From east to west, the Somme Preserves in Northbrook progress from shaded woodland to sun-dappled savanna and finally to wide-open prairie. But several decades ago, this natural distribution of ecosystems wasn’t so easy to discern, having become shrouded by dense thickets of invasive buckthorn. Pioneering habitat restoration efforts started here in the 1970s and continue today. The work of countless volunteers has helped tiny remnant pockets of native species spread into an ever-changing display of wildflowers, grasses, birds and other seasonal inhabitants.
Somme Woods is the easternmost of the three Somme Preserves, and the most wooded. Many parts of the woods now have a much more open feel, with woodland wildflowers once again thriving under giant oaks. Somme Woods offers a picnic shelter and tables, which are busy with reserved groups on summer weekends but a peaceful place for an impromptu meal at other times.
A network of roughly 3.5 miles of narrow, natural-surface footpaths meanders through the preserve. An outer loop path starts at the preserve’s southeast corner and loosely follows the perimeter. Connected by spurs to a meandering inner loop path, the effect is a lovely maze through oak woodlands, savannas, prairies and around ephemeral ponds and swales.