Tag Archives: Sherwood Mill Pond

Pic Of The Day #216

Sherwood Mill Pond (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Pic Of The Day #210

The 1st home ever built on Compo Cove. It was moved to its current location on Sherwood Mill Pond from its original site across the path, facing Long Island Sound. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Pic Of The Day #193

Sherwood Mill Pond (Photo/Seth Goltzer)

Pic Of The Day #185

Sherwood Mill Pond, as seen from Hummock Island (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

Pic Of The Day #162

A horde of herons egrets descend on Sherwood Mill Pond. (Photo/Nicola Sharian)

Pics Of The Day #121

Sherwood Mill Pond house and oyster shed, from the air… (Photo/Hummock Island Oysters)

… and up close. (Photo/Mark Ritter)

Pic Of The Day #106

Oyster beds are visible, when the Sherwood Mill Pond is drained. (Photo/Jeff Northrop)

Photo Challenge #133

Last week’s photo challenge was easy. You might call it a “clam dunk.”

Richard Hyman’s photo showed devices under the 2nd wooden bridge at Sherwood Mill Pond, just before Compo Cove.

They were described variously as a “sluice gate,” “pumps,” “pond gates,” “lock system,” “flood control gates” and “water control mechanism.”

Actually they’re electric gates, installed around 1990. They replaced hand cranks.

Craig Clark provided important context:

They are neither locks or flood gates, but gates to keep water in the pond after high tide. The escaping water was then used to run the grist mill. On an incoming tide there was about 2 feet of clearance under the gates. Many of us swam under them, much to the distaste of the lifeguards.

As the tide changed, the gates would close and hold water back, hence the name Mill Pond. The gates were raised yearly to flush out the pond and allow any repair work to be done to the stone coffer dams, and flush out some of the other stuff that would accumulate.

The Mill Pond has gotten a lot shallower over the years, due to sand coming from Compo Cove and the state park. Farmers used to harvest the salt hay that grows on the flats, and the channels were cut for mosquito control. The Mill Pond is one of Westport’s and the state’s true treasures.

Congratulations to the 24 alert readers — a record! — who knew their onions: Fred Cantor, Luke Garvey, Lisa Marie Alter, Vanessa Wilson, Matt Murray, Craig Clark, Andrew Colabella, Rich Stein, Bob Stalling, Susan Granger, Robert Mitchell, John Brandt, Martin Gitlin, Stan Skowronski, Jill Turner Odice, Antony Lantier, Julie Fatherley, Peter Swift, Jay Tormey, Joelle Malec, Michael, Pettee, Rosalie Kaye, Linda Amos and Don Jacobs. (Click here for the photo, and all responses.)

Since last week’s photo challenge was so easy, here’s a tough one. If you recognize this sign, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Paul Curtis)

Taking The Oyster Tour

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Northrop family’s new venture.

Westport’s premier oystermen were planning tours of their admired-from-afar-but-seldom-seen-up-close operation on Sherwood Mill Pond. It was a chance to watch a very cool (and nationally known) business in operation — and to visit the mysterious house out on Hummock Island.

Last week, I took the tour.

I joined Jeff Northrop Jr. and his dad, Jeff Sr., plus a longtime Westport couple and a girl who just graduated from Staples.

It was high tide. On the Mill Pond that’s only 18 inches to 2 feet deep. But it was perfect for the boat. The weather was outstanding too.

Jeff Northrop Jr. readies his boat.

As we headed out, Jeff Jr. said that his father’s great-uncle had dragged the 1747 house — originally built as a cooper shed next to a grist mill — across the 83-acre Mill Pond by oxen, at low tide, around 1850.

A photo showing the grist mill and adjacent cooper shed — now the Hummock Island house — hangs on the wall inside.

The pond was originally a tidal stream. It was dammed up to provide power to turn the water wheel that ground grain.

Relics inside the Hummock Island house include timbers from the original Allen’s Clam house. They came from the schooner Remson, built by the Sherwood triplets. The abandoned vessel is still visible at low tide, in the Saugatuck River near the William Cribari/Bridge Street Bridge.

Jeff Sr. lived in the house during his high school years (he graduated from Staples in 1971).

The Hummock Island house (left). On the right is an equipment shed/boat, added a couple of years ago.

A caretaker then lived there for decades, until he was 83. The next year, Hurricane Sandy devastated the house.

The Northrops painstakingly restored it. They did so well, it’s earned a Fairfield County preservation award.

The Hummock Island house.

It sits now on a tiny spit of land. But the island was once much bigger. In fact, Jeff Sr. said, the town still insists he has 5 1/2 acres there.

The view to the back of Sherwood Mill Pond — toward I-95 and the train tracks — from the Hummock Island house.

Jeff Jr. pointed out 2 machines. One separates oysters into 3 sizes. The other cuts them down to uniform shapes. In 1 hour, it does what once took a week.

Oysters must be separated, because smaller ones won’t grow in the same cage with larger ones.

Hummock Island oysters.

The Northrops farm 4 million oysters at a time, below the surface and in floating bags. The Mill Pond is so nutrient-rich — and the water so pristine — that they take just 18 months to mature. Nearly everywhere else, it’s 3 years.

Jeff Northrop Jr. shucking oysters.

The Northrops supply wholesalers, including Pagano’s of Norwalk. From there they’re distributed all over the country. The 3-inch Hummock Island oysters are the highest grade — a delicacy prized by oyster lovers everywhere.

Next to the house is an equipment shed: the “Oysterplex.” Though it looks like another house, it’s actually a boat. (Jeff Jr. called it a “giant catamaran.”)

The Northrops hauled all the materials across the Mill Pond, and built it from scratch. When town officials questioned whether it was a structure or a boat, father and son rode it all around the island. It’s definitely a boat.

Jeff Northrop Jr., inside the Oysterplex equipment shed/boat.

The Northrops are well known for their oysters. But there’s 30 more acres behind the Hummock Island house. Just as they’ve done with oystering, they’re now revitalizing clamming in the Mill Pond.

A clam rake.

The tour over, Jeff Jr. and Sr. took us back across the Mill Pond. We passed a stick they’d found and planted. Instantly, Jeff Jr. said, ospreys and hawks found it.

The Northrops’ love for the Mill Pond is palpable. They know its history, its rhythms and its secrets.

Now the secret of Hummock Island is out.

And it — at least, its tour — is yours for the taking.

(The Northrops’ tours run through August. Times vary, depending on tides. For more information, click here.)

Mill Pond Oyster Tours R In Season

You’ve eaten them at local restaurants (and all across the country).

You’ve stood by the Sherwood Mill Pond, gazing at the island house and wondering about the long, black contraptions running out to it.

Next month, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Hummock Island oysters, and the beds where they’re grown.

The Northrop family — who revived and revitalized the industry here in Westport — are offering tours of their Hummock Island oyster farm.

You’ll travel by boat across the Mill Pond. The Northrops will describe the history of oystering in Connecticut, show how oysters are grown, and end with oyster tasting on the front porch of the private island house.

It’s fun, educational and exciting for oyster lovers of all ages — including kids, and those who have never even tasted one (an oyster that is, not a kid).

Tours run June 8 through August. Start times are tide-dependent.

Click here for information and reservations.

A view of Westport you’d never see, available on the Hummock Island oyster tour.