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Photo Diary: A visit to the Home and Gardens of Charles Darwin in England

Visiting Charles Darwin's Greenhouse wearing Shakuhachi  photogenic green midi dress
Is there any greater joy than that provided by having free reign to explore Charles Darwin’s greenhouse (still stocked with the same plants and bees that inspired many of his experiments!) while David Attenborough provides audio commentary for the experience in your ear? If you answered no to this question then I advise you to read on.

Located just an hours drive from London is Down House – the former home where the English naturalist and all-round inspiration lived with his family for the last 40 years of his life (from 1842 to 1882) and worked on his theories of evolution by natural selection. Fortunately, the site is today preserved as a museum by the English Heritage group and open to visitors every day.

The museum is split up into three different parts. The first section is the upstairs of the house where various displays and artifacts from Darwin’s studies are set up. There is even a room where you can play interactive games to help you to better understand the  principles of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Strangely enough, this very room is also the room in which Darwin is believed to have passed away in.

The second part of the museum is the downstairs of the house where the rooms are set up as they were when Darwin lived there, with many original pieces of furniture still present. Perhaps the most striking of these rooms is Darwin’s study (pictured below) where you can see the very same black armchair and table where Darwin sat and wrote many of his books including ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’. Before exploring the rooms make sure to pick up a free audioguide from the gift shop which will give you very detailed insight into each room and its contents, with much of the narration offered by none other than everyone’s other favourite English naturalist David Attenborough.

The third and most extensive part of the museum is the gardens of Down House. The gardens were Darwin’s outdoor laboratory and it was in these very gardens that Darwin developed many of his
groundbreaking ideas on evolution and natural selection. Guided by the voices of Attenborough and other scientists, you will see and learn about 12
experiments that Darwin conducted in these gardens, which have been recreated in the ground. You will also be guided through Darwin’s greenhouse, where he made revolutionary
discoveries about the reproductive behaviour of plants.

Although little known about, I would consider a visit to Down House as a must do for anyone with an interest in history or science. As you wander the house and garden, you are offered visual footnotes to Darwin’s theories of evolution by natural selection that cannot be compensated for by any other means.

How to get there
Catch the Thameslink from London St Pancras towards Sevenoaks and alight at South Bromley (this train takes about 25 minutes and runs on and half past every hour). From South Bromley, you then need to catch bus 146 towards Downe Church from Stop Y, alighting at Downe church (this takes about 20 minutes). Unfortunately this bus only comes at 38 minutes past the hour so you may have some time to waste in South Bromley before your bus. However, this time can be easily spent thanks to the shopping complex up the road or by having a picnic in the nearby park with food supplied by one of the many supermarkets along the way. Upon alighting at Downe church the tour of Darwin’s life starts a little earlier than expected, as the graveyard that sits at the bus stop is the very site where two of Darwin’s children are buried and where Darwin himself wished to be buried (although he was buried at Westminister Abbey instead). From here it is just a peaceful 5 minute walk through lanes of overarching trees to Down House. To return just catch bus 146 from the same bus stop back to Bromley South and then the Thameslink back into London town. Make sure to pay attention to where you are and not get lost in another world like I did, as on many of the trains if you miss St Pancras its another 30 minute journey till the next stop.

For prices and opening times click here.

Charles Darwin's study room in Downe House
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Home of Charles Darwin in Downe
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent EnglandThe Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Greenhouse of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
The Gardens of Charles Darwin at the Downe House in Kent England
Charles Darwin Downe House Garden

Charles Darwin Downe House Garden Charles Darwin Downe House Garden

Charles Darwin's Sundial at the Downe House Garden

Charles Darwin's  Downe House Garden wearing Shakuhachi photogenic midi green dress
The Gardens of Charles Darwin's Downe House in Kent England The Gardens of Charles Darwin's Downe House in Kent England

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