Bryn Coed Preserve
In 2017, Natural Lands acquired a 1,505-acre mosaic of forest and farmland known as Bryn Coed—which means “wooded hill” in Welsh. In doing so, we saved one of the largest remaining unprotected swaths of land in the greater Philadelphia region from becoming a housing development.
The preserve includes a Pennsylvania Champion white oak, the headwaters of the Pickering Creek, and several Bald Eagle nesting spots. Miles of hiking trails meander past 19th century stone farmhouses, historical ruins, and other remnants of the land’s agricultural past.
Please note: a portion of the trails traverse private property. Please respect the owners’ privacy and stay on the trails.
In 1964, brothers Richard, Daniel, and William Dietrich began acquiring adjoining farms in rural Chester Springs, Chester County. They’d noted with consternation increasing encroachment of development and wanted to protect what they could of this bucolic valley.
The Dietrichs decided to keep the land in agriculture. In the 1970s, they constructed a state-of-the-art dairy that featured 500 individual, automated milking stalls. Machinery pumped fresh milk through a pre-cooler and then into a 10,000-gallon stainless steel tank, where it was stored until it was picked up by a refrigerated truck. The herd of 1,000 Holsteins—fed on corn and alfalfa from Bryn Coed’s fields—won many ribbons at state and local farm shows.
But by 1984, with slim profit margins for milk, the Dietrichs sold off the herd and shut down the dairy.
After the millennium, the brothers—now into their late 50s—began to look for a way to divest themselves of the expansive property. Development pressures were increasing as Chester County’s population soared. Several proposals—some to develop the land and some to conserve it—were explored but never came to fruition.
When Natural Lands approached the Dietrich family in 2012 to offer a plan to permanently protect Bryn Coed, the stars seemed to align. Retaining all 1,505 acres of such a vast and valuable property simply wasn’t feasible, so Natural Lands devised a plan through which we retained about a third of the land as a nature preserve, and sold the rest to private buyers with conservation easements in place. The result is a large Natural Lands nature preserve and publicly accessible trail system surrounded by a unique conservation community.
Generosity from public partners at the state, county, and municipal levels; the William Penn Foundation; and more than 650 households from the Chester Springs area and beyond combined to make Bryn Coed Preserve possible.