Upon arrival at The Conyers House, what came first to mind was a classic children’s book about a stuffed toy bear so cherished, that over the course of years, his “fur had been loved off” making him all the more appealing in his condition of lovable wear and tear. We soon realized that The Conyers House was not the typical, artificial, conjured B&B, soullessly staged to appeal to the masses hoping to experience charm. This is a place that feels familiar, settled, authentic, lived-in…and well, over the last nearly 200 years, some of its “fur had been loved off”.
Although aged, “rustic” is not the correct descriptor for The Conyers House. The beauty and character seem to have been coaxed, cajoled and guarded through thoughtful restorations and upgrades, and with that, the voice of the house has been masterfully preserved and it speaks vociferously through the lexicon of creaks, yawns and groans. Details describing its antiquity and evolution remain such as the brass corner plates on the stairs, the exposed beams and siding and the hook and eye latches. The house is a labyrinth of shadowy, cozy niches containing tableaux vivants, many with equestrian or fox hunt themes, and many expressing the rich, adventuresome life of the owner, Sandra, and perhaps that of some passersby feeling compelled to add an artifact to the collection.
The Conyers House huddles in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on a quiet, lonely road winding through a valley that once served respite to exhausted troops during the Civil War. The wooded hollow is sanctuary to bubbling brooks, wild flowers, rock formations, and a myriad of wildlife including black bear (we admired three, in awe, from the vantage of horseback), coyotes, and of course, the noble fox who, unbeknownst to him, drives the passions of the community.
The Conyers House offers horseback riding (to qualified riders) aboard spirited hunt horses instructed for the trail. Sandra provides a solid education in all things equestrian including tacking, horsemanship and the fox hunt. Sperryville, Virginia is hunt country, but this community is not characterized by snobbery and exclusivity dictated by the moneyed class. This group welcomes all levels of expertise and they are impelled by a genuine love of the art of the craft. We learned something of the community because, unexpectedly, we were invited to join Sandra to the “opening ceremony” of a real hunt. Fox hunting is about the skill and athleticism of the horse and rider (and hound and rider), the relationship between them as well as the coordination of the teams of hunters, all while tracking a sly, stealthy fox (the fox is not killed). This, attempted in an impossible morass of trees, bushes, vines, waterways, rocks, embankments, fences….So, on a misty fall morning, we experienced the excitement as we watched the assembly of baying hounds and nervous horses carrying their genteel riders decked in proper tack and turnout, respectively. The terms were announced, bugle sounded, and they were off! The grandeur and elegance of the affair was breathtaking and an honor to witness.
Much of the Conyers B&B experience is shaped by the lovely owner, Sandra, who started her business over 30 years ago. Sandra treats her guests like old friends she has been hoping reunite with. Morning starts with complete silence broken by the sound of birds singing in the distance and welcomed with a gourmet meal made up of brewed coffee, eggs, fresh fruit, and juices prepared with a juxtaposition of flavors such as cranberry mixed with orange juice or fresh rosemary sprinkled in the fruit compote or salsa and sausage over pancakes or eggs benedict over creamed spinach. Yes, it works and it tastes even better when eaten with new friends over an old wooden table surrounded by a kaleidoscope of personal treasures telling the story of a family, community, a craft and the love of a sincere way of life lived on a quiet, lonely, winding road hugging in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
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