Darwin, Down and Downe
If you’re travelling to Down House
, home of Charles Darwin
on public transport, you need to know that buses to Downe
are very infrequent, by which I mean every 90 minutes Monday to Saturday and not at all on Sunday. I discovered this when I had just missed one. I had a nice 80 minutes at Orpington Station, chatting to bus drivers and reading my book, but it didn’t make for good progress.
It’s a 25 minute ride to Down House from Orpington, with various Hail and Ride sections along the way, so once out of the town, you make speedy progress into the countryside. Shortly after Downe village you need to ring the bell and tell the driver you want to get off at Down House. I think most people must travel by car but, get the timings right, and it’s a straightforward trip on public transport.
On arrival you are recommended to start your visit upstairs, where there is an excellent exhibition about Darwin’s life, research, writings and, especially his voyage on the Beagle. They have recreated, to life-size, the cabin he used during the voyage and there is a holographic Darwin, working away in front of you, looking very realistic.
Garden Down House
Back downstairs, you are invited to listen to a detailed audio tour of the downstairs rooms and the garden, which is lovely. Although Darwin used the garden for his experiments, it was designed by his wife Emma, rather than a professional and she obviously got a lot of enjoyment from it.
Carnivorous Plants, Greenhouse Down House
You can see the ‘wormstone,’ designed by Darwin’s son, Henry and stroll along the Sandwalk, following in the footsteps of Darwin, taking a break from his work.
There is a lovely café which serves lunches and teas, so you have all you need for a nice day out.
I walked the short distance back into Downe village, looking out for traffic, as there is no pavement for most of the route. There you have a choice of two pubs and, if you are there on a Sunday afternoon in summer, the church is open for cream teas, though you will have had to come by car.