down and out in kent

A few weeks ago we spent the day at Down House, the home of Charles Darwin. This is a visit I’ve been meaning to make since before Eve and Leah were born when I worked for a few years in the Natural History Museum. I wasn’t at all sure how child friendly it would be which is why we’ve waited until the girls are almost five before visiting. We walked to the house from the the very pretty village of Down along a winding country road and then up through the orchard, trying to explain to Eve and Leah why Darwin was so important but other than getting some monkey impressions out of them I’m not sure they understood.

Sometimes it’s the small museums who get the family experience just right. On our visit this started with the lovely lady on the ticket desk sharing her own experiences of being a twin. Then there is a perfect family room with dressing up clothes, globes which no one minds you spinning and spinning until they fall off their spindles (Eve), books and lots of toy animals for arranging (Leah). This meant Mr Rush Hour and I could take it in turns to look round the rooms and take in all of the wonderful Darwin family memorabilia, including initials carved in a cupboard by one of Darwin’s sons. There is a homely and very child friendly cafe and the staff were even lovely about a little mishap on the way to the loos (Eve again).

Afterwards we spent an hour outside in the greenhouses, kitchen garden and orchard and my city slicker kids got to collect their first apples straight from the tree.

The house still manages to feel like a family home. We’d recently watched Creation about Darwin’s relationship with his daughter Annie, partly filmed in the house, so we knew a little about Darwin as a husband and father. There were a lot of Darwin children and Darwin does seem to have been a doting dad. On the walk back to Down village with Eve and Leah doing more enthusiastic monkey impressions, we couldn’t help but speculate on whether there was some more domestic research into Darwin’s theories on our origins!

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