Nature Takes Over Waveny’s Nooks

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First in a series titled “The Nature of New Canaan.”

New Canaan’s parks are picturesque in all seasons, but autumn especially presents us with a blend of what one admires in a New England suburb–flashes of red, yellow and orange foliage here one day and gone the next–and unexpected moments of time standing still among rock walls that used to be property lines.

Looking back up two sets of stairs toward Waveny House in the fall. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith

Looking back up two sets of stairs toward Waveny House in the fall. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith

A town favorite landmark year-round, but especially in fall, is Waveny Park, complete with woods, trails, wildlife and an estate of yesteryear. Beyond the recent manmade additions to the park, visitors should take note of the weathering of the bricks and stone, the fading hues of pink and orange that frame the sky at dusk, and the swaying tall grasses (likely full of ticks, but as New Englanders, we have to take the good with the bad between weather and ticks).

If you only visit Waveny for its sports fields and exercise equipment, go again with the purpose of exploring its natural beauty. Venture beyond the paddle courts, pool and dog park. Whether you are new to town or your family has lived here for generations, all New Canaanites can appreciate the natural splendor of Waveny in autumn.

Often tucked away and overlooked are myriad beautiful spots in Waveny Park where nature has taken the reins.

The bench at Waveny near the sledding hill. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith

The bench at Waveny near the sledding hill. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith

I have always loved this stone bench, subtle yet accessible between the rose garden and fountain in Waveny’s backyard. The bench doesn’t have a discernible dedication plaque, and its crumbling corners imply its near-century age given that Waveny recently celebrated turning 100. That bench has likely comforted many a weary walker, couples in or out of love, mothers sitting with their toddlers, and whatever squirrels needed a boost. The bench has witnessed many children and parents sledding by in winter, only to be covered in snow and disregarded until spring.

Every New Canaanite has visited Waveny for one reason or another, whether for a solitary jog, a soccer game, fireworks among thousands on July 4, and everything in between.

It’s how Waveny makes us feel that resonates within us, and we need to take stock in what it offers beyond the manmade structures. I know those trails well having run on them countless times during and after high school.

A footpath in the woods of Waveny Park in New Canaan. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith

A footpath in the woods of Waveny Park in New Canaan. Credit: Darcy Pennoyer Smith

Now, my pace has certainly slowed, but my memory for where the large roots are and trail offshoots remains strong. I know the exact spot from 20 years ago when a snake slithered across the trail directly in front of me, and how thankful I was to have been a sprinter and able to avoid the reptile who wanted nothing more than to make his way across a path. He/it had no idea just how high and long I jumped to avoid it and land, still running, on a worn trail that has been preserved for decades.

Like that stone bench, my appearance changes with age, but the passage of time only deepens the nostalgia I hold for one of New Canaan’s most beautiful treasures.

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