South Eastern Pennsylvania is a land of gently rolling hills with narrow twisting lanes, shaded by oak forests. In many ways, it reminds me of the countryside in the South of England and it also has its share of Inns.
After the city claustrophobia of Philadelphia, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air and the small town of Kennett Square, in Brandy Valley, is a good place to start. It’s known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because of the presence of Phillips Mushroom Farm which annually produces 15 million kilos of specialty mushrooms. As you might expect, the town holds its own mushroom festival every September.
Just outside Kennett Square, Longwood Gardens started life as an 18th-century arboretum covering 15 acres and boasting one of the finest collections of trees in the USA. Over time it fell into disuse was about to be razed for lumber.
Fortunately, Pierre S. du Pont, a member of the prominent du Pont family, stepped in and purchased the land, primarily to preserve the trees. He also wanted a place where he could entertain his friends and began extending and developing the gardens. They now run to more than a thousand acres and the gardens range from formal to naturalistic.
Du Pont was fascinated by water technology and the Fountain Garden is his major achievement. It’s undergoing major refurbishment but is scheduled to reopen.
Surprisingly, Pennsylvania is home to around 220 wineries, making it the 7th largest producing state in the U.S. Chaddsford Winery, in the Brandywine Valley, was a dairy farm until 1982 and is now one of Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest.
Originally, 33 acres of vines were planted but they now outsource their grapes from local producers. Winemaker Jim Osborn makes a full complement of styles, both red and white, ranging from light, fresh and fruity to big, rich, and earthy.
The winery is open every day for tastings and they run regular special events, bringing in food trucks and local bands to entertain.
In a large warehouse on the edge of West Chester, the Artisan Exchange houses a selection of artisan food producers who lease space for kitchens and production areas. It also functions as an information exchange and they benefit from business and marketing advice from founders Frank and Maryann Baldassarre of Golden Valley Farms Coffee.
America’s chocolate capital is named after Milton S. Hershey who sited his factory here in the early 1900s, then laid out the streets and built housing for his workers. It soon became an attraction in its own right with ornamental gardens and an amusement park, and chocolate is still manufactured in the town.