A different landscape
When you move to a new area, everything is new. Possibly a job, definitely a home, schools, neighbors, dentists, electricians–almost everything. One of the most pervasive differences, though, is the physical landscape. Imagine coming from a place like Phoenix and moving to the Main Line. Arizona is a desert. It’s hot (no snow!) and dry (we have rain and plenty of summer humidity!). Few trees and even less grass grows naturally in Arizona. Conversely, we have an incredibly lush backdrop and a very different climate. The view from the window of the house as well as from the car is very different.
Lots of trees
Even though we are just outside of a major city, we have a surprising amount of undeveloped natural surroundings. People often remark on how many large, mature trees we have. Perennial plantings are common on properties and most people enjoy front and back lawns as well. I always ask my relocating clients what they have found most unexpected about moving to the area. Recently, I received these responses (verbatim):
We essentially live in a forest
Lots of really lovely spring and summer flowering trees, lots of nature trails and gardens, more than we expected
The number of fox, deer, rabbits, and raccoons that frequent my yard
How much undeveloped land there is, tons of parks, trails
Enjoying nature as an activity
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural landscape in the form of walking/hiking trails, arboreta, gardens and state parks, as well as smaller municipal parks. A few of the most accessible trails are converted from abandoned train lines and include the Radnor Trail and the Chester Valley Trail. The much shorter Cynwyd Heritage Trail belongs to this group as well. Idlewild in Gladwyne is also lovely and a donation from an individual family. The Schulykill River Trail runs from south of the Art Museum all the way out to Valley Forge and is popular among bikers and runners. The Haverford College Nature Trail, generously open to public (and their 4-legged, leashed friends) is also a favorite destination in the heart of the Main Line.
Of course, if you’re looking for more of a day hike, Valley Forge National Park and Ridley Creek State Park, to name a few, are close by. Ockehocking Nature Preserve is also a wonderful outdoor space. No discussion of outdoor activities in the Philadelphia area would be complete without a mention of Fairmount Park, which is a treasured resource. The park is comprised of over 2.000 (not completely contiguous) acres. For a map showing many of the different destinations and activities available, click here and here.
If you like to roam around an arboretum for an afternoon, we have you covered! There’s Tyler, Morris, Jenkins and more! If more manicured gardens are more your style, the Main Line won’t disappoint. You owe it to yourself to visit both Longwood Gardens, recognized as one of the premier gardens in the country, as well as the more organic and incredibly charming Chanticleer in Wayne.
Landscape in daily life
The topography and naturally occurring fauna even pervade daily life. Again, in response to my question about what most surprised them in moving to the region, various clients said
the number of “living fences” (bushes in a row)
sweet gum balls that fall all over our street
You’ll notice the windy and often narrow roads which follow the contours of rivers and streams. Speaking of streams, in Lower Merion, there are a couple of places where the roadbed goes directly through Mill Creek. That’s right, you drive through the creek as if that were a perfectly normal part of the road. Then there’s the overhanging rock in Upper Merion right near the expressway entrance. It’s a landmark that everyone recognizes solely by that description.
Seasons on the Main Line
Due to a gift from the Japanese government many years ago (and supplemented by the city and townships since) we are surrounded by ornamental cherry trees which explode every spring in gorgeous pink flowers. Summer is lush and green. Certain streets with a lot of mature trees form a canopy of shade that feels like a tunnel. Fall on the Main Line is no disappointment either as our climate lends itself to fiery, brightly colored autumn leaves. Winter, too, is beautiful here. When it snows, it is picturesque, especially along the waterways and against the backdrop of the old stone houses that are typical of the area. (One client said he was surprised by how long it’s cold here but he was coming from California; it’s all relative!)
Most people tell me they are enchanted by the greenery and the number of beautiful trees. Natives as well as transplants seem to agree that the natural surroundings are one of the best features of the Main Line. Conservancy is alive and well here, so rest assured that these green spaces will remain intact.
Looking for more ways to enjoy the outdoors?
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