urban75 walk club: Hayes (Kent) to Downe
Report by urban75 editor, Sept 2005
We met up at a bizarre cod-Baronial uber-pub called the New Inn, conveniently right next to Hayes station.
The station is a small terminus served by trains from Charing Cross and London Bridge (watch out for the ever-shifting departure platforms there though!).
Our trusty guide leads us through Hayes Common.
The first signs of Autumn!
Our short walk through the Common was rewarded by the sight of the Greyhound Inn, Commonside, Keston, Kent.
Best of all, they had the fabulous Harvey's Sussex Ale on tap!
We weren't as miserable as this photo seems to suggest either. We were having fun, Godammit!
(Note the hand reaching across to sneakily grab a chip.)
The beer wasn't bad at the pub, but it has to be said that the chip portions bordered on Lilliputian.
Back on the road, heading towards the Ponds.
Middle pond. The presence of a road (and ice cream van) meant that this site was a lot busier than the virtually-ignored first pond we passed a few minutes before.
Alan tried to impress me with some improbably yarn about how a German bomber managed to avoid the trees and perfectly crash land into the pond (which must almost match its dimensions) before sinking.
My eyebrow remained arced skywards throughout.
We are here.
Looking down at the far end of the Middle pond.
At the southern end of the upper pond is Caesars's Well, which is the spring source for the nearby ponds and the start of the Ravensbourne River which eventually flows into the Thames.
Ceasar's Well was named by the Romans, and there are some Roman remains nearby.
They've done some modern jiggerypokery and paved around the spring, which flows to the right of the picture.
Our guide insisted that the water was so pure that you could have drunk it straight from the ground (had the two dogs not piled in), but a later experiment involving an immobile lolly stick suggested that you'd be better off drinking on this side of the well.
Crossing the main Bromley/Westerham road and heading south, there's a great view over the Vale of Keston from the footpath that skirts the Holwood House estate.
William Pitt lived in Holwood House from 1785 to 1802. Whilst there he had the grounds landscaped, trashing the iron age earthworks which had been on the site.
On the same path we came along Wilberforce's seat and oak.
The inscription on the seat reads: "From Mr Wilberforce's diary, 1788, 'At length, I well remember after a conversation with Mr Pitt in the open air at the root of an old tree at Holwood, just above the steep descent into the vale of Keston, I resolved to give notice on a fit occasion in the House of Commons of my intention to bring forward the abolition of the slave trade.'"
We looked around a bit for the 'root of the old tree', but we were buggered if we were going to start diving into thick undergrowth to a bit of ancient wood. But it's in there somewhere, apparently.
With perilously low flying aircraft buzzing above, we made our way to the village of Downe across these open fields.
A couple of incredibly friendly horses came over to meet us.
The eye covering is to keep off the flies, and the horses are able to see through them (either that or it had built in radar).
A sign in the window said, 'Support your local shop before it fails to support you.'
Sadly, it seems that time ran out for Downe Post Office.
Downe is a pleasant little village, sporting a large village pond and the small St. Mary the Virgin church with a shingled spire.
There's been a church this site since 1538.
What the village is famous for, however, is that is was where Charles Darwin lived for 40 years, in the nearby Down House (without the 'e').
At the end of our walk, a quick beer was in order, so we trooped into the Queen's Head in Downe.
The crew enjoying a well earned beer at the journey's end.