U.Va. Walking Tour, Part 3: Down by the Dell

July 20, 2009 — After touring the Pavilion Gardens and surrounding areas in the Academical Village, the third part of the walking tour series will target one of the first areas of Grounds that visitors see when entering the University of Virginia: the Dell, a peaceful enclave across Emmet Street from the Central Grounds Parking Garage.

Complete with a walking loop around the pond, basketball and tennis courts and picnic areas, the Dell has all the makings for hours of family fun. Its location between Central Grounds and first-year dorms also makes the 12-acre area a popular student spot.

The Dell hosts lots of wildlife, including ducks and blue herons in the morning, said Mary Hughes, the University's landscape architect.

Thanks to its wildflowers and grasses, 'The Dell is quite showy in the summer,' she added.

The Dell's placid pond is fed by Meadow Creek, which previously was piped underground. A "daylighting" restoration, completed in 2004, aimed to improve water quality and flow and also transformed the stream corridor into a peaceful place.

In addition to its aesthetic qualities, the pond also serves as a retention area to contain floodwater. "Most people don't know that it has a functional aspect," Hughes said.

The Dell continues past the basketball courts behind the McCormick Road first-year dorms. A sidewalk leads past a picnic area and recreational fields that can be reserved through the Newcomb Hall Reservation Office.

After walking through the Dell, visit the U.Va. Cemetery, located on the corner of Alderman and McCormick roads.

History – and plenty of shade trees – blanket the cemetery, making it a pleasant area to explore. Dr. William Henry Tucker, younger brother of philosophy professor George Tucker, was the first to be buried there in 1828. For those familiar with U.Va. history or buildings on Grounds, the cemetery boasts many familiar names: Alderman, Tuttle, Dabney and Clemons, among others. (More information about the U.Va. Cemetery is available online.

For a walking challenge, look across Alderman Road and just beyond the Observatory Hill Dining Hall to Observatory Hill. Mountain bikers and hikers alike enjoy the hill's 12 miles of trails and are rewarded with a stunning view at the top.

— By Laura Hoffman