Tag Archives: Sherwood Mill Pond

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.

Ospreys On The Mill Pond

Westporters never get tired of our ospreys. Alert “06880” reader — and early riser — Jen Greely writes:

This morning I took my paddleboard out for the first time this season.

I paddled around Sherwood Mill Pond, watching the oyster farmers work and the commuter trains pass by. Then I spent more than an hour quietly floating, while enjoying this beautiful osprey pair put the finishing touches on their nest.

I took these photos as they flew back and forth, gathering some last sticks. I don’t think they could ask for a prettier location to raise their offspring.

My husband and I said the same thing when we moved here in 2013!

(Photos/Jen Greely)

If You’re Wishing All This Rain Would End …

Riverside Avenue, an hour ago … (Photo/Nicola Sharian)

… at Sherwood Mill Pond … (Photo/Maria Calise)

… at the Compo jetty by Schlaet’s Point … (Photo/Jim Hood)

… and over Compo Beach.,,, (Photo courtesy of Katherine Bruan)

… as well as Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Jack Krayson)

Westport Oysters Pop Up At Grand Central

Claus Meyer is a world-famous food activist, cookbook author, professor and TV host. A founder of the New Nordic cuisine philosophy, his Copenhagen restaurant Noma was rated the Best in the World 4 times (!) since 2010.

So it was pretty cool the other day when he showed up at Sherwood Mill Pond. He visited the Northrop family’s Hummock Island house, accessible only by boat — the base of operations for their famous oyster farm.

He and a few of his chefs sat with the Northrops, discussing the finer points of oystering.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

Claus Meyer (left) and Jeff Northrop Jr. at Old Mill Beach, before their oyster farm tour and tasting.

But that’s not the whole story.

Meyer invited Jeff and his son (Jeff Jr.) to be part of his food operation in Grand Central Terminal.

That’s the 16,000-square foot Great Northern Food Hall in Vanderbilt Hall, which has taken the historic landmark by storm.

Which is why — all week long — commuters, other travelers and food lovers of all kinds have been stopping  in at the Hummock Island Oyster pop-up bar.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

Pat Hanna and Kenny Varyruardrok of Hummock Island Shellfish opening oysters from Westport for the hungry masses.

They’ll be there through next Thursday (December 22) tomorrow (Friday, December 16) from 4-8 p.m.

That’s good news for Westporters heading home via Grand Central.

But if you’re not — heck, even if you are, but you love Hummock Island oysters — you can get them at Pearl at Longshore, any day of the week.

 

Annual Beach Replenishment Project Washes Away

Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westport observer — Chip Stephens writes:

Those of us who have been around a while remember that not so long ago, Sherwood Mill Pond neighbors had the sand in front of their houses replenished once a year. A barge would recover sand washed into Compo Cove from their beaches by storms and high tides. Big Kowalsky front-end loaders spread it out, recovering private beaches up and down the cove.

In recent years, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has restricted that activity. You can see what’s happened by not replenishing the beaches from Hillspoint Road. Landowners see it more painfully from their windows.

Old Mill "Beach." (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Old Mill “Beach.” (Photo/Chip Stephens)

We’ve long been told that the reason the sand washes away is that the Army Corps of Engineers made errors when they replaced reefs and stones on Sherwood Island and Compo Beach. That caused misdirection of natural currents, sweeping away sand on those local beaches into the Mill Cove flats.

Now the landowners face difficulties with DEEP and local boards in placing erosion controls, walls or reefs to save their beach, their land and their houses.

DEEP’s answer is to plant the beach with grasses and plantings. Unfortuantely, even modest storms wash them away.

What will happen? Well, time and tide wait for no man…

Fall Fisherman

Today was a day for your favorite fall pursuit.

Westporters went apple picking, hiking and biking. We raked leaves, carved pumpkins, cheered on the soccer sidelines and played touch football.

One guy went fishing, at Sherwood Mill Pond. Nico Eisenberger was there, to capture one small but wonderful slice of autumn.

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)