Stop 3—Dickinson Pond Platform

Red-winged blackbird.

This spot is great for observing the life buzzing about around the man-made campus pond. Originally designed as a swimming hole by faculty member Robert Woodworth (for whom the College’s annual Woodworth Lecture is named), the pond now serves as home base for several families of Canada Geese, legions of Red-winged Blackbirds, and a multitude of dragonflies and other aquatic insects. Occasionally, Great Blue Herons can be spotted hunting for frogs. Listen for an unmistakable banjo-plucking sound in the spring and summer, and you will know that you are in the company of the creatively-named Green Frog.

The weeping beech, providing shade from beside the platform, is worth investigating as well. Look for the art installations that are often hidden amongst its branches. Note also the Silver Maples with deeply notched leaves to your left. Like its sturdier and traditionally favored relative the sugar maple, syrup and sugar can be produced from the Silver Maple’s semi-sweet sap, but the yield is much lower.

Looking out across the pond to the north towards Jennings Hall, you might see evidence of a ha ha. This oddly named landscape feature, a low stone wall combined with a deep ditch, was designed to keep wandering livestock and deer away from gardens and homes without interrupting the view. The name is thought to be French in origin, but has also been adopted by English writers to express the surprise (ah! ah!) of encountering these sunken fences, putting an end to an otherwise pleasant country walk.

As you continue on around the pond past Dickinson Hall and toward the Orchard, keep an eye out for the Eastern Bluebirds that nest in boxes spread through the field across the path from the pond, as well as elsewhere on campus. These birdhouses were placed around campus by a beloved former alumna/trustee/staff member, Rebecca Stickney. Just past the field, you might catch a glimpse of the College’s Community Garden. Throughout the summer, this plot is overflowing with flowers, sweet corn, squash, and other tasty vegetables.

Also look for a small fenced in area across the road from the Community Garden. This is the result of an on-going campus sustainability project—the campus native tree nursery. The young trees in this nursery will eventually help to supply campus landscaping projects. Maintenance of a diverse and vigorous urban forest in the non-forested portions of campus will enhance the aesthetic experience for visitors as well as the working and living environment for the Bennington community. However, landscape plantings generally tend to be strongly dominated by a very small number of species, and very low genetic diversity within these species (in fact, many planted varieties tend to be almost or entirely genetically uniform). Therefore, the plantings facilitated by this campus nursery will be focused on species native to this area, such as sugar maple, blackgum, white oak, red cedar, and shagbark hickory.

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