Turkey Swamp Park is an expansive park and campsite along the seasonal, rural colors of Freehold Township in Monmouth County, right in the center of NJ. A well traveled site for hikers, dog walkers, and campers, Turkey Swamp Park has been providing its year round public service for many years, with a beautiful lake for fishing and canoeing, and 9 miles of trails for hiking.
Oddly enough, the origin of the name Turkey Swamp Park is unexpected. Turkey was the former name of what is now known as Adelphia, an unincorporated community in Howell Township; and Swamp, referring to the occasional swampy ground conditions due to the proximity to the water line. No turkeys or swamps, but still a fitting name.
The beautiful floral display is sprawled throughout the trails, synonymous with the NJ Pinelands. Turkey Swamp Park’s greatest feature for us is its versatility and diverse landscapes, which allows year round activity, for all seasons and hobbies. For more information, please consider visiting: Monmouth County Park System Parks Turkey Swamp Park
One of our favorite daily visits, the historic Hopewell Borough is located within the larger Hopewell Township in northern Mercer County, New Jersey. Hopewell is a part of the Raritan Valley region of the state with the woodsy Sourland Mountains to the north; Lambertville to the west; South Brunswick to the east; and Princeton to the south. Visually, Hopewell boasts a sleepy, calming small town aesthetic that has attracted young artists and off-beat small business owners. While all of Hopewell Township provides opportunity for nature preservation and historical investigation, Hopewell Borough has its own unique small town legacy of pre Revolutionary American History.
Like most early New Jersey settlements, the territory that became Hopewell was inhabited by Lenape Native Americans. A substantial land deal in the latter 17th century introduced the Colonial influence into the area. Over the following decades, Hopewell would be inhabited by settlers who were enticed to move to the area for its space and fertile soil, only to be misled by the real estate company, as the area at the time was vastly rural, forested land. The settlers who stuck around after this ordeal would become core components to what would eventually become Hopewell, and their contributions still stand in town to this day. The Baptist influence of mid-18th century reflects today with the Baptist Meetinghouse and the Hopewell Academy – the latter was a Baptist school which taught Latin, laying the conceptual framework as the forerunner institution for what would become Brown University. If you’ve been to Brown, visited Brown, or have friends or family as Brown alum, you all can thank the Hopewell Academy for laying the groundwork! Over time, the people began to utilize the resourcefulness of the land to develop industry and production. Lumber mills began to operate in the area to clear out much of the forest to make space for farmland; not to mention, also curate the stock for the important asset of lumber, benefitting the growing community; which was eventually incorporated as Hopewell in 1891.
We decided to visit Hopewell because we were on the road thinking of a destination for a quick visit to take some pictures. We say Quick, because we were within a 4 hour window of clear Spring sunshine, sandwiched in between hours of rain earlier in the morning, and what would become a tornado warning and hail storm later that night. To that end, time was a factor. We pulled up on a residential street across from the fire station, right by the Borough park. The park has a gazebo, small playground, and then a short but serene nature trail covering the perimeter of the site. We walked along the main stretch of Hopewell Borough, Broad St.(County rd 518) and took in a few sites, including the aforementioned Hopewell Academy. The antique shops and curious outdoor decorations are a trademark along the stretch of Broad Street by Greenwood, and on the other side is the Brick Farm Tavern (several Farm to Table options in the area, BTW), and the historic Hopewell Library. Hopewell Theater is a unique performing arts and dine-in theater right in town and offers an eclectic showcasing of music, plays, film screenings, and spoken word performances. The Highland Cemetery along the Baptist Meetinghouse is walkable along the town.
As you drive through Hopewell Borough without context, you may not realize that you are driving by structures that have existed within the community for over 250 years. That’s why whenever we drive through a small town in New Jersey, we always make it a point to visit and explore. Hopewell has always been a popular midday trip for us on a weekend, and when you take the time to learn about its historical significance, you learn to appreciate it even more.
About twenty minutes east of home leads us to the calm, tranquil region of western Monmouth County, New Jersey. The village of Allentown – which will be covered by us in the near future, boasts many shops, restaurants, an old mill, and plenty of other opportunities for shoppers and weekend photographers alike. A little deeper into the Cream Ridge and Upper Freehold Township area we have today’s destination, with Revolutionary Era historical framework; now preserved into an open air museum, showcasing local artists while also preserving the artifacts and display of the late- 18th century. While historic Walnford is so beautifully tucked away in the quiet forest along Crosswicks Creek; much as anywhere else in New Jersey, it is still seemingly in the middle of everything.
We decided to visit and profile Walnford for this blog entry out of the inspiration of constantly driving by signs for the site while exploring Allentown. With full discretion and humility as someone who studies local regional history as a hobby, I had no idea about Walnford. I have never seen it advertised on our local travel guide pages on social media, and neither of us have seen it referenced in any of our literature regarding Atlantic regional historical sites. We owed it to both the physical site and its historical impact to take a visit and experience for ourselves.
The current site of Walnford, NJ is an open air museum, with several buildings showcasing old artifacts, such as early Eighteenth Century transportation hardware and horse rearing equipment. The two main event buildings – the Waln estate and grist mill, are preserved and protected for the public. From a historical perspective, Richard Waln purchased several mills on the land and constructed both the estate and grist mill in 1773. The open air displays on site tell a story of two centuries from an industrial stronghold to a Twentieth Century country retreat for the Waln family. The Merchant trading industry of Colonial America relied heavily on the Crosswicks Creek, flowing as a natural corridor during local trade routes. The Walnford site is situated right along the Creek, and the trading services sourced out of the grist mill allowed the Walnford site to become a thriving industrial complex. In later years, Walnford transformed into a quiet, serene family retreat, upholding generations of contributions of local industrial history, as perpetuated by Richard Waln.
In 1979, the Walnford site was donated to Monmouth County, NJ and has since become a public attraction and display site for local art. The open air museum displayed in structures along the site are open to the public, as is the historic mansion structure, and grist mill, still standing tall, with centuries of legacy supporting it. Occasionally, the park staff at Walnford will facilitate a grist mill demonstration, where visitors can receive an in-person account on the operation of the grist mill as it was, many years ago.
For more information about the Walnford site, please consider visiting