Darwin’s Down House near Bromley, England, a short train ride away from London. This view of the house was snapped from the gardens in back of the house. If you look closely, you can see part of the cafe (under the blue umbrellas) to the right of the crooked tree in this picture.
I am really proud of this photograph, by the way.
Sunday, the day after the Nature Network Science Blog conference had concluded, Mike, Mo and I caught a train to Bromley, England, where we toured Darwin’s Down House and gardens and walked along the famous Sandwalk that Darwin once strode as he contemplated his book and his ideas about evolution.
We went to the Victoria Train Station in London, where we caught a sleek silvery train to the nearby town of Bromley.
Here is the train that we rode from London to Bromley, England.
Professor Steve Steve, never very talkative, was nonetheless clearly excited about visiting the home of his hero, Charles Darwin. I finally had to place him on the table by the train window to calm him down. Here, he is listening Mike, Mo and I as we discuss our upcoming adventure while the countryside speeds by.
Professor Steve Steve was eager to see the home that his hero, Darwin, lived in. Here is Professor Steve on the train, sitting by the window as the countryside speeds by.
After the train ride, we caught a bus to Bromley and rode it to the end of the line. I was delighted by this tree with benches around it in the middle of a roundabout next to the bus stop, so I had to photograph it to share with you.
Roundabout with tree in the middle in Bromley, England.
Here is a glimpse of part of the town of Bromley as seen from the bus stop. It is quite charming, isn’t it?
This is a view of part of the town from the bus stop in Bromley where we began walking to Darwin’s Down House.
As we walked away from the bus stop, I saw two horse riders approaching, riding beautiful horses, and managed to snap a photograph of one of them. Isn’t this a fine looking animal?
A horse and rider near the roundabout in Bromley, England. You can see our bus parked in the background. Being a horse lover, I had to snap this picture to share with you.
After the horse riders disappeared, we walked down a road that was bounded on each side by a thick growth of trees and foliage. There was no sidewalk, and the road was narrow — a lane and a half wide, really. The thicket on each side of the road accentuated my feeling of being hemmed in. Interestingly, this was not an uncomfortable feeling for me, having spent much of my life walking through rainforests of the United States’ Pacific Northwest, looking and listening for birds.
Along the way, I would catch a glimpse of roads that branched off from the road we were walking along, which made me think of Robert Frost’s evocative poem, The Road Not Taken.
A side road as we walked to Darwin’s Down House near Bromley, England. I felt I had been transported back in time.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost (1874-1963).
Mike, Mo and I walked along a small country road to Darwin’s Down House near Bromley, England.
Along the way, I spied an antique letterbox by the side of the road. This style of letterbox is nearly extinct throughout England, so of course, I had to snap a picture of it to share with you.
As I walked from Bromley to Down House, I spied this antique letterbox by the side of the road. This is truly an endangered species that is near extinction.
Even though it had just finished raining, the walk was cool and pleasant and not very long, really. Soon we were walking through a parking lot next to Down House, peering at a lush overgrowth of brush and dried grasses, and then we were greeted by a sign that stood next to a brick wall;
The sign by the brick wall in the parking lot on my way to Darwin’s Down House. Bromley, England.
After a short walk along a pathway through a brushy area filled with apple trees, there it was: Darwin’s Down House!
Darwin’s Down House near Bromley, England, a short train ride away from London. This side view of the house was snapped as we approached from the parking lot.
The front of Down House, where Charles Darwin lived from 1842 until his death in 1882.
Darwin’s Down House near Bromley, England, a short train ride away from London. This is the front of the house.
Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the house. I was terribly disappointed, since I wanted very much to share images of what we saw and learned in there, so instead, I had to be content with snapping pictures of the front door. Of course, but the gift shop was only to happy to separate us from our money in exchange for glossy gift books filled with images. I am proud to say that they were not successful with me (although, I would have happily purchased a t-shirt if they had one that was of good quality available).
The front door to Down House. It is open and inviting on this cool and damp morning.
We each got a free self-guided audio tour with our paid admission, so everyone walked around with headphones on as we gazed upon the rooms where Darwin did his writing and thinking and microscopy on barnacles and beetles and other things. The main floor of the house had been restored as accurately as possible, and much of the wallpapers, carpets, paintings, furniture and books in Darwin’s office were original. Standing in Darwin’s office was the highlight of the tour, in my opinion.
A drawing of Darwin’s Office. This is remarkably close to what I saw when I visited.
The next floor of the house, which was where the children’s bedrooms and “school room” (originally, the nursery) were located, had all been transformed into a museum of Darwin’s life and was filled with photographs showing Darwin’s ancestry, and photographs of his children, along with some of their personal artifacts and toys. Some basic evolution information could be found on this floor as well.
The third floor was closed to the public, which immediately filled me with a nearly insatiable curiosity to see what is up there .. I am sure my imagination made it seem more interesting than it is in real life, though.
It was eerie to walk around Down House, almost as though I had been transported back in time, and I might run into Darwin at any minute — as I walked around, I wondered what I might say if I should run into Darwin. What would you say if you came face-to-face with Darwin himself?
Overall, this was an interesting tour and was well worth the admission fee.