Monday 15 August 2016

A Visit to Darwin's House

Bit of a back story, please bear with me.

Two years ago we visited Lullingstone Roman Villa in Eynsford, Kent to help Miss D research a project on the Romans. The site is managed, by the rather fantastic, English Heritage and whilst there I decided to sign up to the membership programme. I joined as a Family of one + up to six children, which is fabulous as it means the girls can bring a friend along and it doesn't cost a thing to get them in!

Anyway, to get to the point. Ever since I've had my English Heritage Membership, I have wanted to Visit Charles Darwin's home, Down House and last week, we finally made it. I say we finally made it as not only has it taken two years to go less than an hour up the road (not two years travelling, I hasten to add), but I then ended up making a slight detour up the back end of nowhere when I wasn't sure which way the SatNav was directing me (is it just me who finds the big green arrow a little ambiguous at times?). Back on the correct road, (I must confess I was still a little doubtful as to the accuracy of said SatNav) and several twists and turns up country lanes, we are eventually rewarded with a friendly brown heritage sign telling us we are, indeed headed in the right direction, only for me to go sailing past the main entrance. This is not such a problem as it may seem because we are now headed to the overflow car park and when we pull in I see that we are in good company as lots of other people have also missed the main entrance (I know we've all missed it as I spotted a whole lot of empty spaces in the main car park).

This is by far the friendliest English Heritage site we've visited. I've decided this just after parking the car, because we're given a very enthusiastic welcome from a lovely smiley lady who is overseeing the parking. She is lovely and tells us exactly where to go to find the main entrance.

So, from the overflow car park you enter via the front of the house to the most beautiful scene.

This is truly my idea of what a country house should be and in my head I've already moved in and am purveying my rather lovely surroundings from my beautiful veranda. Well it would be rude not to, surely? We follow the signs round to the other side of the house and eventually find our way in. 

Again, we are greeted by another friendly and enthusiastic member of staff. He is super and chats away to the girls about where to go and what to do. It's a lovely touch as it gets them engaged and they want to look around. Now, I have to be honest here and say the enthusiasm did wane a bit inside the house, but this was more down to my girls intolerance of a fairly large party of other children who were also visiting. Unfortunately, this party were not particularly well versed in how to behave when visiting historical places of interest and were pretty much breaking every rule possible whilst another (super friendly) staff member was running around after them giving instructions as to what not to do as politely, as was humanly possible, to do so. If being polite and patient were an Olympic sport then this staff member would indeed, win a gold! However, patience is not high on the list of strengths where my girls are concerned, so we gave the history bit a miss and headed to the sanctuary of the gardens. However, before I tell you about the gardens, it is worth mentioning that if you do visit with children, they are allowed to try on period costumes in Charles and Emma's bedroom and you are also able to take photos in that room. And, back to the garden.

Wow! The gardens are truly something to behold! I am not a keen gardener. I try, but it really isn't my thing. I have a tendency to kill plants and as such, feel genuine pity for any plant that comes into my home as I know it's days are numbered. No matter how hard I try, I always end up getting it wrong. That said I have a clematis plant in my garden that I do absolutely nothing with and it just thrives, I have no idea how it survives, but it surprises me year on year as it flourishes.

Anyway, I digress, yet again. The flowers and plants in the gardens are beautiful and even the girls were happy to walk around them. I'm really not great at describing gardens as I have a ridiculously limited knowledge of  all things botanical, so will just post the photos (with maybe the odd comment).

Can you tell they didn't really want their photo taken?

The Glasshouse
Miss L and I rather enjoyed the Glasshouse. Just off this, is a room with a cut through hive and you can see the bees working away. We were both quite enthralled by it and especially liked the little plastic tube where they could make their way in and out of their hive. Miss D on the other hand is not so keen on insects and particularly dislikes bees, so we sort of lost her for a bit. It's OK, we found her in the gardens patiently waiting whilst the very bees she was avoiding were happily buzzing around freely visiting all the flowers; I'm still trying to work out her logic.

Kitchen Gardens

I'm not usually one for gardens that don't contain pretty flowers for me to look at, but the scale of this kitchen garden was such that even I was impressed. I was quite shocked to find myself admiring vegetables and thinking, 'Ooh wouldn't it be nice to grow my own veg.' I'm clearly not going to grow my own veg as it would require green fingers which, we have already established, I do not have.

And so off we pottered, back to the flower garden and more bees.

Gardens done, it was time for the compulsory visit to the tea rooms. Now I didn't photograph the food, that would have been teasing as the cake was mouth wateringly delicious, but I would highly recommend the cherry shortbread and Miss L managed to make a citrus drizzle cake disappear in record time! And, guess what? Another fabulous member of staff. If you know me well, you will know that tea is very important to me. Hence, this particular staff member became my favourite person in the world (maybe not the world, but the county, perhaps). Why? Well, I ordered a pot of tea for one, but there were no small pots left, so I got a large pot instead and it was filled as a large pot. Once again, happy days and I was in tea heaven!

It was then time for us to trot off back to the car and head home to Little Orange Dog, having had a lovely afternoon; but not before being enthusiastically waved off by another happy member of staff.

And just before I end this post, I have to say, English Heritage at Down House, I have no idea where you found your team, but they are truly amazing and really contributed to making a good day out great! We will definitely be visiting again.

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