Visitors can explore a unique place in the history of science and evolution at the English Heritage home and garden of Charles Darwin.
Down House in Kent is a place of discovery where families can combine a fascinating day out with an entertaining adventure to see the past brought to life with brilliant events.
Children can delve daringly into the mysteries of science at Discover Darwin on Tuesday 26 through to Friday 29 May. A chance for eager little ones to grab a lab coat, dust off craft kits and discover answers to questions such as, why giraffes have long necks, why a penguin can’t fly and why a monkey has a tail.
Visitors can enjoy an hour-long walking tour of the gardens with Summer Garden Tours. A chance to hear about the experiments Darwin carried out to help prove his theory of evolution and see how the grounds have been restored to their original Victorian layout, complete with authentic planting. Orchids, sundews, peas, hollyhocks and even weeds all played a central role in Charles Darwin’s evolutionary studies. Many of the experiments he conducted on them in his ‘living’ laboratory have now been recreated and form the highlight of these twice-weekly guided tours of the grounds taking place throughout July and August. The tours will bring to life Darwin’s prolific studies of nature both in the garden at Down House as well as the surrounding estate. Families are welcome, but may not be suitable for younger children.
However, children will love to set sail on a nautical adventure as they learn the ropes of seafaring at Seafaring School on Tuesday 28 July through to Saturday 1 August. They can experience life on HMS Beagle when setting sail for the Galapagos Islands ready to make a big discovery and if that wasn’t enough Brilliant Bones on Tuesday 4 to Saturday 8 August gives little ones the chance to uncover the secrets and importance of archaeology. They will be invited to step back to the 1800s and join John Lubbock, the father of archaeology as he’ll regale tales of his digs in Austria and tell how to discover the past by what is found in the ground.
Children can get their thinking caps on and get brains buzzing at Discoveries and Inventions from Tuesday 11 to Saturday 15 August. They can design something great to add to the record books, whilst taking a trip through history’s most exciting inventions.
Small hunters are wanted for Ugly Bug Safari on Tuesday 18 to Saturday 22 August; where children can grab magnifying glasses and join in the big hunt for some mini beasts and discover a bug’s life. This is hotly followed by the popular Victorian Games Galore event, from skittles to quoits, this is a chance to play like a Victorian as kids can master their skills to outmanoeuvre their opponent from croquet to chess.
The fun isn’t just for kids, there is the fantastic chance to join expert gardeners who’ll uncover a different topic every weekend in September on a special gardener-led tour of the productive parts of the gardens. Kick starting the Harvest Season is Verdant Vegetables with heritage salad crops and leafy vegetables, followed by Bee Keeping giving visitors the opportunity to discover how to have a harmonious hive to collecting the fruits of their labour. Then there is Curious Cucurbits as guests can explore the wide range of cucumbers, courgettes, gourds, pumpkins, marrows and squash. The final harvest event is Apple & Pears, from cultivating heritage varieties to picking and storing problematic pears.
There are also hands-on activities available for younger visitors over October half-term, families can pick out their pumpkin at Halloween Pumpkin Carving on Monday 26 to Saturday 31 October and show off their carving skills as little ones scare themselves silly.
Back by popular demand, is an incredible opportunity to see Darwin’s garden as the nights grow darker and the stars grow brighter at Sky at Night – Star Gazing on Friday 20 November. Visitors will be introduced to astronomy and hear expert talks and top tips, before looking through the telescopes to explore the night sky and gaze among the twinkling stars in a wonderful twilight atmosphere. It is advised to book in advance. This is followed by Origin Weekend on Saturday 21 – Sunday 22 November, as visitors can celebrate the anniversary of ‘Origin Day’ with a variety of specialist talks and tours.
A Natural Christmas: Decoration Making and Gifts inspired by Nature will bring the 2015 events to a close on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November as visitors can see how Victorian house staff would have celebrated Christmas. The opportunity for festive craft making using natural foliage found in the garden while families weave their magic to make small seasonal items, from winter stems, to holly and pines cones.