The Big Maple property is a lowland area of about 31 acres, filling the cleft between the prominent Moose Hill and the less known Chestnut Hill. Through this lowland flows the Chestnut Branch of Hoadley Creek, whose headwaters are found just below Rt. 1. The property is a portion of the 1996 open space set-aside from the Hoyt Farms subdivision.
This short, 1.1 mile loop trail follows uplands around the perimeter of the property and reveals farmland reverting to forest. Formerly an outfield, and not suitable for the plow, the entirety of the property was likely used as grazing land until early in the 20th century. With three rocky promontories supporting ancient trees above the course of Chestnut Creek, and equally aged hedgerows that separated this grazing land from the more productive land to the east, the contrast between young and old is a reminder of how past use shapes what today is the Big Maple property.
The Moose Hill lands were granted about 1700, sixty years after the formation of the Guilford colony, with the Big Maple property being a small portion of a large holding that straddled Moose Hill Road and included the house lot now known as 1820 Moose Hill Road. The chain of title reads like a ‘who’s who’ of Guilford, with Leete, Bishop, Chittenden, Fowler and Kelsey owning the property until very late in the 19th century. By the 20th century, the economics of small farms and realities of aging owners started the reclamation process evident today. The dairy barns had been dismantled by the 1950’s and the Big Maple property became rapidly overgrown when grazing ended. The mature hedgerows that border the Hoyt Farms subdivision properties and the stonewalls and wire fences on the boundaries are reminders of Guilford’s agricultural history.
The yellow trail is a trail suitable for both beginner and experienced walkers. Throughout most of the year, it is basically dry, although there are a few stretches where you’ll need to step on log walks or stepping stones. There are several nice overlooks and places to sit and relax by the quiet of the creek. And of course, make sure to see the Big Maple at the far northeastern corner of the property. It is said to be one of the largest sugar maples found in Connecticut. The red trail is found toward the middle of the yellow trail, breaking off and following the bank of the creek for about 500 feet. This trail provides an opportunity for adults or children to study the wetland flora or explore the sandy bottom of the creek.