Botany Bay: The Land

(Follow up to Botany Bay: The Beach)

Inland from the water, a driving trail leads visitors in a loop around the woodlands.  The first stop on the map is the 1840s Bleak Hall Ice House.  Botany Bay is the result of a 1930s merger between a Colonial-era plantation, Sea Cloud, and a late 18th century plantation, Bleak Hall.  Though many original structures have not survived, the Ice House remains a well preserved example of the Gothic Revival architecture used throughout the latter estate.  

 

The Gothic-style Botany Bay Ice House with gingerbread detailing.  Click to see full screen.

 

When you step inside the building, you notice a basement where the ice was kept.  The walls are constructed of tabby (see image below) to keep the space cool and sturdy.  During the 1800s, southern ships headed north to collect large ice blocks.  They were insulated with sawdust on the journey to the Carolinas.  Upon arrival at the plantation, the blocks were placed in the cool cellar of the ice house and, again, insulated.   

(Fun Fact: According to SCIWAY, "Legend suggests Sea Cloud received its name through the marriage of a member of the Seabrook family to a member of the McLeod Family.") 

The Botany Bay Ice House.  Click to see image full-screen.

Tabby construction was a combination of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water.  Seen here is a wall from an original structure thought to have been used as a barn.

Tabby construction was a combination of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water.  Seen here is a wall from an original structure thought to have been used as a barn.

After passing the various structures, visitors head, by car, into the dense forest.  Now, it may seem counter-intuitive to drive rather than walk through nature.  While it's well-documented that I enjoy a stroll through the woods, at Botany Bay I'm fine with remaining in my vehicle.  Mind you, I do get out to take the occasional photograph.  In one of the first areas after the Ice House stands a grove of live oaks.  There is quite enough room to pull over, roam a bit,  and snap an picture.  A little further down, however, in a much narrower area, I tried the same thing and ended up walking right into a sticky spiderweb.  

This brings me to why I find driving an acceptable method of exploration:  there are quite a few dangerous critters lurking about the property.  I made the mistake of reading a webpage full of warnings after visiting Botany Bay.  The creatures to look out for are snakes, alligators, poisonous spiders, disease carrying insects, and ticks.  The page included all of the aforementioned and warned that with its remote location and spotty cell service, help does not come quickly to Botany Bay.  So, if you are hell-bent on encountering a snake, I recommend visiting the Edisto Serpentarium located just down 174.  They have anti-venom.

 
 

As evidenced by these images, beautiful sights can be observed through the safety of your car window.  It makes one think about the intense challenges colonists must have faced.  Imagine traveling by boat all the way from Europe and landing upon this dense, primitive landscape.  Even then, it was filled with foreign reptiles, animals, and insects.  I'll never stop marveling at the colonists' perseverance, and the wisdom and ingenuity no doubt possessed by our Native American brothers and sisters.

light.jpg
Driving path through the woods.

Driving path through the woods.

Hampton Plantation

Whether you have traveled to Charleston or have an interest in early United States history, it is likely that you have heard of the Horrys, Pinckneys, and Rutledges.  The latter names appear on such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  They also interrelate at Hampton Plantation.  Now a state historic site, Hampton passed through the Horry-Pinckney-Rutledge line from the 1700s until the 1970s, when it was sold to SC.  The plantation house, a Georgian mansion, was carefully restored prior to the sale.  Visitors can tour the home and walk the vast acreage of the property.   

Below are images of the house and grounds including a small family cemetery.

 
 

While steeped in Colonial and Antebellum history, the chapter of Hampton's story that interested me greatly was its last.  The final resident of the estate was Archibald Rutledge (1883-1973), first poet laureate of South Carolina.  I discovered his writing shortly after moving to the Lowcountry and was instantly impressed with his lyrical recollections and observances.  Rutledge spent his boyhood at Hampton, however, many of his adult years were passed while studying and teaching in the north.  Upon his retirement, he returned to his homestead.  With the help of his beloved African American comrades, Rutledge restored Hampton Plantation to its former glory.  He detailed the process in his book, Home on the River.

 

George Washington was a visitor to the plantation during his presidency.  It is rumored that the homeowners were concerned that the oak tree in front of the mansion was blocking the newly constructed portico.  During his stay, the lady of the house asked the President for his opinion on the matter.  He urged her to leave the tree where it stood.  Since then, it has affectionately been called the George Washington Oak.
(Image captured with an infrared filter.  Click on photo to view larger)

 

My favorite of Archibald Rutledge's works (though I confess I've only read a handful) is Life's Extras.  It is a book of thoughts and meditations that establishes a deep connection between nature and spirituality.  It describes some things, like shelter and water, to be necessities; while others, such as sunsets, stars, and colors, to be life's extras.  I can relate to this philosophy as I view the world through a similar lens.

I find that physical and mental activities are necessities for any living creature.  For me, the best place to exercise the mind and the body is in the forest.  Walks in the woods help me clear my head, reconnect with nature, and find inner balance.  To feel spiritually revived, I am reliant upon life's extras, for those are the elements that impart the most profound effects.  Sunshine filtering through tree branches...a back-lit leaf illuminated in a soft halo... a babbling stream flowing over roots and rocks...the swooping shadows of an overhead bird cast upon the forest's floor.  Though simply natural occurrences, to me these are sensory poems which invigorate the soul.  

Luckily, at Hampton, there are plenty of paths that wind through the forest and along the Santee River.  On my last visit, I took one such stroll through the wooded sanctuary.  The following are photographs from the day:

A cypress root in swampy water.  It reminds me of floating on my back in a refreshing pool on a summer's day.

A cypress root in swampy water.  It reminds me of floating on my back in a refreshing pool on a summer's day.

Cypress swamp.

Cypress swamp.

 
 
A babbling brook.

A babbling brook.

An illuminated sapling.

An illuminated sapling.

Recommendations:

  • If you're in the Charleston area, drive out to Hampton Plantation.  The grounds are free!
  • Take the home tour.  I have not yet had the opportunity to experience it as it was not offered on the days I visited.  Check the SC State Park website for times.
  • Stand under the vast canopy of the George Washington Oak
  • Take a stroll to the cemetery to pay your respects to Archibald Rutledge
  • Lose yourself on an enchanting walk through the woods
  • For an extra special experience, read Life's Extras and/or Home by the River by Archibald Rutledge prior to your visit