At Home with Harvard: Nature Walks

Greater Bostons abundant green spaces are ideal for walking, running, and biking, even while social distancing.

This is the fifth installment in Harvard Magazine’s new series, “At Home with Harvard,” a guide to what to read, watch, listen to, and do while social distancing. Read the prior pieces, featuring stories about Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum and spring blossomingfamous and not-so-famous Harvardians in the moviesHarvard’s literary scene, and the resources of Harvard’s many museums

Isolation doesn’t mean we have to stop moving. Whether you love the outdoors or you're looking for an alternative to the gym, Greater Bostons abundant green spaces are ideal for walking, running, and biking, even while social distancing. 


A woodsy view of the High Service Reservoir
Photograph by Mike Ryan

I remember reading this piece on Middlesex Fells before I moved to Boston, and thinking that the park would have to be one of my first weekend trips. It was so beautiful that I kept returning. This article gets into not just the beauty of the Fells, but also the activism—new and old—that’s kept it that way. Even repeat visitors will find something new in Nell Porter Brown’s account. 

Serene Willow Pond
Courtesy of Mount Auburn Cemetery

I also like this guide to Mount Auburn Cemetery, which discusses how the unique site helped change the way people thought about what a burial ground could be. At a time when most were quite overcrowded and grim, Mount Auburn was something unique: a tranquil resting place brimming with natural life. 

~Jacob Sweet, Staff Writer/Editor

A Greenway view of Lower Mills
Photograph by Jessica Mink

The beaches, parks, and neighborhoods of southern Boston are among my favorite places in the city at any time of year. As the weather warms, check out this guide to enjoying the Neponset River Greenway, a wonderful green space along the river that forms Boston’s borders with Milton and Quincy. As the chair of the Neponset River Greenway Council told Harvard Magazine writer Nell Porter Brown: “You can sometimes see harbor seals under the bridges.” It’s also only a quick drive from the Blue Hills Reservation, a vast, scenic conservation area spanning several Boston suburbs. 

~Marina Bolotnikova, Associate Editor 

World’s End offers stunning views of Hingham Harbor.
Courtesy of the Trustees of Reservations

World's End, a Trustees of Reservations property on the South Shore, is a place of sweeping vistas: across water, up hillsides, along tree-lined carriage roads. Imagine two connected drumlins that thrust into the ocean and you’ll have it. The natural beauty of the place is undeniable, but what I find most remarkable about this landscape is the view back toward Boston from the highpoint on the north side of the second drumlin. The city skyline, 15 miles away, is a beautiful sight seen from this natural vantage point. Parking for the property is scheduled to open on May 4, but check the website to be sure. 

~Jonathan Shaw, Managing Editor 

Meandering paths at Fairsted, the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
Photograph by Jim Harrison

Frederick Law Olmsted, A.M. 1864, LL.D. ’93, is a fascinating figure, and I really love the intimate, informative glimpse at his life and work that Nell Porter Brown gives in her description of the Brookline farmhouse and grounds where he “lived his last good years.” The property is now a national historic site bearing Olmsted’s name. I think my favorite thing about this story is the vivid, attentive details about the sculpted wildness of the place: pathways lined with mountain laurel and pudding stone, the solitary American elm that stands on the rolling lawn, the rock stairs with patchy moss, the shady hollow rich with vines. In all of it, Brown writes, is “the same sense of playful exploration, of grand mystery in the ‘natural’ world,” that imbues Olmsted’s larger public projects. 

Lone paddlers take in the sunset
Photograph courtesy of UMass Lowell Kayak Center

I grew up on a working river in southern Virginia—it powered our town’s sprawling textile mill and nearby furniture factories, but was also a place where locals swam and fished and picnicked, and where our family went paddling in a small boat every summer, where we watched the seasons come in with the trees on the riverbank. And so I’ve always been moved by this piece my colleague Nell Porter Brown wrote on the complicated history of the Merrimack River in Lowell and Lawrence. Spending time with kayakers, conservationists, local business people, and a group of local high-schoolers out on a boating trip, she gives a layered and lyrical portrait of the Merrimack’s long relationship—troubled in some ways, redemptive in others—to the towns that surround it.  

~Lydialyle Gibson, Associate Editor

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