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Story by Christina Levere
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Several legends surround the historic area of Uncas Leap Falls, also known as Indian Leap, although contradictory to the name, local historians generally agree that many Indians fell to their death at the site.
ost New Englanders don’t like to hear the words “snowball” and “October” in the same sentence. Months of slush, sleet and bitter cold loom ahead – why rush things?
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Michelle Bourgeois is happy to pair In fact, since Walktober’s inception 22 the two words, though. As the director of years ago, attendance has steadily climbed sustainability for e Last Green Valley to about 25,000 participants. (TLGV), she’s not referring to the OctoWalktober encompasses 35 towns ber forecast but rather to the snowballing of e Last Green Valley, which is a popularity of the organization’s WalktoNational Heritage Corridor located in ber event, which in northeastern Conthe past 20 years has necticut and south “We have a month central Massachusetts. blossomed from one e non-pro t TLGV “walking weekend” to show people works to promote to an entire month what makes and protect the of free activities area, which includes throughout eastern Norwich unique.” Norwich and nearby Connecticut and MasPreston, Lisbon, sachusetts. Sprague, Voluntown and Franklin. e “We now have bike events, horse towns of Ashford, Brooklyn, Canterbury, events, Halloween-themed activities, paddles, hikes and walks,” Bourgeois said. Chaplin, Coventry, Eastford, Griswold, Hampton, Killingly, Lebanon, Mans eld, “Every year Walktober grows.”
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Plain eld, Pomfret, Putnam, Scotland, Sterling, ompson, Union, Windham and Woodstock are also members of the Valley. e Walktober event began as a Columbus Day weekend program in 1990. It grew in size and popularity each year until, in 2003, it became “Walking Weekends.” In 2011, it o cially became Walktober, when it o ered more than 160 events during the month of October — and not just on weekends.
“We had to demonstrate the wealth and value of this historic area,” Plummer said. “Now Walktober is able to highlight what Norwich has to o er in a positive way. And we’re not at the mercy of the weather, like we were in the beginning when we only had a weekend. We have a month to show people what makes Norwich unique.” is fall, visitors to Norwich can choose from ve walks: Walking in the Footsteps of the Founders to the Old Town of Norwich Uncas Leap and Mohegan Heritage Firearms Factories of Norwich Running with Shad Foodie Tour of Norwich According to Plummer, the Firearms Factories of Norwich tour has always drawn a large crowd because of the city’s impressive gun-making history. From the time of the Civil War to the Great Depression, Norwich was consid-
Walk this way
Uncas Leap and Mohegan Heritage, 1 p.m., 2 hours, 1 mile walk. Meet on Yantic Street. Falls and parking area are located approximately .1 miles from the intersection of Sachem Street. This walk includes visits to Uncas Leap, Royal Mohegan Burial Ground, Chelsea Parade and Slater Memorial Museum. Sponsored by Norwich Historical Society. For more information call (860) 892-4557.
Today, Walktober is helping to draw record numbers of visitors to the quaint, picturesque towns for which New England is so well known. e Rose City is one of them. “Norwich has been a key component of Walktober since the beginning,” Bourgeois said. Norwich Historian Dale Plummer was there for that beginning. In fact, Plummer was part of a group that advocated for the creation of the National Heritage Corridor before the initial Columbus Day weekend program was even conceptualized.
Firearm Factories of Norwich, 1 p.m., 2 hours, 3 miles. Meet in front of City Hall, 100 Broadway. Visit the former sites of ﬁrearm factories with guides from the Guns of Norwich Historical Society. For more information call (860) 423-9444 or (860) 213-0819.
Guns of Norwich Historical Society leads a popular intown walk past several former gun manufacturing sites. This map is used a guide for the walk. (Courtesy David Oat)
Running with Shad, 10 a.m., 2 hours, .5 miles. Meet behind the former Ortronics Warehouse at 7 Eighth Street. This walk sponsored by Norwich Public Utilities takes you to the hydroelectric station and dam – with ﬁsh lift – on the Shetucket River. For more information call (860) 823-4507. Foodie Tour of Norwich, 3 p.m., 2 hours, 1 mile. Meet at Howard Brown Park, 100 Chelsea Harbor Drive. Walk through the historic Chelsea District, with stops at various restaurants for food samples (drinks are not included). Participants need to register for this one, as it is limited to 30 people. Sponsored by Norwich Community Development Corporation. To register, call (860) 887-6964.
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“[Walktober] is ideal. You can live it. You see the story behind the story. Tour guides bring history to life.”
ered the rearms center of New England. Smith & Wesson began its operations on Central Wharf in Norwich, before later relocating to New Haven. Although the gun and ammunition manufacturers closed their doors in the 1930s, the Guns of Norwich Historical Society, Inc. has dedicated itself to preserving the story of this important part of Norwich history. As the city marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Firearms Factories of Norwich tour may prove to be more popular than ever with war-time a cionados who want to experience history for themselves. device. at’s not surprising, considering that the average adult spends up to 8.5 hours a day exposed to electronic screens such as TVs, cell phones, and global positioning systems, according to a 2009 Council for Research Excellence study. “[Walktober] is ideal,” Bourgeois said. “You can live it. You see the story behind the story. Tour guides bring history to life.” Jason Vincent, senior economic development associate at Norwich Community Development Corp. (NCDC), agrees that the pairing of oral and visual story makes the walks compelling. As a board member of TLGV, Vincent serves as a liaison between the organization and Norwich. To him, sharing the city’s rich heritage and stories is of the utmost importance, and Norwich has no shortage of compelling history. “Uncas Leap (Falls) comes to mind,” Vincent noted. “It’s a signi cant site. It’s a
“Fall is a beautiful time of year in New England,” Bourgeois said. “People want to walk through the foliage. e air is crisp. e leaves are turning. … People want to feel history,” she said, not just read about it on their computer screen or mobile
national attraction and an interesting tale for visitors to see and hear.” Several legends surround the historic area of Uncas Leap Falls, also known as Indian Leap, although contradictory to the name, local historians generally agree that many Indians fell to their death at the site. According to a placard from the site: In 1643 Uncas, Sachem of the Mohegans, led his warriors in the famous battle against their rival tribe the Narragansetts. During the battle, the Narragansetts were pursued by the Mohegans. Legend has it that a band of Narragansetts, unfamiliar with the territory, unknowingly reached the high treacherous escarpment of the falls. e Narragansetts, rather than surrender, attempted to leap the chasm. Unsuccessful, they plunged to their deaths into the abyss below. For those visitors looking for lighter fare, the Foodie Tour of Norwich, new this year, promises to provide a tantalizing taste of the city. Vincent noted that downtown Norwich, and more speci cally the Chelsea District, has the unique ability to o er several restaurants within walking distance of each other. “ e tour will give people a taste of
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For a complete listing of Walktober events, log onto tlgv.org and select the “Walktober” link. To ﬁnd out where printed brochures are available, call (860) 774-3300. A few tips: • Walks are marked the same way ski trails are: green circles mean an easy walk; blue circles mean moderate; and diamonds mean difﬁcult. • Walks that are wheelchair accessible are marked as such, as are walks for children or dog owners. • Use your judgment to determine if the walk’s pace and/or content is a good ﬁt. If you see it’s a two hour walk but only one mile of actual walking, you can assume there will be a lot of history.
Jason Vincent will lead the foodie tour of Norwich.
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what our restaurants have to o er,” he said. Of course, it’s everyone’s hope that they come back for more. Based on the demographics of the visitors, it’s a safe assumption that they will. “Walktober visitors are very loyal,” Bourgeois noted. “ ey come back year a er year. Ninety percent come from within a one-hour car ride, and the majority are New England residents. Many, many visitors come from Rhode Island.” Within those groups, Bourgeois said the events draw in a variety of people, such as retired adults, home-schooled children and their parents, teenagers, hikers, bikers, nature enthusiasts and history bu s. Because the walks themselves vary, there is something for everyone. “ e events draw in everyone - depending on the weather, of course,” Bourgeois said with a laugh.