The weekend was really good. At first, it was a bit uncertain what we were going to do. I felt a bit relaxed and not that keen on doing much.
Then we saw that a newish Brit film called "Lock, stock and two smoking barrels" was on in Bromley. On the face of it, it is a film about some villains from London's East End. It was quite violent, but it was also so funny that it seemed to be poking fun at the whole gangster genre.
Some of the parts were played by real-life hard men, like Vinny Jones, a footballer notorious for his violence on and off field and Lenny McLean who was a bare-knuckle boxer. As a result, the film had a real flavour of the East End and it's characters. Worth seeing, if you can understand the accents (they even had subtitles for Brits at one point).
After that we went back to Beckenham and had a Turkish meal. The food was great and we talked to the waiters about their hometowns, some of which we had been to.
The weather was getting warmer again, so we got up around 10am, had a decent breakfast and decided to walk again. This time we decided to go to Downe, about 15 minutes drive from home.
En route, (about 300 metres from the start) we thought we would divert to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, author of "The Origin of Species." We have been before, when it was run by a society of scholarly volunteers. You used to have to ring the doorbell on Sundays after 2pm and hope they liked the look of your face. The house was preserved much as it was in his day, but only about 3-4 rooms were on show. I can't remember if they charged admission, I think they left it to you to make a voluntary contribution.
English Heritage took over the running and spent most of last year refurbishing and restoring the whole building. They have done a really good job and there are more rooms open with much better information about the house and family. At £5 per head admission, it is much more professional.
His study is fascinating with his scientific instruments and collections, even the chair he wrote his book in.
Another room houses the paraphernalia from his voyage in the "Beagle" to the Galapagos and South America.
The family rooms were almost as interesting, both Darwin and his wife Emma, were grandchildren of Josiah Wedgewood, the famous china and porcelain manufacturer. The dining room also served as a court sometimes as Darwin was also a local magistrate. The gardens have also been largely restored, but most of the trees were there in his day.
You really get a good feel for the period, the family and the tranquillity of the area.
I also felt a sense of awe at the immense contribution Darwin made to our understanding of our world. When you see the crude instruments he had to work with and the fear he had of the impending outcry that would follow publication of his book, you have to admire his persistence and dedication.
No wonder he waited twenty years to publish.
After spending more than 2 silent hours in the house, joy, we found it had a tea-room. The coffee walnut cake was very good.
After that, we went into the garden and followed the Sand Walk through the grounds. It was where he used to walk and cogitate over his findings three times a day.
We carried on walking from the boundary of the garden, but abandoned our original walk. It was a bit haphazard as I forgot map and compass, but we got in 5½ miles (8.85km) around Cudham and back, using the sun for direction. The walk was beautiful. Autumn is definitely here; leaves are turning yellow and orange, with a few reds. We saw a lot of mushrooms and other fungi. Some edible, but none of my favourites.
Other sights were a family group of around 20 long-tailed tits (Aegithalus caudatus) flitting from one tree to another calling together, and a kestrel being mobbed by a crow.
Suddenly the kestrel flipped over and came up behind the crow, giving it a scare. Next, two more crows and a magpie joined the fracas and the kestrel stooped, getting out of the way.
The weather was warm enough for shirtsleeves except on exposed heights.
Cudham has lots of beautiful secluded valleys, woodland, shaws and small fields, mainly supporting horses. It was originally known as Codeham when it was given to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, by William the Conqueror.
The sun was still in the sky, just, when we ended the walk.