We are often told what an absolutely spectacular and unique place Vermont is, how our villages and the intimate feel of the landscape seem different from any other place. Vermont exudes a sense of permanence, a respect for and celebration of its past – it is a real place that seems to evoke in many people a feeling of being “home.”
We think that one of the many reasons for Vermont’s specialness is the welcoming friendly neighborhood feel of our lovely rural villages, and the fact that many of them are centered around a beautiful “green,” or common open space. This settlement pattern is spectacularly evident in such handsome villages as Woodstock, Lyme and Norwich.
The original reason for congregating houses around a core of common land was to provide protection against attack and predation. But as communities developed, the common land was used primarily as a place of shared grazing rights and as a common wood lot. Most villages maintained a family cow, some sheep, and a few pigs since, despite living within a community, they still needed to be relatively self-sufficient. Therefore, their animals would all be penned and grazed together on the “green.” It must have been a pretty active, noisy, and emanating place!
As the villages grew, commerce came and shops, taverns, inns, courthouses, and churches all sought to locate around the center core. Soon the cows and sheep were replaced by park benches, green spaces, statues celebrating Civil War heroes, and bandstands. As businesses prospered, they tended to move away from the greens onto nearby commercial “main streets,” leaving for posterity the handsome public buildings and stately Federal-era brick and wooden homes of the well-to-do.
We are the beneficiaries of all this history. The buildings around these old common spaces still have their beauty and charm, and the greens still enjoy their central place in many communities, and are still used for fairs, Saturday night band concerts, picnics, and general enjoyment. They remain a perfect place for our cyclists to take a break, relax, and enjoy one of the peaceful pleasures of being in Vermont.
So whatever tour strikes your fancy, we hope we will get to see you on tour with us in Vermont one of these days!