Unspoiled Nature Trail a Respite to Enjoy Nature’s Bounty
Patrick Duffeler’s passion for green space makes it only natural that among the 420 acres that is home to the Williamsburg Winery, visitors will find a nature trail far from the madding crowd.
The only unnatural part? The name. A sign on Jockey’s Neck Road welcomes all to the “Patrick G. Duffeler Nature Trail,” and no, the founder of Williamsburg’s most storied winery did not stake it there.
“I only call it the nature trail,” he said.
An aside — nothing at the winery bears Duffeler’s name. He’s preferred to honor English and American history in the purposeful naming of the buildings and rooms that make up what resembles a European village — for example, the Gabriel Archer Tavern, Wedmore Place, Wessex Hall, Westbury Hall and 1619 Pavilion to list a few.
The picturesque nature trail lies deep into the southside of the property, nestled into Duffeler’s own Black Forest, which contains many of the 62,000 trees he planted on the Wessex Hundred farm. That includes 37 acres of loblolly pines from a 1989 planting. All have grown to immense stature and an upward gaze at the canopy is breathtaking.
Duffeler likes to share a photo of himself “the drawf” underneath a massive oak tree that towers over him. His respect for nature and conservation ranks just as high as his dedication to the business of planting vineyards and making wine.
Back in the ’80s when the farm was purchased, Duffeler recalls debris and old cars piled up in many of the ravines that you’ll pass when walking along the nature trail.
“I used a back hoe to remove a ’57 Ford, which I gave away,” he said. “The last thing I had time to focus on was old cars.”
The nature trail follows the contour of three ravines, the middle one shorter than the others. The ravines merge and follow the path into an even stronger ravine. A walk along the unspoiled path of roughly a mile and a half offers a retreat from the noise that surrounds daily life. You might see a turtle, but you’ll definitely hear the birds and the sounds that stem from a gentle breeze and your own footsteps making their way forward.
Nearby Jockey’s Ridge leases the nature trail for its visitors to enjoy. The intent for the future is to keep the nature trail maintained as it should be. “In other words, green space,” Duffeler stressed. “There are many portions of it that are phenomenally beautiful.”
In his commitment to do things the right way, Duffeler designed the nature trail to prevent erosion. Vibrant fern grown along the nature trail represent another point of pride. These unique land plants only grow in outstanding soil. “You can’t find fern on eroded or damaged soil,” Duffeler said.
Healthy soil is essential for producing high-quality grapes, the kind that bear the best fruit that go into the wines that ultimately bear the name of the Williamsburg Winery.