About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Catsbane Brook

I often talk about grand locations, tall mountains, restless ocean shores, or classically appointed New England villages.  Certainly, New England offers an abundance of such attractions, but I live in a quieter slice of the region and I revel in the simple beauty of our “Currier and Ives” corner of New Hampshire and Vermont.     

Meandering Catsbane
The Monadnock region in southwestern New Hampshire and also the southeastern part of Vermont are my prime photographic territories.  It is a country of rolling hills, with sweet little villages nestled in its hollows, and featuring classic farms, looking and working much as they did 150 years ago.  We glory in Mount Monadnock, our one big mountain, but as the archetypal “Mountain that Stands Alone”, Mt Monadnock does not dominate the countryside.  Rather, it contrasts and compliments the surrounding hills and fields.  

Catsbane Falls and Cascades

Gently flowing brooks punctuated by cascades and waterfalls are another feature of our region.  Spring is a great time to enjoy the flowing water and, since my second annual Spring Waterfall Workshop is coming up in a couple of weeks, I thought this would be an appropriate time to celebrate one lovely little brook in my home town of Chesterfield New Hampshire, the Catsbane Brook

Catsbane Brook winds its way through Chesterfield, meandering north and finally emptying into the Connecticut River in West Chesterfield.  It stretches though most of the town and is the longest brook within Chesterfield’s borders, but what is a Catsbane?

Catsbane Brook, What’s in a Name

 I have searched for a good definition of “Catsbane” and have found that it is a colloquial name for a variety of Orchid that may be especially toxic to felines, but why was this brook named after a poisonous flower?  A good question and, for an answer, I went to Audrey and Neil at the Chesterfield Historical Society.  These wonderful ladies possess a wealth of knowledge about our town, and very quickly, they were able to direct me to Oran Randall’s History of Chesterfield, published in 1882.  On page eleven I found a story from the town’s early history, in which two scouts rested along the brook for lunch.  When one lingered a bit too long to drink the water, his companion wished that the water was poisonous Catsbane, or perhaps “Rats-Bane” (Arsenic). Possibly just a dusty old folk-lore, but whether or not this story is true, it makes a nice tale.  You can read the story and decide for yourself.

Finding the Source

Beaver Pond , Catsbane Origin

My first goal was to find the point of origin of Brook.  Over its course, several streams contribute to the Catsbane’s flow, but its most notable origin is from a large beaver pond in the south of town. 

Beaver Dam

Beaver Dam Spring

The pond features an impressive system of well-maintained dams and the brook begins its travels as a modest stream, trickling under the logs. This week I explored the course of the brook and supplemented the many photographs that I have taken of the Catsbane over the years.

Hubbard Falls and Town Brook 
Hubbard Falls
Of the many contributors to the Catsbane’s flow, Hubbard Brook is likely the most significant.  My experience with the Hubbard Brook has primarily been of its dramatic waterfalls found before it crosses the Gulf Road and mingles in a substantial wetland.  With the addition of the waters of Town Brook, the brook eventually becomes the Catsbane before it crosses under Route Nine and flows into West Chesterfield.

Town Brook

Town Brook to the Catsbane

Through West Chesterfield
Pond Brook Falls

West Chesterfield is one of the villages making up the town of Chesterfield and it is here that the Catsbane Brook shows its most dramatic faces.  The Catsbane’s journey through West Chesterfield is marked by frequent waterfalls and cascades.  Early on, the brook is joined by Pond Brook with a lovely little waterfall.  

A number of other waterfalls can be found as the Catsbane drops though West Chesterfield’s little village, but the most dramatic no longer exists.  What I called the Catsbane’s “Little Niagara”Falls was formed as the brook passed over an old mill dam, but sadly, in the last couple of years, the dam has been by-passed.  For now there remains only a powerful jet of water feeding cascades, but I won’t object if some trees washed downstream to block the sluice way.

The Catsbane "Little Niagara"

Sluice Under the Dam

The Catsbane finishes it course meandering through flats to a broad opening into the Connecticut River.

Catsbane into the Connecticut River

For years I have enjoyed photographing the Catsbane’s beautiful features, but it was instructive to follow the water from its modest origins to the dramatic flow at it terminus.  It made me appreciate that towns throughout New England are cut by intricate webs of water, which generally go unnoticed, but are critical to the health of the ecosystem.  Take some time to explore the patterns of water in your own community, and maybe even take a picture or two.

Jeffrey Newcomer

1 comment:

  1. what a great photo! You are a real talent!My younger sister is also fond of photography. and in general she is a very creative person. At school she likes drawing and music, but for example, with the exact sciences she has problems. She very often uses do my homework online services, because she can get a good grade at school.And gives more time for what she really likes.