A new nature reserve on the island is so enticing. It means unexplored open space and a different perspective.
When I heard about the Vesey Nature Reserve, which formally opened in April on Earth Day (how appropriate is that?), I knew I had to check it out.
Tucked between Rockaway and Evans Bay in Southampton Parish, this eight-acre park certainly has perspective, with lots of up and down, looking across, looking through and quite a bit hidden away. The access road slopes down through a leafy tunnel, taking you to farmland on either side. When Mike and I were there, the land was fallow, morning glory and nasturtiums rioting over a few overgrown cabbages. On the right side, a small trail took us to the western end of mangrove-ringed Evans Bay, most definitely hidden behind the trees.
Back to the main trail, we walked up a hilly lane to find a wooden walkway allowing us to stand over an old Bermuda stone quarry. The aromatic aroma of allspice filled the air – hardly surprising since, as our companion David Wingate explained, many of them had been culled to make way for new plantings of Bermuda endemic trees, such as Jamaican dogwood, cedar, hackberry and palmetto. The wood has not been wasted, however. The rustic fencing along some of the boundaries and stairways are made of allspice. Neatly cut, evenly sized logs sit in several stacks that remind me of Swiss chalets with their stocks of wood, and Mike of liquorice sticks because of their reddish tinge.
The quarry is deep. We stood on the walkway looking down for a moment at the room of stone, imagining men sawing out the blocks. Later, we heard a sad story from a person who could remember when the quarry was active. Apparently, a mason was killed here by a falling block. Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps a suicide due to a love affair gone wrong.
The top of the hill is more scrubland than wood, a fact that pleases David since rare endemic shrubs like rhacoma, waltheria and pavonia, all found only in Southampton, can thrive here because they don’t have to compete with invasive trees. Bermuda’s own palmetto and cedar can still self-seed and maintain their status as dominant trees.
We followed the trail to the observation platform surrounded by thicket where we had a panoramic view of the Great Sound in front of us, Port Royal behind. I wondered whether Susette Harriet Lloyd ever stood on this spot, because her description of the Sound in her 1835 Sketches of Bermuda seems apt. It’s unlikely though, because David told us he had tramped through almost impenetrable terrain to create these trails. Still, her account of the Sound is apposite: “If any spot ever deserved the name of ‘seagirt’, it is these lovely islands which shine like so many emeralds upon the blue and buoyant waves. I had, however, been so long lost in the sameness of splendour, that it really seemed a relief to look upon the cold bleak hills of Port Royal.”
These days, of course, she would have been looking at the golf course.
We enjoyed the view, hearing nothing but birdsong – catbird improvised on a melody for at least five minutes – and then made our way down to the edge of the Sound to view the coastal quarry, a reminder that transportation by sea was once more common than by land. The access to the tide line makes for rewarding birding; herons, gulls and cormorants all like it here, as do ospreys in search of fish.
After we got home, I thought about the name Evans Bay and looked it up in Daniel Blagg’s Bermuda Atlas & Gazetteer. He writes that Edward Evans, who married Mary Vesey Evans in 1621, leased land here. Sharon Vesey generously donated this reserve to Buy Back Bermuda, and the organization named it after her family. Could Mary be a distant relation of her uncle Ernest Vesey, who bought the land during the 1950s? Whatever the case, it’s a happy twist of coincidence the two family names are once again joined in this beautiful reserve.