Update: You may want to leave your bike on your car for the Dogham Farm tour. The hilly, winding, narrow drive will be difficult to traverse with most bikes. Also note that the final entrance to Berkeley Plantation includes a fairly flat dirt and gravel .6 mile drive, while similar road conditions stretch two miles to Westover Plantation.
Historic Garden Week isn’t just for ladies of a certain age who like to lunch and putter around their yards with clippers dead-heading spent roses. The gardens and homes featured on every one of the 2016 tours are filled with inspiration for all sorts of people from dyi’ers and debutantes to homesteaders and hipsters. Like never before, this year Historic Garden Week RVA embraces Richmond’s cycling culture at, of all places, the historic plantations along Route 5’s cradle of America. Patrons are encouraged to saddle up their bikes for an unparalleled day of beauty, history and exercise on Wednesday, April 27th.
The James River Plantations tour includes eight properties along approximately six miles of Route 5. These locations permit leisurely cycling from one spot to another on the state’s newest treasure, the Virginia Capital Trail, which runs adjacent to the Route 5 byway. Bike Virginia is providing bike racks at all of the tour stops for your convenience. Just park your car in any one of the designated parking areas along the route, unload your bike after your first tour and make a day of the circuit.
Ellen and I couldn’t wait to see how it would all work, so we loaded up her new wheels on a gorgeous spring day last week and headed to the biking trailhead at Great Shiplock Park. While the biking enthusiast who has the whole day may want to start there, most others will prefer to drive their bikes 18-24 miles east on Route 5 to one of the tour stops (look for the Green Arrow signs and keep in mind that tour sites are open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.). Ellen and I decided to start at the easternmost destination first, Westover Episcopal Church (where pre-ordered lunches will be served the day of the tour).
Heading west, you won’t want to miss
Berkeley plantations, which we featured in Westover Autumn Pilgrimage. Turn down Shirley Plantation Road to reach four tour destinations, including the remarkable
Upper Shirley’s tasting room won’t be open to the public during the tour, but once you see it you will want to come back for lunch or a late afternoon tasting. You can also tour the grounds at the privately-owned Upper Shirley residence and visit the stunning
Riverview, which graces the cover of Style Weekly’s Historic Garden Week Flip Book.
Dogham Farm is situated about a mile west of the Shirley Plantation Road turnoff. With a Gillette-designed garden and a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, this Virginia Century Farm might be just the place to enjoy a picnic that you carry along on your bike.
If you don’t want to deal with hauling your own bike, let one of RVA’s newest ventures take care of all the details for you, picnic lunch included. Anne Poarch formed Basket & Bike for just such occasions along the Capital Trail.
What do you think? Are you ready to dust the cobwebs off your bike, fill its tires with air and head on out to Charles City County on April 27th? We can’t think of a better way to enjoy the scenic history of the James River Plantations than on two wheels along the newly-completed and scenic Virginia Capital Trail. Add your Historic Garden Week ride to the 173,000 others that have happened since the Capital Trail was completed in September 2015, and keep your fingers crossed for good biking weather!
April 19, 2016