Autumn Amble: Tour the lower Connecticut Valley
Photo by Stillman Rogers.
The charms of a river valley in full fall color.
Leaf peeping and squirrel-like instincts take us to the lower Connecticut Valley for apples, wine, cheese - and thousands of grinning pumpkins.
We arrived in Walpole in time for the Walpole Farmers Market, where we stocked up on winter squash and listened to live music.
We'd reserved a table at The Restaurant at Burdick's Chocolate, where we began with a trio of pâtés and a salad of warm goat cheese with watercress and walnuts. For mains we had pan-roasted trout with Prosciutto in browned butter, and a savory beef stew with roasted tomato and olives. After that, we couldn't do justice to a chocolate dessert, so we shared an artisanal cheese plate that included a delicious Tomme from nearby Boggy Meadow Farm.
Before breakfast at Inn at Valley Farms, we gathered eggs from their pastured chickens, raised on the 105-acre organic farm, then tucked into home-baked goodies, organic bread from a local baker and, of course, the eggs. We toured the farm, with its huge red barn, rare-breed heritage pigs and cashmere goats, then followed a trail to the sugar maple grove. Across the road at Alyson's Orchard the views over the foliage-painted Connecticut River Valley were so spectacular that we spent more time clicking pictures than picking apples. After picking enough for Thanksgiving pies, we sipped fresh cider and bought a few bottles of their peach and apple wines to take home.
Lunch in Walpole
After admiring beautifully kept historic homes around the common, we strolled over to the Walpole Village Tavern for BLTs and sweet potato fries.
Walpole Historical Society's website maps a 20-mile foliage tour of sweeping views and historic sights, including several colonial-era taverns. The route passes Walpole Mountain View Winery, which on Saturday afternoons offers tastings and tours of scenic vineyards, with views across the valley to the Green Mountains. We added a few more bottles to the collection we'd begun at Alyson's before detouring to Walpole Creamery for big scoops of pumpkin ice cream, made from and local cream and pumpkins.
Dinner at Summit Steakhouse
We timed dinner for sunset because this restored old barn overlooks the valley through west-facing windows. And because it was Saturday, we feasted on their weekend specialty, slow-roasted Prime Rib.
Edit: Since the publication of this story the Summit Steakhouse has closed.
Just south, in Keene its annual Pumpkin Festival was in full swing. Thousands of lighted pumpkins grinned from all sides, in multiple layers beside Main Street, along the curbs, filling the common, ringing the bandstand and on platforms a dozen layers tall towering over Central and Railroad squares. We were so overwhelmed that we needed slices of pumpkin pie to sustain us - fortunately available from sidewalk vendors.
We slept late and lazed about our beautiful room furnished in antiques, enjoying views over the inn's perennial gardens. Before leaving Walpole, we added cheeses from the honor-system cooler at Boggy Meadow Farm and maple syrup from Stuart & John's Sugar House to our weekend's hoard. We were still full from breakfast at the inn, or we would have been tempted by their famous pancakes.
Inn at Valley Farms
Walpole Village Tavern
Walpole Historical Society
Walpole Mountain View Winery Vineyard
Boggy Meadow Farm
Stuart & John’s Sugar House