Walnut Hill, more than a farm

August 23, 2013 

One family friend of the descendants of the late Bailey Williamson describes the setting of Williamson’s Walnut Hill Farm in Eastern Wake County (and in part of Johnston County) as “good therapy.” That friend, Steve Temple, still cuts the fields as he has since Bailey Williamson died around a decade ago. “You can come out here...” he said, “and let your thoughts go away for a while.”

Now, thanks to the generosity of the Williamson family, the generations to come in this area will enjoy the sensation of fleeing thoughts as they visit what will be set aside by the Triangle Land Conservancy forever. With over 400 acres of Walnut Hill purchased from the family at less than 40 percent of its appraised value, the conservancy will have a patchwork of land that will amount to 1,600 acres for hikers and fishermen and bikers to enjoy.

Wake County commissioners kicked in $1.6 million, and public and private money is expected to meet the $2.66 million purchase price.

Some fairly new residents might find it hard to believe it possible to put together such a large parcel of land, considering the intense urban development in the area. But in fact, there remain wide open spaces in Wake County and neighboring Johnston.

However, those spaces are finite, and it’s important that the county and organizations such as the conservancy “lock up” property while they can. The Williamson family was most generous. Practically speaking, many families with large properties feel they need to secure the highest profits possible to support succeeding generations, and that’s not unreasonable.

This property is in historic registries, given in a land grant by the king of England in 1761. It has not just hundreds of wooded acres but three ponds, beautiful ones at that.

Many new Wake residents – and new residents are coming all the time – will join us from the urban areas of the Northeast, where vast acreage such as Walnut Hill is hard to find. They will be stunned, delighted and just happy for a place where their children can see spaces and critters they have not seen before.

For those who might have been to Walnut Hill, the delight comes in knowing that it will not one day be full of office parks and apartments and McMansions but rather will stand as a piece of history preserved.

Now the task is for the conservancy and for county commissioners to continue to find more property appropriate for preservation and to use creative ways to raise public and private resources to put such property on the public books and keep it there forever. For this is all about passing on to children and grandchildren the home of their ancestors as it was, to let them see the value in a pond unblemished, for example, by docks and houses and boats.

Call preservationists tree-huggers if you like. But sometimes, deep in the woods or by the pond disturbed only by the ripples of schools of fish, a tree can be a pretty fine companion.

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