Ten good reasons to visit Orpington
With excellent shopping, sporting and leisure facilities, this suburban town also has an ancient history, strong links with Darwin and a wealth of green spaces.
Crofton Roman Villa (020 8460 1442) was once the centre of a large farming estate, of which you can see ten rooms, a graphic display of the villa and the excavations, play children’s ‘Roman’ themed games and activities, and see replica Roman artefacts of household objects, plus there’s a gift shop. On 4 and 11 April there’ll be the ‘Ancient Olympic Games’ for children (booking required, 0780 513 8465).
THE PRIORY AND THE POND
Bromley Museum (01689 873826) is based in the magnificent Priory building, which was a medieval hall house, now a listed building. There are permanent collections of Roman and Anglo-Saxon pottery, glass and stoneware and other historical artefacts, as well as the ‘Avebury Room’. It is set in beautiful Arts-and-Crafts style parkland gardens, where a pond is the source of the River Cray.
AS NATURE INTENDED
If you’ve ever been curious about naturism, why not book an introductory weekend visit to Brocken urstHuHurst Naturist foundation (01689 871200) Based in 50 acres of tranquil woodland, there’s a swimming pool, sauna, camping meadow (for caravans or tents), all kinds of sports facilities, children’s play areas and woodland walks, plus a licensed bar and canteen.
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MOSAICS AND MURALS
Lullingstone Roman Villa (01322 863467) is an outstanding surviving example of what may have been a Roman farm villa, and there are still some remaining structural elements of the main house. Completed in the mid 4th century, you can see the spectacular mosaics and rare wall paintings, Roman artefacts, plus a heated bath suite. There’s a tea bar and picnic area, and children can try on Roman costumes and play Roman board games.
DARWIN AT DOWN
Charles Darwin lived at Down House (01689 859119) for 40 years, and you can see the preserved room where he wrote On the origin of the Species, fine large gardens, a hot-house with carnivorous plants and exotic orchids, plus a replica of Darwin’s cabin on HMS Beagle. On 28 March you can ‘Meet the head gardener’ for a spring walk, when he explains how the garden was restored.
ECO-AWARE NATURE RESERVE
High Elms Country Park (01689 862815) is comprised of 250 acres of countryside that you can explore, and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a local nature reserve, with chalk meadows and woodlands supporting rare wildlife. This is the home of Bromley Environmental Education Centre at High Elms (BEECHE), a sustainable education and visitor centre with caf� and rooms for use by community groups and schools. There are guided walks, a ‘Family Rambling Day’ and a ‘Woodland Day’.
Walnuts Leisure Centre (01689 870533) is a large sports centre with two swimming pools, gym, poolside health suite, multipurpose sports hall, squash courts, cr�che, children’s party room and caf�. There’s group cycling, line dancing, gym, badminton, table tennis, squash courts and zumba facilities. The Priory Link (01689 897793) is another community sports centre in the town, with an aerobics studio and a fitness gym.
All the buildings at the northern end of town (including the museum) are within a Conservation Area, and All Saints (Norman) church is well worth seeing. The long straight High Street has a great selection of shops and restaurants (over 250), plenty of car parks, and there’s the fine Walnuts Shopping Centre in the middle of town, where a market is held on Tuesdays, Friday and Saturdays. Orpington’s famous war memorial is a grand triangular column of Portland stone, six metres high.
BIRDS AND WILDLIFE
Eagle Heights (01322 866577) at Eynsford is one of the UK’s largest Bird of Prey centres, as well as an expanding wildlife park, with cheetahs, lizards, snakes, meerkats, otters and other creatures, set in marvellous surroundings, and all the animals are free to roam in their natural habitat. There are indoor and outdoor aviaries, large flying areas, flying displays, Falconry Experience Days, a play area, a shop and terrific views from the windows of the tea shop.
Lullingstone country park (01322 865995) is world famous for its collection of ancient trees: 300 veteran oak, ash, beech and hornbeam and sweet-chestnut varieties, some being 800 years old. It has areas of chalk grassland with spectacular displays of orchids and wild flowers, a visitors’ centre, caf�, toilets and a shop.
Orpington is in northern Kent, south east of London, about 4 miles from Bromley and 6 miles from Dartford. Take junction 4 off the M25, then the A224 (2 miles). Orpington Station is linked to all London and Kent locations, and is a short walk from the High Street, and there are good bus connections, call Traveline 0871 200 2233 for details.
Satnav postcode for Orpington is BR6 0TW