My friend e-mailed me she was going to take a walk in her woods to check and see how many trees had come down during the recent high winds.

How lucky she is that she has her woods to walk in. I remember as a kid, walking through the woods from our house on Chute Road, all the way over to Highland Cliff Road. We had more adventures than you could imagine, and no one worried. We, of course, never got lost. Crossing brooks, scrambling up steep bankings, and avoiding poison ivy, we meandered under the tree branches, chasing butterflies and drinking out of the brook.

From my grandfather’s farm on Webb Road (when there were six houses on the whole road) my family moved to the adjacent Chute Road when I was about five. My father built the house, one room at a time, as he could afford the lumber. He also dug the well from which we got enough good water for a family of eight. Eventually, development and its effect on ground water made that hand dug well unusable. From the corner of Webb Road to our house near Hemon Cobb Road, there were a total of seven houses.

Nowadays, I don’t drive over the Chute Road very often. I can’t get acclimated to all the little roads (really long driveways) running off into the woods. They end in the yard of an ostentatious, many-eye-gabled house that just doesn’t fit among the old Cape Cods and frame farm houses that have been in that very old historic area for hundreds of years. I know of three big developments proposed for the fields and woods of the Chute Road. Every one of those future residents will no doubt be seeking the country way of life I know so well, but it is gone.

Common sense tells me that farming is no longer the primary occupation of Windham residents and I know all about the population “explosion” and about all the people who want to (and have) move to Windham where they can find their sense of “country.” But having houses within view of each other isn’t and never will be country to me. The oldest members of old families are leaving us and their grandchildren cannot see the value in paying taxes on fields and woods. And most of them can’t afford it. It does cost money to maintain land – it doesn’t just sit there. You have to take care of it.

For a long time, those of us who lived in South Windham watched the developments going in at North Windham and to the east. During this time, some of us were kind of smug about it (I was one of them). We felt safe from the addition of culverts, the demands for sidewalks and streetlights, trash removal and noise ordinances, and all the things that turn rural into suburban.

I will be curious to see if all those folks who were so unhappy about projected development near their homes, will be watching the Planning Board meetings this spring when the Board has to consider at least two developments on Chute Road, one on Canada Hill and a couple more on Albion Road. It’s all legal and no ordinances forbid it. But it’s sure going to change the face of Windham even more.

When I find myself by our old house on Chute Road, I see the centuries-old tall pine trees in the woods that used to belong to us. My favorite tree is a huge pine tree, right on the edge of the field where there were always two gardens. That big tree provided shelter in the winter and shade in the summer. It was a hideout for my sisters and I when we were escaping our brothers, and a wonderful place to climb. Around the base of it, violets and mayflowers and Solomon’s Seal used to grow. When I was young, you couldn’t see much from here except fields, stone walls and trees. We picked strawberries and raspberries on this little knoll. And that big, old tree stood watching. We climbed way up to see how many other houses we could see. Not many. Even falling down through the branches was a lot of fun. We never got hurt. I wonder if the kids who climb rock walls know how to climb a tree.

No longer will neighborhood kids, if there are any, be able to meander around the old woods where I grew up, and scoop up polliwogs out of the little puddles by the road. Their mothers won’t have to warn them about not picking the ladyslippers or staying away from poison ivy. For certain, they won’t be walking through any woods because the trees are the first things to come down. The traffic and restrictions created by dozens of houses sitting in a field will make this kind of childhood activity a thing of history.

I beg the town not to require too many sidewalks on these old fields. And couldn’t we do something about keeping the old stone walls? They really did serve a purpose besides being a great place to find chipmunks and field mice.

See you next week. I know I won’t get lost in the woods.


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