After a quiet weekend staying close to home to give the children a chance to get over the extreme tiredness that seemed to hit them at the end of the school term, we decided it was time for a family day trip today. After last night’s storm – during which we lost several fence panels in our garden – the day dawned clear and breezy. So we packed our warm coats and wellies and headed 45 minutes out of London to visit Down House – the home of Charles Darwin. I’ve wanted to go for ages, but hadn’t realised quite how close it was – and how rural it felt. As soon as we arrived, London felt a million miles away.
It’s such a beautiful house and really interesting and accessible for the little ones. We were warmly greeted and handed Easter challenge worksheets for the kids. Anticipating a chocolate reward, Alex was immediately focused on finding clues around the house. Consequently, we visited the carefully reconstructed rooms a little faster than I would’ve liked and we missed the opportunity of reading a lot of the information panels. Good excuse to come back I think! We did pause for a while in an activity room where Alex and Sophie enjoyed some colouring with the hostess of Down House – Emma Darwin (or at least a very friendly actress who delighted in telling the kids about what life was like in the house in the 19th century!).
After a delicious lunch in the little cafe in Darwin’s kitchen, we enjoyed walking around the gardens and greenhouse (still seeking the final clues outside!). Sophie loved the puddles and I loved being in Darwin’s greenhouse surrounded by orchids.
There were signs of Spring everywhere – the children looked closely at the plants and bushes looking for buds. The house and gardens must look glorious later in the year.
Alex did a great job reading the challenge questions by himself and completing the worksheet – and was thrilled to receive a giant chocolate coin and some play dough for his efforts!
Once we’d exhausted Down House, we decided to take advantage of the dry weather and go for a walk. We decided to try the Downe Circular – an easy walk I’d seen recommended on another local blog this week. I hoped at less than 3 miles it would be achievable for Sophie, who has a tendency to drag her heels!
Within minutes of leaving Down House, we felt like we were truly in the countryside. We didn’t spot another soul for ages and enjoyed not seeing or hearing roads or houses.
For such a short walk, it was really varied in terms of the walking. The kids loved running across the big, open meadows.
I liked the quiet woodland paths.
Alex liked all the sticks he found along the way! He has such a great imagination – turning the sticks into key props for various stories. One was a propellor for a flying machine, and this one was an archeologists hammer (he’s currently obsessed with Indiana Jones, so stopped to run a mini dig for an ancient artefact for a while!).
Alex was impressed when Matt pointed out some World War Two bomb craters along the way. The walk passes close to Biggin Hill airfield, and the Luftwaffe attacked it several times in 1940. It was a bit too windy to see any interesting planes taking off today from the airfield though!
Here we are – a bit blurry and in the shade – but happy to be outside together in the fresh air!
Just as we were nearing the outskirts of the village of Downe, the blue sky turned grey and the rain started. So we were relieved to reach a fabulous tea shop in the heart of the village. And what a welcoming platter of cakes greeted us! A big slice of delicious rainbow vanilla cake restored the slightly weary children and by the time we’d eaten all the crumbs, the sun was shining again for our short drive home.
Such an easy trip from London (and totally possible on public transport too) – we’ll definitely be back when it’s warmer so we can see the Down House gardens in full bloom.