Daily Archives: May 4, 2021

Berkeley Plantation and King George (the cat)

Laundry and another tourist day dictated by the weather forecast of rain in the area. We’ve been lucky to sneak in a load of laundry at campgrounds and at family and friends houses when we stay there. My last load was while staying with Stod in N.C. Today everyone was out of clean cycling clothes so we hit the Wash House in Williamsburg. Lovely place if I do say so myself.

Leo had stumbled across the Berkeley Plantation in Charles City, Virginia yesterday while the group was riding on the Capital Trail. He actually had wandered off (again…) and ridden down a dirt road to the plantation. He didn’t get a chance to explore very much before he realized he’d better get back to the group. On his recommendation though, we went back for the full tour as our rainy day activity.

From wikipedia –

Berkeley Plantation is the most historic plantation on the James River and is located between Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia. Berkeley is the site of the first official Thanksgiving as well as the ancestral home of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, his son, ninth U.S. President William Henry Harrison, and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president.

The property and gardens were not on par with Mt Vernon or Monticello as tourist attractions go, but as a national historic landmark it is right up there! They also had King George — the cat. He was extremely friendly and upstaged our tour guide several times by asking to first go into the guest house, and then a few minutes later coming back out. He made his way through all the guests and gave equal attention to everyone. Quite the ambassador.

King George…

We also saw nature in action. Beth, ever the observant one, noticed a mommy cardinal that seemed upset. It had been in the bush but flew out. So Beth stuck her head in the bush (was one of the large bushes with green at the outer edge but mostly bare branches in its interior) and saw the bird’s nest — with a single chick in it. Seconds later Beth screams out , “Look at that, do you see that….a SNAKE!”. Sure enough, a big black snake was slithering up in the upper branches of the tree — right towards that nest with plans to have that chick for lunch. I had my hiking umbrella with me and I tried to poke the snake but it was too far to the inside for me to reach. Beth took it from me and did the same. The snake was not one bit deterred. Eventually, we realized that no matter what we did, that baby bird was probably going to be the snake’s lunch. It was tough to see — but I also realize it is all part of nature and the ‘food chain’. In another area we saw another nest that was full of chicks — hope those last longer!

Beth did a little research on the snake and found that it was a Rat Snake (a.k.a. Chicken Snake) and that they are expert tree climbers and eat bird’s eggs and, yes, baby birds too. I snapped a shot of it moving through the branches, but here’s an internet photo that really captures what we saw!

We toured the main house, a kitchen building that connected to the main house via a large underground tunnel (long ago sealed off), a basement museum and some reconstructed slave quarters. No photos could be taken inside any of the historic buildings.

Look at these enslaved worker’s quarters. I think they made them a little nicer than they might’ve actually been back in the day. At its peak, the plantation had just over 100 enslaved workers.

Here are some shots of the gardens, from the grounds and down at the river.