The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

June 12, 2013

A real "jewel" in Orleans County

By Douglas Domedion
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — Orleans County has some really neat things like being along the shores of Lake Ontario with its great fishing and boating, the Oak Orchard River, near State and Federal Refuge areas, old cobble stone houses and a host of other great stuff.

One of my favorite things is in Lyndonville and is a real “jewel” for those who really enjoy seeing a collection of trees, shrubs and vines. The place is called Robin Hill Nature Preserve and is on Platten Road. It contains 45 acres of over 250 varieties of trees and plants, a beautiful lake and a smaller pond. There is also a beautiful sandstone manor that was built by Mr. William A. Smith, his wife Mary, son George and daughter Marion.

The manor was started in the late 1940’s and the Smiths, including the son and daughter did most of the sandstone cutting and laying and actual building with help from the Lyndonville Canning Factory staff. It took them five years to quarry and cut the stone and build the house. The windows were glazed and the chimneys done by professional masons. George did most of the stone work and built the beautiful arches on the North Porch. He also did all of the interior finish wood and cabinetry in his work shop over the garage. Although the arboretum is quite a sight to see, the beautiful workmanship of the manor is right up there with it.

Robin Hill Nature Preserve is listed in the Botanical Gardens of NYS and contains seven Champion Big Trees. These trees are the largest examples of their species in the state. The most famous is the 90 foot Giant Sequoia with it’s circumference of 113 inches. Right next to it stands a Metasequoice (Dawn Redwood) which was originally thought to be extinct but in the 1940’s a stand of them were discovered in China by a Chinese student studying in this country. When he returned home he collected some seeds and some where given to Mr. Smith. Other trees on the Champion Big Tree list is a Osage Orange, Mimosa Silktree, Yellowwood, Royal Paulownia, Glossy Buckthorn and Pussy Willow.

There is even a special color of apple Serviceberry here that was developed by Mr. Smith and bears the name of Robin Hill Apple Serviceberry. A beautiful tree that has white flowers and pink buds in the spring before the leaves come out. In the fall it’s blue-green leaves change to yellow-red.

Marion spent most of her 90 years at Robin Hill and I consider myself lucky to have known her. We frequently discussed the wonders of Nature as we sat by the big window in the kitchen watching the bird feeders. I wish now that more time had been spent with her but of course we always feel that way after we lose someone very special.

Marion left us in 2008 but her nephew, Douglas R. Pratt, is now the present owner. The Smith family has always welcomed visitors to this “jewel” and that has not changed with Doug. Anyone who respects this wonderful place is still welcomed to enjoy it whenever they like. They ask that you only park on the paved areas and leave everything as you find it. Many of the trees and plants are fragile with many being rare or exotic so use good common sense as you enjoy the area.

When is the best time to visit this special spot? Anytime, as there is always something happening in the plant world with blooming, leaf color change and etc. but especially here. I love this time of the year with the beautiful collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. My visits are usually this at this time but think I’m missing something in the fall! I know every trip there something new and interesting is always found.

For more information on Robin Hill Nature Preserve go to infor@robinhillpreserve.com .

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The Great Outdoors is an interactive forum for nature lovers of all kinds.

Local sportsmen and women can call to share their reports of trophies bagged, good hunting and fishing grounds, odd sightings and sportsman’s club activities. Photos are accepted.

To get sportsman’s news and info into The Great Outdoors, call Doug Domedion at (585) 798-4022 oe e-mail him at woodduck2020@yahoo.com.