wrong road in Chesterfield and was glad I did. It was beautiful.

I finally got to the overlook that looks off toward the green hills of Vermont. It was also beautiful. It’s really too bad that people from other places couldn’t get here to see the foliage this year. In a normal year they come from all over the world to see this.

Here’s another shot from Willard Pond; what I call the far hill. Gosh it was beautiful.

And another shot of the forest at Willard Pond.

A backlit bit of forest in Chesterfield. What gorgeous colors we’ve seen this year, even in a drought. I’ve been told, over the course of my whole life I think, that adequate rainfall determined whether or not we’d see good leaf color. So much for that theory.

Even the bracken ferns have been colorful.

And the blueberry bushes. Never have I seen them as beautiful as they are this year.

The many colors of maple leaved viburnum could take an entire post to show. It’s one of our most colorful native shrubs and I love seeing it.

And then it looks like this; a pale almost non existent pink, just before the leaves fall.

While the maples have been a little disappointing the oaks are incredible.

The color range of oaks is always a surprise.

I caught a royal fern (Osmunda spectabilis) that was still wearing yellow. Once they start changing they quickly go from yellow to a kind of burnt orange to brown. Many people don’t realize that this is a fern and that’s why I show it so often. That and I like it.

Witch hazel leaves (Hamamelis virginiana) have gone brown but their yellow flowers still peek out from under them. In fact it’s common to find a bush full of blossoms and not a single leaf.

Witch alders (Fothergilla major) are beautiful in the fall and they show what the sun does to their leaf color. The yellow you see is where the sun hasn’t hit their leaves full on, but the red leaves have been in full sun. Does this mean that the sun causes them to lose their chlorophyll quicker? Witch alder is a native shrub related to witch hazel which grows to about 6-7 feet in this area. Though native to the southeast it does well here in the northeast, but it is almost always seen in gardens rather than in the wild. The fragrant flower heads are bottlebrush shaped and made up of many flowers that have no petals. What little color they have comes from the stamens, which have tiny yellow anthers at the ends of long white filaments.

I feel bad for saying the maples have been disappointing. I should have said that they had amazing color but their leaves fell quickly. I just read that drought and high heat cause trees to turn early and drop their leaves sooner, and that’s exactly what has happened. This small maple made it through and it was a knockout.

I’ll leave you with a moment of reflection. Beautiful yes, but many people far more knowledgeable about such things than I am have said that in reality, you are the beauty you see. Here’s one of them now:

The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran

Thanks for coming by.

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1-syaircase

Last week I decided to visit Indian Pond in Chesterfield. I’d heard about it but had never been so off I went. The trail I was to follow to the pond took me very near a place I know well, so I took a short detour to the ruins of Madame Sherri’s summer home, which is called the “castle.” Madame Sherri was a French costume designer who worked in New York City in the roaring twenties (1920s) and designed costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies and others. The chalet style castle was built of local stone found on the property, and I think what draws people to the site is what’s left of the arched outdoor stairway shown above. Two of the largest arches have come apart, so I fear this well-known local landmark won’t be standing much longer unless it is repaired.

2-side-entrance

This view shows the side entrance. Large windows were set in between stone pillars. I’m guessing that Madame Sherri had a lot of visitors from New York in the fall, because the colors were amazing. The place still gets plenty of visitors and a second parking lot had to be built to accommodate the overflow. They come in droves from all over the world, but especially in autumn.

3-chalet-front

This old photo shows the castle as it was before it was destroyed by fire on October 18, 1962; nearly 54 years ago to the day, which I didn’t know when I went there. Madame Sherri died penniless and a ward of the town of Brattleboro, Vermont in 1965 at the age of 84.

4-signpost

Back when I was a teenager I used to come here often and in those days you could sit here all day and not see a soul. One year an outdoor rock concert was held with the ruins of the castle as the stage and the popularity of the place has grown ever since until today, you’d have a hard time finding that you had the place to yourself. The last time I was here I had to avoid interrupting a professional photo shoot, costumed model and all. That day it was more like a circus than a nature walk.

The Ann Stokes that the sign refers to is the lady who bought the land and graciously donated it to the public. Indian Pond, it is said, was where Madame and her guests would swim in seclusion. I’m not sure why I never visited the pond years ago.

5-beaver-pond

The first thing you come to is a beaver pond. I didn’t see any signs of recent activity so the beavers might have abandoned it. All the grass in the distance tells me it has silted up. Soon shrubs will start growing there and then the forest will eventually reclaim it.

6-aster

New England asters bloomed along the edge of the pond.

7-nurse-log

I’ve searched for a nurse log for many years and finally found one here by the beaver pond. A nurse log is a log which has decayed enough to provide a fertile bed for tree seedlings, either of its own or another species. They aren’t common; this is the first one I’ve seen. I believe those are birch seedlings growing near the old root ball of the log.

8-orange-mushrooms

Considering how dry it has been I was surprised to see a few mushrooms dotted here and there. I haven’t been able to identify these orange ones with small caps that seemed out of proportion to their long stems. I wondered if they were stunted due to the dryness.

9-orange-mushrooms

I think these examples were Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus illudens,) which grow in clusters on wood. Some experts say that through a process called bioluminescence the gills of Jack O’ Lanterns glow green in the dark, but others say that they don’t. I don’t have time to shut myself in a closet with them to find out, so I don’t suppose I’ll ever know for sure. They are definitely poisonous but smell very good and that can tempt people into eating them. They shouldn’t be confused with chanterelles, which don’t grow in clusters and don’t grow on wood. Those pictured grew on a log.

10-trail

The hike to Indian Pond is described as “an easy 45 minute round trip hike to a secluded, beautiful mountain lake.” Define easy, I muttered as I climbed up and up at a steep enough grade to have me stopping to catch my breath. But a twelve year old could have run up to the pond and back with ease, I’m sure. In fact I met quite a few people of that age on the trail and could sense them obviously itching to do just that. Did I have that much energy at twelve, I wondered?

11-bridge

There are a couple of bridges to help you negotiate a stream which on this day had dried up completely. I’ve seen an alarming number of streams and ponds dry up this year and there is still no rain in sight.

12-witch-hazel

There were lots of witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) blooming. They’re our latest blooming native understory shrub, so when you see these flowers you know winter is near.

13-trail

I think a lot of people who come to New England in the fall believe that seeing the colorful foliage is the extent of it, but there’s much more to it than that. The crisp air, the rustle of the leaves as you walk through them, the soft whisper of acorns hitting the leaves as they fall and the earthy fragrance that surrounds you are all part of what we call autumn, and walking through a forest like this one is the only way to be completely immersed in the experience.

15-signpost

There are a few well-placed signs pointing you to where you want to go. I took a right turn at this one. From here it’s just a short walk to the pond.

16-indian-pond

The stunning foliage colors at the pond made the uphill hike worthwhile, and I sat an enjoyed them while I had the whole place to myself.

17-indian-pond

The pond really isn’t that big; I certainly wouldn’t call it a lake, but it is secluded. If I’d had more time I would have tried to find a trail around it.

18-fire-pit

Someone had a campfire, or maybe there have been many years of campfires here. A fire probably wouldn’t be a great idea right now considering how dry it is.

19-indian-pond

After a last look at the foliage I headed back down the hill, thinking of the photo of a yellow lady’s slipper that I had seen which was taken somewhere in these woods. I’ve never seen a yellow lady’s slipper so knowing they grow here will get me be back in the spring.

20-reflections

On my way back to the parking area I had to stop and admire the reflected colors in the beaver pond. The colors this year are truly amazing; better than I think anyone expected.

Explore often. Only then will you know how small you are and how big the world is.~ Pradeepa Pandiyan

Thanks for coming by.

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