The months of July and August are often described as the “Dog Days of Summer.” Here at the beach it’s hot, the busy, tourist season is in full swing, and it’s often hard to tell whether life is slowing down or speeding up.
However, along the backroads of Ocean View nestled against the Indian River Bay is an oasis where time is irrelevant. An (almost) “secret spot” where Osprey soar through the sky, the quiet waters of the bay “shwoosh” upon a sandy cove, and the joyful barks of man’s best friend act as the pulse of life. The term ‘Dog Days of Summer’ could not be more relevant than at the James Farm Ecological Preserve.
I stumbled upon James Farm as my fiancée and I were looking for a new place to take our two dogs. A friend suggested the preserve noting it as “a secluded place that is the ultimate dog beach.” We were not disappointed. Toward the end of Cedar Neck Rd (roughly a five minute drive from downtown Bethany) a small parking lot marked the 150-acre parcel of land that hundreds of years ago was part of a land grant from Charles, the Lord Baron of Baltimore. During our first visit Cooper and Teddy (our dogs) pulled us down the numerous trails that ranged from open fields filled with wildflowers, tall stands of hardwoods, silent salt marshes (the dogs particularly loved the “wonderful” smells here), and finally to Pasture Point Cove.
Pasture Point Cove is the most visited section of James Farm and for good reason. Its wide sandy beach is perfect for sunbathers who have their four-legged family members in tow. Although a leash is required, we found dog owners running through the shallows with the same excitement as their furry companions or taking a breather together from Frisbee or ball in the shade of an umbrella.
A few months later we also took our young nieces to check out the preserve and Pasture Point (of course the dogs came too). They LOVED it! The shallow waters are not only a break from the ocean waves but also offer the opportunity to see small fish dart through the shallows; horseshoe crabs disguise themselves below the water, and pontoon boats crabbing and clamming just offshore.
When the land now known as the James Farm Ecological Preserve was donated to Sussex County by Mary Lighthipe in 1992 it was her wish that it become a place for “environmental education and recreational activities.” Today it has certainly lived up to her dream. Walking among the various trails there are signs pointing out the area’s natural surroundings. Reaching the cove, visitors have the ability to rent kayaks and SUP’s, and throughout the year over 1,000 seventh and eighth graders converge on the preserve for their class field trips.
Perhaps it’s the idea of James Farm being a “secret spot,” maybe it’s the joy of witnessing both dogs and owners at play along the beach, or maybe it’s just watching the sunset over the Indian River Bay. Whatever it is, the experiences offered at James Farm are a cant miss, not to mention its great place to embrace the Dog Days of Summer (and every other season).