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Plantation snags Virginia Green honors

Oak Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast in Cluster Springs has been named the Green Bed and Breakfast of the Year.

The Virginia Green program announced its 2013 award winners Monday and will present 14 Virginia Green Travel Star Awards for outstanding green tourism practices at the first annual Virginia Green Conference and Travel Star Awards Celebration. 

The conference will be held Dec. 3-4 at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. Seven additional Virginia Green partners will be recognized as Virginia Green Travel Leaders. 

The Virginia Green program is run through a partnership of the Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association. 

The program encourages green practices in Virginia’s tourism industry, and it has nearly 1,400 partner organizations that have self-certified their green commitments. 

Halifax County’s Oak Grove Plantation, winner of one of the 14 green awards to be presented next week at Virginia Beach, is one of the rare bed and breakfasts with an innkeeper whose family has owned the house for generations. 

“I hope that the solar panels will not only attract environmentally aware travelers but also set an example for other businesses,” said Pickett Craddock, the innkeeper. “ I do hope that Virginia will see its way to provide the same kind of subsidies for solar power that North Carolina does already.”

Craddock, who started the Cluster Springs B&B 26 years ago, enjoys telling guests about the home’s history, which dates back nearly 200 years.

The two-story classical revival house was built from home-grown timber in about 1820 by Thomas Easley, a member of the Virginia legislature. In the parlor is a portrait of Lt. Thomas Easley Jr., a West Point graduate who was killed in the Mexican-American War at age 25. His brother, Capt. William Easley, died in the Civil War.

Succeeding generations farmed tobacco and later other crops on the 400 acres along what is now Cluster Springs Road (Route 658), a mile southwest of Route 501. 

In 1986, Craddock decided to open her home as Halifax County’s first bed and breakfast. A preschool teacher in Washington, D.C., she made the house available to tourists in the summers only, promoting the home as a refuge for people to get away from the city.

 “It is a place for people to cure what is now being called ‘nature deficit,’ the need to get closer to nature and to enjoy its plants and animals to reduce the stress of urban living,” she said. “Science has shown nature can improve our health, enhance our creativity and make us feel fully alive. It can promote a sense of awe and wonder that we haven’t felt since we were children.”

Craddock encourages guests to walk or bike on the miles of groomed paths through pine forests on the grounds. They are great for bird watching and spotting turtles, squirrels and even foxes.  She particularly encourages families with children to come and climb trees, play on the tire swing, in the sandbox and inside with board games. 

Craddock and her husband, Mike Doan, enjoy promoting area attractions for visitors from as far away as Europe or as close as Halifax County. 

One guest saw Doan’s mention of “The Sound of Music” at The Prizery in his blog and came just to see the show with her daughter. Several others have had families racing at Virginia International Raceway. One group came from Ohio to visit their former classmate, who runs Gatrell’s Cowboy Up Café in Virgilina. Some have come for the Scottsburg Fourth of July celebration and other special events.

Weddings and reunions are popular among Oak Grove’s visitors. The Virgilina Women’s Club and the Halifax County Women’s Club have met there, and she had a reunion once of classmates from Cluster Springs Elementary School. 

Craddock had her own book group from Washington stay at the plantation house to discuss a popular novel. “People like to get away into a quiet, peaceful and contemplative environment,” she says.

One of the inn’s chief attractions is its gourmet breakfasts served around the oval dining room table. Many guests prefer the long, leisurely breakfasts to a quick roll and coffee at a fast-food restaurant. Craddock often serves Cluster Springs egg puff, her own dish with eggs and cheese or whole wheat and lemon soufflé pancakes and fresh locally grown fruit. 

“It’s important to me to get produce and eggs from Halifax County,” she said. “The food is better, and it’s better for the environment.”

Oak Grove has three guests rooms, including a ground-floor, handicapped accessible room called the Library and a two-room family suite on the second floor. 

The inn is open from May 15 to the end of September. 

Details at www.oakgroveplantation.com. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Information about Virginia Green is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/PollutionPrevention/VirginiaGreen.aspx. 

Marketing of the Virginia Green partners is handled by the Virginia Tourism Corporation and is available at www.VirginiaGreenTravel.org.