A 25-acre natural wetland lying in the ample valley between the South Shore and Hamilton Harbour, Paget Marsh (Lovers Ln., off South Rd., open sunrise to sunset daily, admission free) is jointly owned and managed by the Bermuda National Trust and Bermuda Audubon Society.
Today a highlight on any island eco-tour, Paget Marsh was long neglected and inaccessible until 1998, when the two agencies launched an innovative conservation project that re-created the pond, rid the area of much non-endemic plantlife, and encouraged the return of native and migratory birds.
The entrance to Paget Marsh is on Lovers Lane; head down the steep hill and park at the bottom, where banana groves and adjacent agricultural lands form a barrier against the nearby intersection. Informative signage on birdlife and plantlife leads the way to a charming wooden boardwalk that winds through the mangroves into the marsh. Benches have been built into the walkway at intervals, allowing for peaceful communing with nature.
Paget Marsh is special among Bermuda’s  nature reserves because it is essentially a remnant from a previous era, much of its interior virtually untouched by man. As a result, it is home to centuries-old stands of cedar and palmetto forest, ancient mangrove forests, native wax myrtles, and Bermuda sedge, which is unique to the island and found only in this reserve. All are sustained by a primordial anchor of peat, which also serves to keep down mosquito populations.
Paget Marsh supports varied birdlife, including green and night herons, great egrets, kingfishers, moorhens, and yellowthroat warblers, which feed on the abundance of insects and larvae. The wetland is also a breeding ground for the giant toad, which was introduced to Bermuda in 1885.
Paget Marsh consists of several interesting micro-habitats. Ancient red mangroves overhang the first section, their distinctive boughs and prop roots creating a tunnel-like effect over the walkway. With the water glistening around their silver root tangle, they represent relics from an era when Paget Marsh was a tidal saltwater pond. This first section of the marsh is flooded, and ducks and other waterfowl can be seen here gathering food.
Moving forward, huge vine-covered cedars, rustling palmettos, giant ferns, and bulrushes create a thick forest wall on both sides, but as the creaky boardwalk turns a corner, there emerges an open area of sawgrass savannah, similar to vegetation in the Florida Everglades. Serrated leaves poke through the boardwalk like green swords, grassland stretching like a sea on either side. This is a seasonally flooded area, where heavy rains drastically raise water levels in the winter.
The boardwalk’s end, reaching into the belly of the marsh, brings you to forests of original cedars and palmettos—a scene not unlike what the first settlers would have encountered in 1612. In the shade of these trees grow cinnamon, royal, and sword ferns, along with southern bracken and rare sedge. Environmentalists constantly cull invasive species such as the guava, Brazilian pepper, and Chinese fan palm to preserve the reserve’s important endemic populations.
Visible from Paget Marsh is the silver spire of St. Paul’s Anglican Church (Middle Rd. at Valley Rd. junction, tel. 441/236-5880), an area landmark. Inside the church are beautiful stained-glass windows, old wooden pews, and cedar accents; outside, a historic graveyard with cedars and bougainvillea vines contains the whitewashed tombs of parishioners.