Blackwater and Beyond: Garden Club tour set

Published 10:27 am Saturday, March 27, 2010

FRANKLIN—Spring is in the air, and the Franklin Garden Club has once again chosen several of the area’s most beautiful homes — with their gardens, local artwork, historic landmarks and a fantastic scenic hike – for public viewing during Garden Week.

In observance of the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, the Franklin club will host “The Blackwater and Beyond,” a one-day tour of the rural Colosse/Zuni/Walters area in Isle of Wight County.

The 10 a.m.-to-5 p.m. tour will be held on Saturday, April 17. Tourists will meet at the Walters Ruritan Community Center at 27746 Walters Highway, where Garden Club members will be available to guide them to other points of interest.

Visitors may also purchase tickets, obtain maps and instructions about the tour at the community center.

Focusing on the Blackwater River, its surroundings and rural life in Isle of Wight County, the tour begins with an exhibit by the Blackwater Artists League, a group of local artists who will have works of various media reflecting the river, either on display or for sale.

One of the most interesting segments of the day’s activities will be a trip to the Zuni Pine Barrens, 24016 Thomas Woods Trail.

Nearly destroyed because of logging and other modifications to the environment years ago, a 391-acre tract of longleaf pines was donated to the Nature Conservancy by Union Camp Corp. Known as the Blackwater Ecologic Preserve, it is today owned by Old Dominion University and managed in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s National Heritage Program.

It is a fascinating environmental study of the recovery of an ecosystem.

Throughout the day, exhibits and videos associated with the Nature Conservancy, the Blackwater-Nottoway Riverkeeper program and other environmental programs will be on display.

Tours of the Pine Barrens will depart from the Zuni Hunt Club at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Prior to the tour, a brief presentation and discussion of the intricate interactions and independencies of species in this ecosystem, what impacts them and how they recovered will be given.

Because of limited space, tours are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. For those taking the first tour, club members suggest they meet at the Zuni Hunt Club, 24016 Thomas Woods Trail. It is recommended that tourists wear closed-toe walking shoes for this event.

Three homes will be open for viewing. Located on the edge of the Pine Barrens at 23372 Thomas Woods Trail, the stately, Georgian-style home of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Alphin seems to watch over the family farm. Built in 1997, the home has been beautifully landscaped by the owners, with rows of crepe myrtles leading to the front portico.

Living areas, both indoors and out, are spacious and furnished in a way that reflect the owners’ love of all things tropical. This casual living experience is enhanced by the open porch and terrace where a built-in brick barbeque is strategically placed. Close by, the owners enjoy their pool, with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside, including a backdrop of tall pine trees.

The next home, that of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Blythe, 27110 Duke Meadows Lane in Walters, is surrounded by 12 acres of woodlands and pasture handed down by several generations. The contemporary home, completed in 1978, gives a warm feeling to one entering. Complementing the natural setting, bald cypress is featured on the front stairway and in the living room.

A 2002 renovation opened the kitchen to easy entertaining, while a sunroom addition provides a quiet space for respite and meditation. A fire pit with log seating is perfect for outdoor gatherings.

A member of the Blackwater Artists League, Mrs. Blythe’s creativity is evident in each room of the home. Collections include pottery, paintings by local artists and Caldecott Medal-winning books. Gifts from her husband while he traveled to Africa, the Far East and South America are also featured works of art throughout the house.

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Carr, 28124 Spivey Town Road, Windsor, also will be featured. Of traditional colonial design, it was built on the family farm in 1977 with an entryway surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and an arbor covered by wisteria.

On entering the home, one is greeted by its unique style. Trompe l’oeil, by local artist Carol Harrell, defines the foyer and marks the entrance to the dining room in a way that enhances the owner’s creative displays. Such touches are evident throughout the home.

The focal point of the dining room is an early 19th century corner cabinet, with original glass and hinges. In the hallway, blue inlaid tile stretches to the family room, where a stone fireplace anchors one corner of the room. In another corner, an antique cupboard houses a lovely collection of blue china.

A chest, damaged when Union troops set fire inside the top drawer, sits just outside the kitchen door. Throughout the family’s living area and screen porch, antiques, farm inspired art and paintings by family and friends lend a feeling of warmth and carefree comfort.

Another point of interest is Cecil Profitt’s Antique Museum, 27114 Colosse Road.

Collectibles, memorabilia and antiques that reflect life in the 20th century are at home in a replica of a country store and 1940 Esso Gas Station. Restored antique automobiles are displayed in a showroom, along with memorabilia of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and other stars of the period.