Downe in the southern part of the Borough of Bromley is known for being home to 'godfather of evolution' Charles Darwin and appears like many you would expect in Kent.

London isn’t all about towering skyscrapers and bustling city life. In fact, since the creation of Greater London nearly 65 years ago, much of it could easily be mistaken for a scene from a quintessential English postcard.

Take Downe, for instance, nestled in the southern part of the Borough of Bromley, just four miles south of Orpington.

Famed as the residence of Charles Darwin, the ‘godfather of evolution’, this village is every bit as charming as you’d expect from its former county of Kent.

Surrounded by farms, golf courses, and grand private homes, and crisscrossed by numerous public footpaths, it’s an ideal spot for a day of rambling, hiking or exploring the picturesque London/Kent/Surrey border.

And the cherry on top?

Its location within London means it’s served by two TfL bus services: the 146 (Bromley-Downe) and R8 (Orpington-Biggin Hill via Downe).

For just a 20-minute bus ride from either Bromley South or Orpington stations, it’s a fantastic destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital for a day, without actually leaving London.

Visitors can explore Darwin’s greenhouse where he conducted his experiments, ‘The Sandwalk’ where he took contemplative strolls, and the study where he documented his findings. The R8 bus conveniently stops right outside.

Just a stone’s throw away from Down House, you’ll find the village high street, home to the Grade II* listed St Mary’s Church, dating back to the 13th century. The high street also boasts two traditional country pubs, an Indian restaurant, and a village hall, all contributing to an idyllic day out.

For those with a passion for transport, both the 146 and R8 buses offer unique journeys, winding down country lanes after departing from the bustling SE London hubs of Bromley and Orpington. There’s even a quirky half-sized bus stop flag on the High Street, a rare sight on the London bus network.

From the village, walking routes lead across fields and valleys to neighbouring villages such as Keston, Green Street Green, and larger areas like Biggin Hill and New Addington. The latter route includes a walk around the northern perimeter of Biggin Hill Airport, known as London’s VIP airport.

This is a particular treat for transport buffs, especially aviation enthusiasts, who can watch a variety of exclusive and luxury aircraft taking off and landing.

The eastern edge of the village is home to Downe Bank Nature Reserve, a site crisscrossed by several footpaths. This is where Darwin conducted numerous scientific studies that contributed to his theory of evolution.

The reserve is a haven for 31 different bird species and several rare plants, thanks to ongoing conservation efforts. However, there’s no car parking near the reserve, so it’s recommended to take the bus, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring a reliable map or smartphone.

Bus route 146 operates every 60-65 minutes daily from Bromley North and Bromley South stations, while route R8 runs every 60-90 minutes from Orpington station or Biggin Hill on Mondays to Saturdays. South of Downe Church, route R8 operates on a Hail and Ride basis, meaning buses will stop wherever it’s safe along the country lanes, including at Down House.

There are no fixed bus stops, so passengers need to signal to the driver from the roadside.



Hayes (Kent) Village Association

The Association was founded in 1933 to protect the interests of residents and preserve the local amenities.

Scroll Up


This website contains content supplied by third parties.  Information contained herein does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by Hayes (Kent) Village Association