If Vermont is the land of pastoral scenes, then Newbury must be the quintessential town radiating a bounty of rural charm. Long ago, when the adjacent Connecticut River teemed with salmon, this place was a favorite of the Pennacook Tribe who had a village here called Cowass.
But after the English settled Newbury in 1762, the vast tracks of beautiful and fertile land in the area were used to raise beef cattle and sheep for wool and dairy goods. And it continues to present day.
In addition to its inherent beauty, parts of Newbury (including Placey Farm) lies in the Oxbow Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
So-called Placey Farm must have passed several hands since it was featured on the cover of Vermont Life magazine in the summer of 1960. With its large red barn along the banks of the Connecticut River and the White Mountains of New Hampshire as its backdrop, Placey Farm has been a popular photo destination for many decades.
But in more recent years, the trees and foliage along the banks of the Connecticut River have grown to such a height that photographing Placey Farm has since become a bit more challenging.
Years ago, you could set your tripod near US-5 to capture a reflection of the scene in the placid waters of the Connecticut River. But these days, an uncluttered composition requires trekking down through foliage to reach a clear vantage point. This is both good and bad news. You may need to bushwhack a path down to river’s edge to get the full reflection, but few others will endeavor to do so.
I was first introduced to Placey Farm by good friend and consummate photographer, Arnold Kaplan. Arnold is gone but his influence remains. Placey Farm is one of the classic Vermont scenes he included in his 1973 Vermont Guidebook, an updated version of which is still available today.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
Placey Farm is definitely an afternoon shot, when the sun lights up the farm structures and (ideally) casts a vivid reflection in the Connecticut River.
The scene can photographed in any season, although it’s best in autumn when the foliage and White Mountains in the background are dressed in their fall colors.
The banks of the Connecticut River rise quite high toward US-5, so be sure to arrive about two hours before sunset to avoid catching the late-day shadows down on the river.
Placey Farm is off US-5, 1.5 miles north of the town of South Newbury. When driving on I-91, take the Bradford exit and drive 9 miles north on US-5. The farm will be around a bend over your right shoulder.
Parking is a problem here as this is farm country and not a tourist area. Be sure to park well off US-5 as folks drive fast along this stretch. There’s a pull-off on the right a little ways past the farm if you can’t find a suitable parking place off the shoulder on US-5.
Also, be extremely careful walking across the main road. When I was here taking the accompanying photo, a good friend of mine nearly got run over by a speeding and swerving car.
For an unencumbered reflection, you’ll need to make your way past the overgrowth, closer to the river. For the image above, I fought through brush to reach river’s edge. If you choose to do the same, be sure to wear rubber boots as the clay-like mud on shore is both wet and extremely slippery.
Enjoy this classic scene but do it safely!