Originally the Tilley Bird Farm, designed by G.D. Tilley to be a sanctuary for his rare and exotic bird collection, Tilley Pond park is now Darien’s version of a “town square….” except it’s not square and it’s not in the center of the downtown area, and as a result is probably overlooked by many who visit and don’t know about it.
That may not be such a bad thing for those who choose to picnic there on a weekday or enjoy a walk with their dog, as it is still very much like a natural bird sanctuary with trees and a meandering stream and quiet woods. (and geese and swans and ducks galore, not to mention fish and squirrels). And I suppose what keeps it quiet is the fact that it is off the beaten path …
You can definitely enjoy the park’s beauty from across the street while waiting for the NY-bound train at Darien Station, which is rumored to have been one of G.D. Tilley’s goals when developing the bird farm, and certainly the little row of houses that border the park on Lakeside Drive get to enjoy it as an extension of their front yards. The rest of us can access Tilley Pond Park from Laskeside Drive, where there is limited, short-term parking available along the side of the pond, or by using the parking lot behind the Post Road row of shops and walking up and over the little hill there.
There are a few benches where you can sit and throw breadcrumbs to the birds or enjoy a bagged lunch, and the walking paths are flat and beautifully manicured — perfect for fast-walking or strollers!
(In fact, has anyone ever clocked it? I’d be interested in posting the distance around the park for exercise purposes…)
Growing up, my fascination was always with the big stone hut that seems to “top off” the pond … it has a big, well-used woodburning fireplace on the inside and I had heard rumors that satanic rituals had taken place there on Halloween but never have really quite understood for what official purposes that hut is used.
During the summer months, a fountain is turned on to keep the pond water moving and help reduce mosquitos. In the winter, when the pond is frozen, many people ice skate on it. In the spring and early summer months, Canadian Geese and other water fowl nest and grow along the shores of the pond.
It’s a lovely, secluded suprise in the downtown Darien area that you don’t want to miss.