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You can forget about using the Great Plain Avenue exit off 128 to get to Dedham or West Roxbury this weekend

The state is shutting the Great Ditch Bridge - that nasty little piece of work on the Dedham side of the Great Plain Avenue exit - at 8 tonight for work to get the bridge ready for its replacement by a span on which you won't have to worry anymore you'll get into a crash that will send you into the water.

The bridge will re-open Monday at 5 a.m. with one lane open, with a traffic light to let motorists heading to and from 128 take turns crossing it. MassDOT says that shutting the bridge completely for the weekend will save two months in construction.

Now as to why there's a ditch connecting one loop of the Charles with another, the Needham Historical Society informs us, it was dug in the 1600s to drain the marshes in what's now Cutler Park for cattle grazing.

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I've always referred to it as the "Long Ditch," but no matter what name you use, it makes the Dedham/Needham/West Roxbury area one of the few places with an aquatic loop trail. Put a kayak or canoe into the Charles at Millennium Park, paddle upstream for about a mile against very little current in the Long Ditch, then follow the Charles about five miles back downstream to where you started. Neat!

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At least in the early spring before all the plants grow up. From the Cutler Park parking lot, veer off to the right and there's a path that'll get you to the banks of the ditch. At least this past February, there was even a swing mysteriously set up on a tree about halfway between Great Plain Avenue and the end of the ditch.

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Fascinating info. Can you imagine hand digging all that, just so cows could graze? Wasn't there a TON of open land for such things without undertaking a risky and Herculean task to drain the meadow?

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Dedhamites sure loved to dig! Let's not forget the Mother Brook, just upstream, dug in 1639 and the first canal in British North America (connecting the Charles to a tributary of the Neponset).

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Not really that hard to imagine. Digging ditches through marshy soil was easier than clearing the upland. Remember that this whole area was forest with mature trees, so draining a swamp got you a lot of land for a year's work. Also, between the time your fields were planted and harvest, there was a lot of time for digging, or felling trees, or clearing rocks out of a field. It was especially necessary to keep the young men busy, lest their minds turn to un-Puritanical things.

And, as chaosjake mentioned, it cuts off more than a mile of river travel for folks using the it for transport.

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Running Northish to Southish in the middle of the screen, ending at the bottom where it goes under Needham St (where the current bridge is located.)

https://goo.gl/maps/1BLXapPMaZz

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Up at the top, along the left side.

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Not 8.

Don't think there's an exit 8 anyway.

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