On The Trail: Pocopson Park

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By Vidya Rajan, Columnist, UnionvilleTimes.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today marks the start of a new column featuring the greater Unionville area’s hiking trails, as detailed by local resident Vidya Rajan. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Today’s featured trail: Pocopson Park, Pocopson Township

Round trip distance: approximately 1.8 miles, can be extended to 2.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Caution: Hunting during the winter deer season. Times are posted. Wear blaze orange and keep dogs on leash.

Website: Pocopson Park

Directions: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Pocopson+Road

Trail Map: http://g.co/maps/vn9b8

Small but delightful, Pocopson Park is a microcosm of Chester County, featuring hills, streams, woodland, and fields. Once upon a time, all this area was woodland – yes, that’s where the “sylvania” in Pennsylvania comes from! With the influx of settlers to the area, much of the woodland was cleared for agriculture, timber and fuel. This has left its mark, with fields dotting the landscape, interspersed with mature woodland. A walk in Pocopson Park doubles as a history lesson:  there are several informational plaques that describe the inhabitants, land use and landscape. Barnard House, the home of Eusebius Barnard is a famous landmark in the park. Eusebius was a Quaker abolitionist, and one of the signatories on the petition to create Pocopson Township. His home was a safe house on the Underground Railroad, and is part of the celebrations on Pocopson Founders Day on September 18 each year. Pocopson Township also looks after its own, with mile markers, dog clean-up bags, stream monitoring activities twice a year, and litter cleanups around Earth Day.

There are two parking lots with trailheads in Pocopson Park: one on Wawaset Road beside the playground, and the second at Locust Grove Road near the soccer and baseball fields. During the soccer and baseball season, the Locust Grove Road parking lot is usually busy, so use the Wawaset Road parking lot. If you have dogs with you use the bags provided to clean up after your pet. Please follow all park rules, and be aware that they may change seasonally.

From the Wawaset trailhead or the Locust Grove trailhead, head down the path towards Corinne Road.

Cross the road, and watch out for traffic coming around the bend from the left – they can’t see you.

Across the road, a small stream splashes softly beside the path. Look here for wildflowers in season. The trees around you are mainly mature oaks that are plentiful in older woodlands. The land to the left is private property.

The path emerges into a clearing and the trail forks into a loop path. The loop path can then be walked in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Here, we take the clockwise path to the left up the hill.

As you top the slight acclivity (mile marker 0.1), the view opens up and is quite lovely. Further along the path is an informational plaque describing the origin of place names in Chester County. The view takes in Barnard House to the left, and rolling hills and fields criss-crossed by strips of woodland.

Slightly further on, (mile marker 0.5) the barn and Barnard House date back to the early 1880s. Barnard House was a stop on the Underground Railroad which was operating in the area (described by an information plaque near the barn). Skirt the barn and head down the path towards the corner of Wawaset Road and Unionville-Lenape Road. On your right is a magnificent oak set in a depression.

Along the made asphalt path, another informational plaque describes the changes in land use.

Follow the asphalt path to a gravel path and head back up the hill to the left. To your left as you follow the curve of the path is a lovely little stream bordered by rushes. Restoration efforts are underway in the area beside the stream, so do not leave the path. Follow the path around the field back to the fork.

Cross back over Corinne Road. If you wish to extend your walk a little, go up the loop path on hill to the left. This loop path will take you to the baseball and soccer fields and the picnic area. If you are parked in the Wawaset Road parking lot, return along the loop path and head up the hill.

Nearby places of interest:

Baily’s Dairy, on Unionville-Lenape Road, is a great place to stop and grab a gallon of milk and even an ice-cream cone on a hot day. Eat it outside, enjoying the bucolic view.

Barnard’s House is slated for development as the new locations for the Pocopson Township Building and for the Kennett Underground Railroad Center.

Naturalist Notes:

Ornamental “grasses” come in different forms, but a simple child’s rhyme can distinguish them: “Grasses have joints, sedges have edges and rushes have brushes”. This order also ranks them in order of distribution and prevalence: grasses are found worldwide, sedges have stems that are triangular in cross-section and grow worldwide in cooler, wetter areas. Rushes’ distribution is limited to more northern latitudes. They are often sought out for dry floral displays. Grasses vary in size from tiny to towering. Phragmites is an invasive grass that can be seen in tall stands in wetlands all over the country, and is displacing native wetland plants. Pocopson Park has a little stand of rushes near the stream on the loop trail whose rather impressive brushes tower over one.

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