West Virginia Department of Commerce Close Encounters with Nature

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Close Encounters with Nature

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Close Encounters with Nature

Close Encounters with NatureYou’d be surprised how often Katherine Cimaglio’s guests ask her to explain the chicken and the egg. “People don’t know where their food comes from anymore!” she laughs. 

Close Encounters with Nature
Ed and Katherine Cimaglio on the steps of the 200-year-old stone house that belonged to Katherine’s family.

Fortunately, they’ve come to the right place: The Cider Mill House in Hedgesville. Here, guests can be as hands on as they want to be with the farm, its animals or the outdoors, while enjoying a comfortable stay at the bed and breakfast.

Located about two hours outside of Washington, DC, halfway between Martinsburg and Berkeley Springs, the 200-year-old stone house was Cimaglio’s childhood home. She inherited it and converted it in a B&B with her husband, Ed, four years ago.

“As a kid growing up here, it was just the biggest playground in the world. I love to watch new people discover it, now,” she said. 

“We’re very animal oriented. Our Guinea hens and chickens are handled a lot and they’re friendly. They’re always looking for hand outs. Our goats are our goodwill ambassadors; in fact, past guests ask for them by name! The goats come up to people for snacks and treats and they’re great fun to watch. We shear them twice a year and that’s an interesting activity for people, too.”

Close Encounters with Nature
The Cider Mill House Bed & Breakfast

Natural and local history lessons abound for the inn’s guests, mostly city or suburban people who come from DC, Baltimore, New Jersey and New York. In addition to the farm animals, the Cimaglios have created three miles of hiking trails through the woods and they’re working with the West Virginia Division of Forestry on land management projects, including reducing non-native, invasive plant species. Nearby is the area where the stones for the house were quarried 200 years ago. There’s also a flint outcropping where the Indians once stopped and made arrowheads – with plenty of arrowheads still around to be found.

“Our guests walk in the woods and see wild turkey and deer. They bring back interesting rocks or arrowheads. There are natural springs on the property and folks are interested to learn how water bubbles up out of the ground. People don’t get outside much anymore. Here, they like the opportunity to interact with nature in a comfortable and safe way. 

“People are overwhelmed by the open space. They come down to breakfast and comment on how quiet it is. Or they’re amazed by the number of stars or how dark it is,” she adds. “I try to get them to turn off all the electronics and just decompress. If people can go home feeling better about themselves and the world and their lives – then, we’ve done it!”

Stepping back two centuries to brand the business
Cimaglio’s degree is in archeology; so, she has a keen interest in the area’s history. The website for the inn promotes stepping back into 18th Century country living, with all the comforts of the 21st Century. Breakfasts are modern interpretations of what you would have eaten 200 years ago. 

Close Encounters with Nature
Fred, a fiber-producing Pygora goat

“You have to know who you are before you can advertise your business and appeal to people,” she explained. Cultural heritage tourism is definitely a part of the Cimaglio’s marketing plan.

“We’re a place that people have to find. We’re not in a city. We’re not at a major attraction. We needed to find our identity as our own destination. Talking to a business coach helped me focus my ideas and define who we are and where I wanted to go with this business,” she explained. 

Cimaglio previously ran a bed and breakfast in Charles Town. When she inherited The Cider Mill House, she called small business development coach Christina Lundberg for advice. Lundberg and the Martinsburg SBDC office helped the Cimaglios develop a business plan and advertising ideas, providing guidance on publicity and promotion. The SBDC also provided a lot of networking resources through which the Cimaglio met other businesses in the areas to share customer referrals.

The Cider Mill House also is a member of the West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association. The association’s website, wvbedandbreakfasts.com, is a great resource for any geo-savvy traveler looking for unique experiences. The site allows visitors to sort B&Bs by amenities such as their geographic location, whether they follow green policies, whether they’re a working farm or are located near area activities like historic sites, state parks, museums or other outdoor recreation activities.

“People like the idea of green practices. We practice that here – buying local foods from Orr’s Farm Market, growing some produce ourselves and fresh eggs and meat. Our animals help us reuse the breakfast leftovers and scraps, too.

“People who travel to B&Bs also are doing so because they like the intimacy of it, the personal experience, the safety and the personality of the place – and a story to tell.”