The Hippo


Aug 22, 2019








A new way to leaf peep

For the first time, a historic landmark is opening for foliage viewing. The Manchester Historic Association and the Manchester Parks, Recreation and Cemetery division has opened up the Weston Observatory near Derryfield Park for a rare opportunity to view fall foliage. 
“It’s one of highest points in the city and really allows for great views of not only Manchester but this whole area of New Hampshire,” said Jeffrey Barraclough of the Manchester Historic Association. 
Built in 1896, the  Weston Observatory is a circular 66-foot tower made of granite quarried in Allenstown. It is 360 feet higher than Elm Street, affording a spectacular view to the west and north.  On a clear day Mount Washington is visible from the top. 
Originally used for recreational purposes, the observatory hasn’t been opened for several years. After World War II it fell into disrepair and vandalism, but it was renovated in the 1980s.
“This tower is an important part of  Manchester’s history. I think it’s one of Manchester’s best-kept secrets,” Barraclough said. 
Weston Observatory is open Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 4, 5, 11 and 12, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Admission is $10 per person and $25 for families. There are picnic tables and trash cans, and MHA will sell soft drinks. A series of short talks and walking tours of the nearby Amoskeag Ledge, McIntyre Ski Area, and Manchester Water Works reservoirs is also planned.

Gorgeous but not trendy
Experts say it’s difficult to measure patterns in fall foliage


This year’s foliage is turning out top notch, said Karen Bennett, UNH Cooperative Extension forestry professor and specialist.  There was plenty of rain and sun at just the right times.  

“This year has been a wonderful year for growing everything,” Bennett said. “We won’t have a lot of foliage that browns instead of turns red.” 
As has happened this year, if nights get colder early, colors will begin to change sooner. The cold traps sugars made during the day inside the leaves, then transforms them into deep reds and purples. 
“The length of day is what really kicks the trees into changing, but it’s the coldness of the nights that brightens up the color and adds those beautiful reds and purples,” Bennett said. 
This season, cold nights early on have prompted the colors to change slightly earlier than normal. Jonathan Nute, the cooperative extension forester in Hillsborough County, said he began noticing maples alongside swamps changing colors by the third week of September — a good indication the foliage season is kicking into gear, since those trees are under more stress than most with their roots being near water, so they change colors first. 
“That tells me it’s going to be a bit longer season than the usual one or two weeks,” he said.
According to New Hampshire forestry experts, there aren’t many measurable trends when it comes to tracking and predicting fall foliage. Leaf change isn’t like a snowfall or a frost, which are single, physical events that are easy to observe and measure. There also aren’t trends because forests are so hardy. 
“Even in 2008, with the ice storm — now there is barely any evidence of that. The forest is so resilient, it can endure anything,” Nute said.
That’s not to say that weather doesn’t impact foliage; it’s just that what influences the yearly display of leafy colors is more immediate, and it’s not so much affected by things like climate change. How long the season will be and what region of the state will have the brightest colors depends on a multitude of factors ranging from temperatures to precipitation. 
“We always pick the peak as being around Columbus Day, but because New Hampshire is so tall, it’s different everywhere,” Nute said. “It’s also very rare you have a bad season all over. It might be shabby in the south but beautiful in the north.”
That’s good news for tourism. In 2013, an estimated  $1.1 billion and 8.2 million tourists came into the state during foliage season, according to Amy Bassett, spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Tourism. 
Sightseers can go to for a fall foliage tracker and up-to-date foliage report.

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