Natural Ridgefield: Sarah Bishop Open Space

A woman examines Sarah Bishop’s Cave in the 1890s.

A woman examines Sarah Bishop’s Cave in the 1890s.

Marie Kendall photo.

Ridgefield, CT, is known in the Northeast for its glorious trails and open spaces, but many Ridgefield residents have never experienced their beauty. Each month, we hope to introduce you to a different open space so that you can discover and explore these breathtaking spots.

Sarah Bishop Open Space

Over the past few months we have introduced you to Hemlock Hills, McKeon Farm and West Mountain Refuge. This month, we explore Sarah Bishop Open Space; a property rich in history and story. Sarah Bishop is a 39-acre open space located near the Ridgefield Golf Course by Sarah Bishop and Twopence roads.

There is an easy hiking trail (yellow trail) which begins along a pin-straight path. The yellow trail ends and turns into a red trail that contours around a hill near a little swamp, passes a few rocks, and returns to the original straight-line yellow trail. The elevated trail and bridge provide an excellent wetlands viewing area where reptiles and amphibians can be spotted during warmer months. Part of the trail follows a deserted railroad bed that was designed for a rail line to run between Golden’s Bridge and Danbury. The tracks were removed during World War 1 so that the steel could be used for the war effort.

But who was Sarah Bishop? During the Revolutionary War, Sarah’s father’s house was burned and young Sarah was captured and victimized by British soldiers driven north from Long Island Sound. Sarah escaped her captors and fled from human society, preferring to live in the forest and having little contact with the public. Known as “the nun of the Mountain,” Sarah lived a solitary life for two decades as a hermit in a small cave beneath an outcropping on a hill. Surviving on roots and berries and the charity of the inhabitants of Ridgefield, residents called the hill “West Mountain” and identified her cave as appearing on its eastern slope. Articles from the 1800s clearly indicate that Sarah was an adopted resident of Ridgefield, though no one disputes that her home was actually in North Salem, N.Y. On a winter and stormy night in 1810, Sarah was making her way up the mountainside to her cave and fell. She was found among the rocks just a short distance from her cave. Sarah was buried in an unmarked grave in North Salem.

Sarah Bishop Open Space is another remarkable property in Ridgefield that is rich in history and brimming with natural beauty. GPS address: 28 Sarah Bishop Road.

Daniel C. Levine, Ridgefield Conservation Commission