Sunday, May 4, 2014

Castle in the Clouds

Some days I realize how lucky I am, to spend time walking about a property, taking notes and pictures, then back in my home office writing a plan, or as I prefer to call it a story about the property. Some properties are more interesting than others, but regardless of the size I always see or hear interesting things on my walkabouts. My current project--the 130-acre Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH--has many interesting facets, not least of which are its history and the stunning mountaintop views.
I am writing a wildlife habitat and land stewardship plan for the Castle Preservation Society, the non-profit that owns and manages this property. But most people visit this site to tour the historic castle and carriage house and grounds, to get married on the castle lawn, or to hike one of the many trails on the surrounding 5,000+-acre Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area (owned and managed by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust).

The Castle in the Clouds is open year round to hikers, but the castle tours and associated public events are only from mid-May to October. When I was there last Friday, the place was bustling with staff and restoration experts, and some hikers and local elementary students, but I mostly got to explore the place on my own without the more than 50,000 people that visit in summer. I started my tour at the top --walking around the carriage house, the trolley road, and the castle grounds. Even in these more developed areas of the property, I noted the nesting phoebes, the call of a northern flicker, the trailing arbutus, saxifrage, stunted oaks, tall pines, and the castle.
Below the mountaintop home (built by shoe manufacturing millionaire Thomas Gustave Plante in 1914 for his wife Olive), is a large field (some of which is mowed late in the summer to accommodate nesting birds), Shannon Pond, Shannon Brook, a stable and pastures, and mostly undisturbed woodland.
There is something for everyone here at the Castle in the Clouds, and I am grateful that I get to spend some quiet time exploring all the nooks and crannies of the castle and the woodlands (I highly recommend a visit).

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