CUMBERLAND — An altar atop 5 stone-walled terraces served as a harbinger that this wasn’t going to be a typical stroll within the woods.
The Outer Sanctuary sits on land that had belonged to the Sisters of Mercy, a spiritual order of Catholic ladies. The land turned their place of prayer, schooling and pastoral work, and the sisters walked the paths quietly considering their vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and repair to these in want.
In 2018, the sisters offered 243 acres of their land to the Metropolis of Cumberland, which opened the Mercy Woods Preserve. A community of well-marked public trails climbs and descends hills and ridges, alongside the banks of the Diamond Hill Reservoir and thru the thick woods the place the sisters as soon as walked. Often hikers will see white marble statues and different non secular carvings.
Throughout my stroll there, I discovered a restful, thought-provoking place, and spent a while reflecting on the twists and turns of the previous 12 months.
I drove to Mercy Woods, nestled within the northeast nook of the state, taking Diamond Hill Street north to Freeway 121. The street then handed Lake Miscoe on the left and the doorway to Mercymount Nation Day Faculty on the precise by means of an space known as Grants Mills, named after the flour mill and sawmill run by Joseph Grant within the 1800s.
I parked in a small lot off Sumner Brown Street and set off for a solo hike heading north on the Mercy Yellow Loop by means of fields that have been as soon as lined in orchards.
The stays of the traditional sanctuary are constructed on the hillside
Simply 50 meters to the precise are the steps resulting in the shrine constructed into the hillside. There’s a giant fieldstone touchdown the place worshipers as soon as needed to stand or sit amongst small patches of earth the place flowers in all probability bloomed. The steps lead by means of 5 terraced stone partitions to an altar, with a stone cross on its face and granite slabs on prime.
I sat there for a couple of minutes and puzzled in regards to the providers that have been held there and the folks they as soon as attracted.
Persevering with on the trail marked in yellow below the pines, I crossed a street, a barred gate and a white constructing on the precise earlier than following a ridge line. At a junction, the yellow-marked path went proper, to an outcrop and a 5-foot stone cairn, earlier than persevering with on a 2.3-mile loop.
I made a decision to show left onto the blue marked Ridge Path which follows the perimeter of the protect and in lots of locations follows a rock wall. The path curved north then east over a hill earlier than turning south and up and down small ridges. Some sections are fairly steep. At a excessive level, the path dipped right into a valley with a stream working by means of the underside. There are additionally traces of stone partitions that mark the fields and property traces of what was as soon as farmland.
Picturesque views of the gorgeous Diamond Hill Reservoir
As I walked south after crossing Sumner Brown Street, the one noise I heard was the crunch of my boots over a number of inches of oak and maple leaves that lined the path. To the left and down an extended incline I may see the glittering Diamond Hill Reservoir by means of the timber.
I stayed on the Ridge Path till I discovered a break within the rock wall that lined the trail and took a aspect spur to the reservoir, an enormous 390 acre physique of water owned by Pawtucket’s Water Provide Board.
It was initially in-built 1887 and over time it has been expanded and improved with new earth dams. I walked alongside the rocky shore and seen that the water stage appeared to have dropped a number of ft.
After a couple of minutes of relaxation, I continued alongside the sting of the reservoir on the path marked with white discs for the 30 mile Warner Trail stretching from Cumberland to Sharon, Massachusetts.
After just a few hundred yards I turned proper onto an unmarked path that led again to the blue marked Ridge Path and adopted it to the south finish of the protect. Alongside the way in which, aspect trails marked in pink that have been as soon as cart paths opened as much as the precise.
The Ridge Path intersected the Mercy Loop and I took the yellow path to the west. I then turned north and took a aspect path that emerged onto Highland View Street and handed a driveway lined with non secular statues to Mount St. Rita Well being Heart. Simply up the street is the Sisters of Mercy administration constructing, which the order retained after the sale to town.
How the Sisters of Mercy Got here to Rhode Island
The Sisters of Mercy me, and I discovered later that the order had been based by Catherine McAuley in Dublin in 1831, and that the primary sisters arrived in the USA in 1843, settling in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and different cities. The order expanded and established colleges and hospitals throughout the nation.
In 1851, Mom Frances Warde and 4 sisters arrived in Windfall from Pittsburgh, establishing the primary everlasting convent in New England. The order bought its first plot in Cumberland in 1913 and skilled sisters there to ship throughout the USA and abroad to assist these in want, particularly ladies and kids.
When the order determined to cede a part of its possession, the sale of the land to town for $1.5 million included the settlement that 229 acres have been to be preserved of their pure state for mountain climbing, viewing chook watching, cross nation snowboarding and different passive recreation whereas 17.5 acres might be became group ball diamonds.
I continued my stroll on Highland View Street and noticed a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary below the timber, surrounded by flowers. There was a poem, “Beautiful lady dressed in blue,” about Mary instructing and caring for her child boy.
I obtained again on the street and about 50 yards picked up the blazing yellow Mercy Loop on the precise and adopted it below the pines to the place I had parked.
In all, I walked about 4 miles in two hours.
I’ve hiked many locations in Rhode Island, and all of them have one thing fascinating to see and write about. However Mercy Woods felt totally different and effectively price a stroll by means of the woods, even when solely to take a brief break to consider the place you have been and the place you are headed.
The Cumberland Land Belief, which manages Mercy Woods Protect, advises walkers to remain on marked trails. Bicycles, bikes and mountain bikes will not be allowed. No looking is permitted on the property.
John Kostrzewa, former deputy/company editor of the Windfall Journal, greets emails at [email protected].
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