Back in 1985, John Washburn bought a 50 acre farm on the Rockfish River in Nelson County, Virginia, attracted by the trout river running through the property and the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the farm. As his daughters left the nest John and Robin moved to New Zealand. From time to time John would come back to Virginia and discovered a number of wineries had popped up and then the beer breweries started popping up. New Zealanders (Kiwis) love their cider and so he thought, could a hard cider bridge the gap between the great wine the area produces and the awesome beer that is being crafted locally?
Brian Shanks, one of the foremost cider experts in the world just happened to live in New Zealand. Brian had been in the apple orchard business and after a cyclone hit his orchard in the 1980s he got into making cider before cider became popular. Over the years he perfected his craft and eventually became known worldwide as the expert to go to for answers. As an international cider consultant Brian has helped companies in America, Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand.
Today John and Brian (and their wives) own and operate Bold Rock Hard Cider about 35 minutes northeast of Lynchburg on Route 151 in Nellysford, Virginia. The tasting area is open daily from 11-6 and having been there twice I can assure you it is worth the trip. You can view the entire process from the crushing of the apples to the bottling of the final product when the production line is operating. It is quite interesting, but if manufacturing isn’t your thing, then tasting a cold crisp clean bottle of cider is a great way to celebrate your arrival. If you bring a picnic lunch you can enjoy lunch on their deck or by the banks of the Rockfish River. Make sure you pick up a couple of 6 packs before you leave!
Bold Rock cider has been in operation since October 2010, but didn’t bottle their first bottle of cider until May 2012 (It takes time to build the buildings, install the equipment and then to ferment the apples). Their tasting room hasn’t been constructed yet but plans are drawn and work should start soon.
They are located at:
1020 Rockfish Valley Highway
Nellysford, VA 22958
Directions from The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast from Mapquest
|.||Start out going southeast on Cabell St toward D St.||0.01 mi|
|2.||Take the 1st right onto D St.
|3.||Turn left onto Rivermont Ave.
|4.||Turn left onto 5th St/VA-163. Continue to follow VA-163.
|5.||Turn right onto Old Town Conn/VA-210 E.
|6.||Merge onto US-29 N via the ramp on the left toward Amherst.
|7.||Turn slight left onto VA-151/Patrick Henry Hwy. Continue to follow VA-151.
In 1794 Woodson’s Mill, as it is now known, opened and things haven’t changed much since then. The new owners Will and Sarah Brockenbrough, inherited the property after Will’s dad died in 2001, but the mill sat empty for over a decade until they decided to restore it. Both Will and Sarah have degrees in historic preservation so they wanted to bring the mill back to life but they wanted it to be as authentic as possible. Today they mill corn and wheat much as it would have been for over 200 years. The Mill sits on the Piney River and the river water is diverted from a dam upstream to a canal that powers the mill. In the early 1900’s there was some “modern” equipment installed in the mill and while it is still there but not utilized in the milling process today.
Organically grown grain from local farmers is milled in small batches. The grain is milled slowly to avoid the heat generated by commercial mills to prevent breaking down the oils in grain and to preserve the moisture and nutrients found in the grain giving you a product with more taste and texture. The final product is fresh and without any additives or preservatives. I checked the label from cornmeal purchased at a grocery store which had 7 ingredients vs. the corn meal from Woodson’s Mill which just listed white corn as the only ingredient. After this label comparison which product do you think we would rather eat!
The mill stones which grind the grain weigh about one ton. Water flows over the mill wheel which powers the stones. The speed of the stones is controlled by adjusting the flow of the water moving the large mill wheel. The best part of the mill is that you are able to see the whole process from start to finish. Fresh grain comes in and about 15 minutes later it’s grits or cornmeal. Originally the mill was a place to buy grain and later it became the social hub in Nelson County. Today it is one of the last grain mills in the country that still are operational. Visiting the mill offers you a rare glimpse of history.
The mill is only open on Saturdays which is when they typically grind the grain. It is worth the trip to see the mill in action and to buy whole grain flour or grits/cornmeal. If you can’t get by there on a Saturday they do sell their products online at www.woodsonsmill.com. They are sold in recyclable, compostable packages. While the mill uses only the flow of water to operate the milling equipment they currently use electricity for lighting. Soon they hope to generate their own power and be in a position to sell electricity back to the power company.
Woodson’s Mill is located about 45 minutes northwest of The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast and is located at 3211 Lowesville Road, Lowesville, VA
- To reach the mill from Lynchburg take 29 north and travel about 16 miles (from RT 210 and RT 29)
- Turn Left onto RT 151 (Patrick Henry Highway) and travel 7.5 miles
- Turn left onto Lowesville Road and travel approximately 2.4 miles to the mill on the right.
Summer has two more months to go, but this one has been hot and dry. The grass which usually turns brown as it goes dormant during the dog days of August has been brown for the past 30 days. As June came to a close the wind storm knocked out our power for four days as temperatures soared past 100 degrees. The vegetables in the garden keep begging for water and the fish in the pond think they are being poached.
With so much heat and drought we decided it was time to embrace winter. Try to visualize swooshing down the ski slopes (I know the Summer Olympics are in full swing). Feel the cool and refreshing breeze as you pick up speed. OK maybe your imagination can’t take you there but you can still go skiing. No I’m not talking about getting on a plane and heading to South America where it is winter. Just hop in your car and head to Lynchburg where you can enjoy the ONLY year-round skiing in the Western Hemisphere. That’s right; in Lynchburg Virginia you can hit the slopes and ski or go snow boarding or tubing, even during the dog days of summer.
Snow-flex is on the campus of Liberty University and is open to the general public. They offer equipment rentals and lessons or you can bring your own. Tickets are affordable and the views of the city are spectacular. We have had avid skiers stay with us who have hit the slopes and they report the experience is almost like skiing on snow, except you don’t have to dress up like the Michelin Tire Man in layers of clothing to try to stay warm. You will need to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts.
Check out these youtube videos for more information on Snowflex.
Cure the dog days of summer. Come stay with us at our award winning bed and breakfast and check out the skiing in Lynchburg. Bring your camera and you can post your adventures on Youtube.
For more information visit the Snowflex website.
Crabtree Falls is about 1 hour from Lynchburg and is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in Virginia. It is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi and is a must see. The falls were named after William Crabtree who settled in the area in 1777. The hike to the top of the falls will take about 3-4 hours and the return trip down will take about half that time. There is parking at the bottom of the falls for about 20 cars and the last time we hiked it there was a parking fee of $7.00 (take cash or check and a pen to deposit the fee in box and mark which space you are parked in-honor system). There are restrooms at the bottom of the falls. During the hike you will be climbing almost 1400 feet in elevation. Most of the trail is along the falls although there are a number of switch backs. Wear a good pair of hiking boots and socks and take lots of water with you as there are no concessions stands to buy water. Take your camera, the scenery is beautiful! Since we have lived in Lynchburg several people have died when climbing on the rocks in the falls so we advise our guests to stay on the trails. The hike is moderate difficulty. This is a good way to burn lots of calories. According to a calorie calculator you will burn 1500 calories so don’t worry about eating too much at breakfast!
To reach the falls from The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast (directions from Mapquest):
- Take the D Street Bridge Go .2 miles
- Turn Left onto Rivermont Ave Go .3 miles
- Turn Left onto 5th Street (changes to VA 163) Go 1.1 miles
- Turn Right onto VA 210 (at light) Go 3.1 miles
- Turn Left onto US-29 (don’t take US 29 business) G0 16.2 miles
- Turn Left onto VA-151 (Patrick Henry Highway) Go 10.6 miles
- Turn Left onto Crabtree Falls Highway (VA-56) Go 14.5 miles
- Follow signs to parking area
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