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If the trees could talk …

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven,” wrote Nobel prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore. We are always struck by the trees that “speak” at Chester…many of them older than the house itself (which was built in 1847). From the giant 300-year-old oak tree that majestically presides over the front lawn (and many a wedding) and one of the largest holly trees on record to the white pines and river birches that quietly provide shelter for many a bird and squirrel throughout the year, each tree has a special place on our arboretum grounds and in our hearts. On hot summer nightsIMG_0129, fireflies congregate in their branches, lighting up the night like a well-choreographed holiday display. Birds take shelter, build nests, and teach their young how to fly. Squirrels store goods for the winter. And we walk among them every day, noticing their changing leaves, their weathered trunks, the directions they grow as they follow the sun …

So when we lose one (or six) in a storm, it is indeed a sad occasion. Yesterday’s storm took, among others, a beautiful Eastern white pine (“pinus strobus” for the arborists among you) that was likely 200 years old. The fragrance from the broken limbs was intoxicating and heart-rending. A scent can stir up memories in such a distinctive way … for me, years of freshly cut Christmas trees, walks in the woods on a cool autumn day, watching a baby bird find its wings, the feeling of soft needles and the discovery of tiny pinecones in their midst. And touching the trunk, rich with its own history of the many things that took up residence on it over the years, reminds me of just how small I am in the world. A bit sappy (yes, pun intended)? Perhaps. But when a tree comes down, it is a life ended, a chapter closed, a piece of history uprooted. A reminder of our impermanence in this world.

But there’s something reassuring about the Eastern white pine, noted by the U.S. Forest Service as “one of the most valuable trees in eastern North America.” It was here before Columbus arrived on our shores. It is the single best tree for reforestation projects. The one that fell here yesterday was already surrounded by its descendants, who will grow to keep the same watch for the next 200 years. And we will walk among them for as long as we can while they “speak to the heaven” and take peace in their shelter, their beauty, and the stories they tell.

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July 4th in Scottsville – a true slice of Americana!

paradeIf you’re looking for a true small-town celebration that makes a big bang this 4th of July, you’ll find it in Scottsville. Each year, the town kicks off the day with one of the oldest and largest parades in the state of Virginia. From members of the armed forces (from the Revolutionary War forward!), a bagpipe clan, and fire trucks from many counties to pageant winners in convertibles, Shriners in small cars, and floats galore, there’s something to entertain everyone. (You’ll even get to meet many local politicians along the parade route!) For our granddaughter, nothing beats the candy that is tossed to the spectators along the way.

Following the parade, it’s time for lunch at one of the local restaurants, and a chance to try out the delicious brews at the James River Brewing Company. Or maybe you’d like to hop onto the river for a canoe or tubing adventure with James River Reeling and Rafting. Regardless, you’ll want to make your way down to the riverfront pavilion as the afternoon gets later to make sure you get a good spot on the lawn for the live music that starts at 5 pm, featuring Redlight Rodeo, a popular bluegrass band.

fireworks1As the sun sets, you’ll want to turn those blankets around or climb up and sit on the levee to enjoy one of the most spectacular fireworks displays we’ve ever seen in a town of our size. The fireworks start at 9 pm, and are usually a good 30 minutes long!

Come and spend the 4th of July with us, get a true taste of Americana and celebrate the liberty and freedom of our country and a nice weekend away from it all! Rooms are available at the inn, and we can’t wait to see you.fireworks2

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The joys of decorating a historic home for the holidays

Welcoming wreathes at the main entrance

Welcoming wreathes at the main entrance

A festive welcome to the house

A festive welcome to the house

For the past twenty years, we’ve been entrusted with preserving the body and spirit of this wonderful home, built in 1847 in classic Greek Revival style. And there’s no better time to honor the beauty and history of this house than the holidays. We’ve done many different things over the years, from following the historic Williamsburg style of fresh fruit towers over the doors to decking the bannisters with wreathes, but when it comes right down to it, what makes this house so beautiful around the holidays is a nature-inspired approach that brings the outside in, and sends a warm and inviting glow back into the world during the darkest time of year.

English boxwood is a prized possession among the world’s best florists, and we’re lucky enough to have stands of it right outside the front door. Growing at only an inch a year, we actually have wholesaler florists who come and maintain them for us each year in exchange for what they trim! Luckily, there’s plenty to go around! Simple wreathes adorn the driveway pillars and front doors, and candlelit windows provide a beautiful winter evening scene.

200 bird ornaments and nests adorn the tree.

Our Fraser Fir

Our Fraser Fir

Those of you who have seen our Christmas tree know that, each year, we select the most beautiful Fraser Fir we can find and fill it with nearly 200 bird ornaments, the majority of which are authentic reproductions of what we see in nature, as well as a collection of nests from around the world. Complemented by classic ornaments that go back several generations, our share of children’s and grandchildren’s creations from years past, and the china doll angel that presides over the season, we think our tree is a sight to behold.

We also have a host of other interesting collections, from our Hummel crèche to our carolers and nutcrackers. All of them come with family history or stories. Along with our own traditions, many friends and neighbors bring their own touches to share with us, from a Kentucky iron horse on the front porch to handcrafted wreathes from the local commune. It is truly our privilege to add to the history and story that is this glorious and historic home, Chester. We wish you all a happy, peaceful, and joyous holiday season and look forward to seeing you soon!

Byer carolers on the piano

Byer carolers on the piano

Nutcrackers on the mantel

Nutcrackers on the mantel

Hummel figurines in the dining room

Hummel figurines in the dining room

Hand-crafted bay leaf wreath

Hand-crafted bay leaf wreath

Blooming paperwhites

Blooming paperwhites

Poinsettias from Kingsland Greenhouse

Poinsettias from Kingsland Greenhouse

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Welcoming guests to our luxurious … CHIMNEYS?

Those of you who have stayed at Chester Bed & Breakfast know that we sit on arboretum land just outside of Charlottesville, where a wide range of flora and fauna live happily. But it’s not just our grounds that provide a haven. Twice a year, we are visited by endangered migrating chimney swifts, as they look for safe places to build their nests and lay their eggs in … you guessed it … chimneys!

Flocks of migrating chimney swifts are common sights in the summer and early fall as they head to warmer climates in South America. Their silhouette has been aptly described as a “flying cigar.” These delicate birds spend almost their entire lives aiswiftrborne. Unable to perch when they land, they cling to vertical walls in hollow trees, caves, and chimneys while resting. The swift population has declined sharply as chimneys fall into disuse in North Aswift nestmerica. Not every chimney works well as a safe haven for swifts—only well-maintained ones will do. While we don’t provide down comforters or complimentary wine for our swifts, we do offer them a luxurious chimney during their brief stay!

Swifts build beautiful and strong nests, adhered to chimney walls by their glue-like saliva. Following the migration season, we save one or two of the most beautiful ones for our Christmas tree, which now boasts over 20 nests from around the world and a collection of over 200 birds (no real ones—we can’t get them to sit still for long enough!).

Rest assured that the swifts don’t come inside of the house … only down into the chimneys where you might hear a bit of chirping during the night. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them arriving just before dusk, as they circle the chimneys in a beautiful funnel pattern. We’re delighted to be a brief respite for them on their journey, and hope you enjoy their beauty as much as we do!

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Count your chickens …

chicken eggsHere at Chester, we are privileged to serve local, free-range eggs for breakfast from some wonderful chickens who live just down the road. Free-range means different things to chickens, farmers, and innkeepers–but all with the same end result:  happy chickens = delicious eggs. Last week, an entirely new meaning emerged: one red-tailed hawk thought it meant she was getting a free lunch.

Our chicken farmers heard the commotion and ran for the chickens, chasing the hawk off. One of the wonderful hens was left feeling a bit wobbly and with a few less feathers on her head and neck. But after a week of recuperation in the chicken house, she’s back with the flock, scratching for bugs and fresh greens. The chicken is presumably delighted, as are her keepers. We as innkeepers are happy that she’s made a full recovery and that more of her wonderful, buttery brown eggs are headed for our breakfast tables!

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The newest “voyager through life” comes to the inn

If you’ve been to visit over the last few months, you’ll notice that we have welcomed a new four-legged friend to our family. Actually, she’s a three-legged friend, but you’d never know it from the way she runs!

Trixie is a purebredTrixie Brussels Griffon, a breed originally developed to keep rats away on the wharves in Belgium. From what we’ve been able to learn, she was likely born with a deformed front leg, and was then hit by a car, losing the leg completely. She was surrendered by her first family to a high-kill shelter, and amazingly made her way through the shelter system to Green Dogs Unleashed ( This incredible organization specializes in rescuing special needs animals, and in many cases, training them to work with special needs humans! Trixie was lucky to get there, and we were lucky to find her.

We fell in love with her spirit and spunk, and picked the name Trixie for its fitting meaning: voyager through life and bringer of joy. She certainly has done much of both, despite the fact that she is only two or three.

Trixie is settling in here at Chester, and is taking her role as greeter very seriously. She has a love/hate relationship with our resident cat, Miss D, but we suspect they’ll work it out on their own, as most siblings do.

Once she settles a bit more, we think she’d like to give back to the people who helped her find a new life. We’ll both be going for therapy training so that we can work with children, war veterans, the elderly, and anyone who needs a bit of special love.

Come and see us soon–Trixie is waiting to welcome you!

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Finding the perfect “home away from home” for your wedding

When it comes to getting married, fewer places are more beautiful for three seasons of the year than central Virginia. Whether you choose a historic home with wide Southern porches, a vineyard with mountain vistas, or a gorgeous field with a billowing white tent, your event is bound to be as unique and special as you are.

But picking out your perfect wedding spot doesn’t usually include accommodations for your guests—especially the important ones. You don’t want your parents to stay in a generic hotel room, or your wedding party to be separated on different floors or different buildings. You need a unique and special space to call home while you’re getting ready to celebrate. Where you have access to an entire house and its beautiful grounds. Where you can enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch, a glass of wine next to the pond, or a glass of champagne as you get your hair done. Where you can come back from a wonderful afternoon or evening to a freshly turned-down bed and the promise of a gourmet, home-cooked breakfast in the morning. A place where you can connect, relax, and renew. You deserve it. Especially on the most important day of your life!

Spring in Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a real treat in spring – the trees bloom, the grass turns emerald green, and the historic buildings seem to lose their age and become as fresh as they must have been their very first spring. There are so many activities to enjoy, too. Wine festivals, music festivals, art festivals, book festivals and more are starting all over the area, providing entertainment for everyone. The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival is an event that locals and visitors look forward to every year, providing live music and local culture, a carnival and of course the much anticipated Dogwood Parade. Outdoors is the place to be, with all the great scenery and mild weather, and there are so many places to enjoy al fresco dining while looking at the mountain or listening to live music. The Historic Downtown Mall is an amazing venue in spring, and brings both tourists and locals together to enjoy the live music of Fridays After Five while dining at world class restaurants. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello bursts into bloom with flowers originally planned and planted by its founder. You can learn about what types of things Jefferson grew in time to plant your own garden accordingly.

Take a look at our “Plan your Stay” page and find out about some the wonderful things Charlottesville has to offer in spring – then make your reservation at Chester, where you can enjoy them all in your own beautiful spring setting!

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Finished whining about winter? Wine into spring!

We can finally see it here…despite the awful winter, central Virginia is turning green again. Spring is one of the most exciting seasons here at Chester, as our arboretum grounds are filling with budding branches, birds’ nests, and the promise of new beginnings.

Speaking of new beginnings, the grape growing season is upon us. While Virginia may not yet be the “Napa of the east,” our vineyards and wine trails are certainly worth a weekend of exploration and tasting—and a getaway to Charlottesville is definitely less expensive than a flight to California!

Thomas Jefferson himself gave wine production a try more than 200 years ago, but his attempts were thwarted by Virginia’s distinctive red clay soil. Today, however, thanks to some expertise and perseverance, Virginia is the 5th largest producer of wine in the country.

Gabriele Rausse is at the forefront of these pioneers, and Barboursville Vineyards, just 30 miles north of us, remains at the forefront of Virginia’s wine renaissance. There are over 230 vineyards in the Commonwealth today. Next weekend marks the Monticello Wine Trail Festival. Make Chester your home base and explore a wide range of wineries and varietals, all while enjoying a luxurious and relaxing getaway.

We are happy to make vineyard recommendations upon request, pack you a picnic lunch with advance notice, and provide assistance in making your wine tour a memorable one. If you can’t make the festival, never fear. All of our vineyards have wonderful tasting rooms, tour hours, and even Sunday afternoon polo matches in season!

Mention this blog while booking and we’ll provide you with a complimentary plate of cheese to accompany your local wine!

A bird (or 200) in the hand…

Those of you who have visited Chester during the holiday season know that our Christmas tree is decorated mainly with birds. At our “taking-down-Christmas-census” today, we counted over 200 birds–from doves and wrens to the more flamboyant flamingos and peacocks! We’ve been collecting for some 45 years now, so as you can imagine, there’s quite a variety.

And what would a tree be without a few nests? As we head into the deep of winter, we thought we’d remind you that spring is just around the corner. Here at Chester, an arboretum and certified National Wildlife Federation habitat), we provide a home to many birds as they bring little ones into the world. We often have the privilege of finding their nests, which we gently place onto our Christmas tree each year. We do our best to identify them (some of our feathered friends are better builders than others) and thought you’d enjoy seeing some of them here.Below, you’ll find the nests of an African weaver bird, wren, cardinal, Carolina wren, chimney swift, mockingbird, and the red-eyed vireo.

Happy New Year from Chester!

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