Suddenly we keep going to Kent. One week it’s for Lapland, the next Dickens’ world and now to tour Charles Darwin’s house. But what a trip – train just 18 minutes from London Bridge to Orpington (or start at Charing Cross), then jump on the R8 bus (which meets the train and is even platform signposted from the station) to be dropped directly at Darwin’s former home, Down House, near Downe Village.
Darwin is probably the world’s best known scientist. But he also loved his children (very unusual apparently for a Victorian pater) and his Mrs, Emma (also his cousin). And then there’s the Origin of Species, still incredibly readable and the debt we owe him for demystifying how all of us got here.
The English Nature exhibit shows his first passion was barnacles, explains that he once tipped worms on to the grand piano in the drawing room to try and work out if they could hear and he also seemed to be over-fond of carnivorous plants.
The girls wanted to live in his lovely house. Pete and I just had a storming fit of jealousy about how you could follow your desire to write, or think, or dream with zero interruptions (except from crowds of children) while the staff prepared meals, dusted, washed clothes and polished rooms. The visit was a great success – go now before the rush to mark the 150th centenary of the writing of the Origin of Species.
Other pluses include seeing Darwin’s writing desk, pacing the sand walk where he worked up his ideas, the shop, the tea rooms and all that stuff about finches and giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands.