Madame Sherri’s castle may crumble, but trails remain

As reported by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the castle ruins at Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield are now a bit more ruined. Time, weather, and probably a few too many human footsteps resulted recently in a collapse of one of the arches supporting the stone staircase. That makes me a bit sad. I’ve always found the remains of the “castle” – actually a once-fancy house – to be a charming visual gateway to recreational land.

(See Forest Society photos of the damage.)

But don’t fret. There’s still enough of the old structure left to spark a smile and fire the imagination, even with caution tape in place. Even better, the adjacent trails are unaffected.

ruins of Madame Sherri Castle in Chesterfield, New Hampshire
Madame Sherri’s castle, before July 2021 arch collapse

The Chesterfield Conservation Commission maintains a list of trails and features. The 50-mile Wantastiquet-Monadnock trail runs through the property. My favorite feature of the forest is Indian Pond, a fairly easy walk from the forest’s small parking area.

The Madame Sherri Forest is still very much worth visiting. Enjoy what’s there.

Indian Pond, Madame Sherri Forest, Chesterfield New Hampshire
Foggy day at Indian Pond, Madame Sherri Forest, Chesterfield NH

A visit to Madame Sherri’s place

With a car and several hours at my disposal this weekend, I decided to head out to New Hampshire’s southwestern corner for a visit to the Madame Sherri forest in Chesterfield. I average about one hike there per decade. Believe me, it rates more. Only my distance from the area keeps me from more frequent visits.

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The castle staircase: a signature spot in Madame Sherri Forest.

And who is the Madame Sherri who left us with the remnants of a castle? The Forest Society tells you all about it on a page that includes important information about the trails on the property.

I was a little concerned when I arrived at the trailhead and found the parking area filled and the roadside lined with “no parking” signs. I managed to find a tiny spot that accommodated my tiny car. Here’s a tip: the kiosk at the far side of the parking lot has a little notice card informing visitors that overflow parking is available a short distance up the dead-end road across from the trailhead. Too bad the sign can’t be seen from the road, but I’ll remember the parking arrangements for next time.

Once on the trails, I crossed three bridges over dry streambeds. The area’s drought is not easing. All the more remarkable, then, that wildflowers continue to bloom. I love the icy-blue asters still flowering.

Indian Pond may be lower than usual, but it’s still a beautiful spot.

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Indian Pond, Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

And then there’s the castle, which rates a respectful nod at each visit. Imagine what the full structure must have looked like in its glory days. The kiosk at the parking area actually has some good photos and historical information about the site.

I picked a wonderful day for a drive, with Monadnock dominating the scene between Dublin and Keene. I had actually planned to make several stops yesterday: Madame Sherri, Gap Mountain, and a short visit to Monadnock’s lower slope. Once in Chesterfield, though, I decided to enjoy the forest. More trail time, less car time. I don’t regret the decision.

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The Granite State Walker at Madame Sherri’s castle.

Wantastiquet’s east side

Months after reading about the Chesterfield (NH) Conservation Commission’s work to link Wantastiquet with Monadnock, I finally got out to Chesterfield to take a look at the area a few days ago. I hadn’t been there since a trip to Pisgah State Park about 3 years ago. I’m impressed at the work the Commission’s volunteers have done! Thanks to all of you! Obviously, a lot of people are cooperating to make these good things happen.

I started from the Madame Sherri Forest trailhead off of Gulf Road. There’s a network of short trails throughout the forest, with a couple of them stretching out to nearby hills. I took the Ann Stokes loop to Indian Pond in order to pick up the trail to Wantastiquet Mountain. I’ve been up Wantastiquet a couple of times from the west (Hinsdale), and I was curious about whether it’s now possible to follow an established trail up the east side from Madame Sherri. Short answer: yes. The trail from Indian Pond isn’t blazed or flagged but is fairly well-beaten and clear.

If the Wantastiquet-Monadnock Greenway is ever completed — and I’d love to help make it happen — it’ll extend eastward from Madame Sherri Forest, cross Rt. 63 at some point, and head through Pisgah on its way to Rhododendron State Park. From there, the greenway could pick up the M&M trail on Little Monadnock, taking hikers straight to Monadnock. Wouldn’t that make a fine day’s travel?

Madame Sheri's "castle," near the trailhead in Chesterfield

Madame Sheri’s “castle,” near the trailhead in Chesterfield