Recipe from our book Adventure Walks for Families in and around London
On such a beautiful sunny day, the first proper one of the year, we thought we'd head off to Charles Darwin's house in Downe, Kent. It's a very short run, just off junction 4 of the M25.
It is our 'Survival of the Fittest' walk from the red Adventure Walks for Families book. Chapter 19. It's been a while since we've walked it and my youngest has been studying Evolution and Darwin at school so the timing is good.
This is such a great walk because it has a good centre to it: Darwin's house.
Not only is Down House grand and glorious, it is a natural history treasure trove of stuffed birds, shell and bone collections, insects and butterflies. Charles Darwin's study is set out just as it would have been; the shelves are lined with books; the dining room is laid for supper; the wooden stair-slide his children used is propped up in the playroom. And it has a great tearoom.
This is the meadow just below Darwin's house. It was in this chalky meadow that Darwin set up the first ever scientific study of plant diversity, studying the wild flowers through the seasons. Later in the summer, this meadow is even more beautiful as the grass is long and full of wild flowers.
This is the wooden door into the gardens of Darwin's
house. The path through the woods takes to you this secret back entrance. It is just next to the Sandwalk, where Darwin famously walked daily, before lunch and in the afternoon, noting the wildlife around him through the seasons.
And here are the greenhouses where Darwin conducted his plant experiments.
Darwin was close to his children and his love of nature was infectious to them. They would often stride out across the downs together with a picnic and set about collecting moths and butterflies or monitor bees in the meadows.
Darwin studied the wild orchids in the nearby woods. Some of them were out today. The best time to see them flower is between May and July.
We rounded the walk off with a pub lunch at The Old Jail, the drinking hangout of the Battle of Britain pilots during the war. Perfect.