The Wild Side of Hockessin: Ashland Nature Center in Summer

Come to Ashland Nature Center this summer to explore 3 miles of trails, look for wildlife, pause in a shady, cool forest, and enjoy breeding birds, blooming wildflowers, and butterflies. Bring a picnic and take a relaxing break in nature. Let’s take a look at some highlights not to miss at Ashland this summer!

Three miles of trails
Choose the Succession Trail (orange), Floodplain Trail (blue), or walk through the Ashland Covered Bridge and make a left to enjoy the Covered Bridge Loop Trail. The Succession Trail winds its way through ecologically restored meadows, a pine forest, a mature old-growth forest, and back along the Red Clay Creek Floodplain. There are some short hills and it’s the best trail to see a variety of landscapes and habitats at Ashland. The Floodplain Trail is relatively flat, follows Red Clay Creek to a loop, then comes back on the same trail. This trail is more appropriate for smaller children who might like an easier trail. The Covered Bridge Trail is on the other side of the covered bridge from the parking lot. Walk through the covered bridge (be careful of any traffic!) and make a left onto a trail that loops through the floodplain meadow. This trail is at its best in August when abundant wildflowers are blooming.

Hawk Watch Hill overlook
For a scenic view near the parking lot, follow signs to the lodge, and then pick one of the trails that takes you to the top of the hill behind the lodge. Take a nature break in the chairs atop Hawk Watch Hill and enjoy a gorgeous view of the Red Clay Valley.

Purple Martin Colony
On the side of Hawk Watch Hill, you will see bird boxes on tall poles that look like little apartment complexes. Here, a colony of nesting Purple Martins has set up shop, and you can get a close look at these iridescent purple birds as they go to and from the colony. These birds are fun to watch and to listen to their gurgling song. Just think…at the end of summer, they fly all the way back to the Amazon Rainforest to spend the winter.

Butterfly House and Gardens
On the far side of the visitor center, take a look in the Butterfly House to see what we are raising and the surrounding flower gardens to see if butterflies are active. Normally, this opens in the first part of July when butterflies become more common.

Hummingbird Station
At the trailhead by the visitor center, you will see red hummingbird feeders placed on hangers. Stay still for a few minutes here and you might see our tiniest bird come in for a sip of sugar-water. Get your camera ready!

Bird Blind
The Bird Blind is located along the Succession Trail. It is a small wooden building where you can sit quietly inside and watch birds visiting the feeders just outside the windows. You might see parents bringing their young for an easy meal, woodpeckers up close, as well as a Chipmunk or Red Squirrel if you are lucky!

Wildflower Meadows
Starting in mid-July, be sure to walk the trails through our restored wildflower meadows. Formerly hayfields, these meadows have been seeded with native prairie wildflowers and grasses and are stunning when in bloom. Look for a wide variety of butterflies here too.

Wetland Boardwalk
Close to the parking lot, take a stroll around the wetlands where you might see frogs, tadpoles, newts, or possibly a snapping turtle or water snake. Lots of birds visit this area, and many species of wetland wildflowers bloom here in late summer.

Old Growth Forest
If hiking the Succession Trail, you will pass through a shady woodland on a north facing slope, making it a cool retreat on a hot summer day. Very large tulip trees, American beech, oaks, sweet birch, and other trees have been left undisturbed for over 100 years. This is what northern Delaware looked like long ago, when it was the home of the Lenni-Lenape Indian Tribe. Can you imagine this kind of forest stretching for miles in every direction? This is the real Delaware of the not-to-distant past.

Come enjoy the Wild Side of Hockessin at Ashland Nature Center this summer. We always appreciate a donation to keep the site in good shape and as a wonderful community resource. Trail fee donations can be made in the box at the trailhead. Better yet, sign up for one of our summer programs and become a member of Delaware Nature Society for free, year-round trail access.

Leave a Reply