10 reasons to love Bromley and Chislehurst

PUBLISHED: 12:06 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:06 29 October 2019

Scadbury Park Nature Reserve was once the estate of the famous Walsingham family, the Lords of the Manor of Chislehurst (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Scadbury Park Nature Reserve was once the estate of the famous Walsingham family, the Lords of the Manor of Chislehurst (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Bridging the gap between Kent and London, these two neighbours have plenty to offer visitors

1. Deep down

One of the area's biggest visitor attractions, Chislehurst Caves are a 22-mile system of man-made chalk caves excavated around 800 years ago. They've had many uses over the centuries, as flint and chalk mines, a mushroom farm and an ammunition store, but most famously they became one of the country's biggest air raid shelters during the Second World War, sheltering up to 15,000 a night during The Blitz. Later, during the 1960s and 1970s, the caves were used for a number of underground rock concerts, with The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix all performing in the caverns. Now visitors flock here for fascinating guided tours by lamplight.

The 785-seat Churchill Theatre is one of the south east’'s major theatres (photo: Manu Palomeque)The 785-seat Churchill Theatre is one of the south east’'s major theatres (photo: Manu Palomeque)

2. Stage left

Bromley boasts one of the south-east's major theatres. The 785-seat Churchill Theatre was built in 1977 to a Brutalist design and has a striking façade. As a major entertainment venue, it presents large touring shows, concerts and comedy nights, as well as its own productions and performances by local amateur companies. October sees shows including Grease: The Musical (8-12), Richard Alston Dance Company (22) and The Salzberg Mozart Gala (28 October).

This striking mural of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution is in Bromley's Market Square (photo: Manu Palomeque)This striking mural of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution is in Bromley's Market Square (photo: Manu Palomeque)

3. Retail therapy

A major shopping destination, there are plenty of big retail brands to be found in Bromley. The Glades Shopping Centre has recently been refurbished and features everything you could need under one roof. But there are independent stores too, especially in the Bromley North Village, Sundridge Park Village and Chatterton Village areas. Chislehurst is much smaller but has its fair share of boutiques and shops. Look out for Wrattens gift shop, Paper Lane, Champion Wines and Louis Baron, and don't miss Royal Parade, an elegant row of Victorian shops and restaurants at the centre of the Commons.

4. Eating out

Some of Bromley's most popular eateries are The Fireball Pizza Company, Madison's, Havet, Texas Jack's, Bird & Bun and Nam Thai. The Glades has a number of chain restaurants and the enormous St Mark's Square development continues to take shape in the centre of Bromley, eventually offering nine restaurants. Much smaller and with more of a focus on independents, Chislehurst has chain restaurants including Giggling Squid and Côte Brasserie, but for something unique head to Denny's Seafood, Thaidine, The Thyme, Due Amici, The Imperial Arms or Annabel's II tea room.

6. Darwin's home

The village of Downe, a short drive from Bromley, is home to a very special English Heritage attraction. Down House was the family home of British naturalist Charles Darwin for 40 years, until his death in 1882. Originally chosen because of its peaceful rural setting and large study, Darwin would go on to develop his theories on evolution and natural selection while living there. Today, the voice of Sir David Attenborough leads visitors on an interactive multimedia tour of the house and gardens.

7. Farmyard friends

Close to Down House is Christmas Tree Farm. A children's farmyard attraction that offers visitors the chance to interact with the animals, it's been a family favourite since it opened (daily, year round) to the public in 1985. Expect to see alpacas, goats, donkeys, ponies, chickens, ducks and much more. The farm also has its own tea room and gardens.

8. Napoleon link

It's an unlikely claim to fame but Chislehurst was once home to the deposed Emperor of France, Napoleon III. Having fled France in 1870, he and his family spent some time living at Camden Place - now the clubhouse of Chislehurst Golf Club. There are still many references to the area's imperial history to be found, such as the Royal Parade of shops and the Imperial Arms pub. Upon his death in 1873 the Emperor was originally buried in St Mary's Church, after a grand funeral procession through Chislehurst, but his remains were moved to Farnborough 15 years later.

9. Walk this way

One of London's most interesting long-distance walking routes begins in Chislehurst and winds its way to the Thames riverside. The Green Chain Walk is a 50-mile walking network, uniquely passing through 300 open spaces of woodland, commons, parks and recreation grounds. With Chislehurst as one starting point and Dulwich as the other, walkers can follow it to Woolwich, Thamesmead or Erith.

10. Art Deco gem

A short drive away is Eltham Palace. Managed by English Heritage, the historic house partly dates from the early 14th century and was used as a royal residence for centuries - most famously, it is where Henry VIII and his siblings grew up. Although little of the original building remains, the Great Hall built by Edward IV is still a prominent feature, as well as a Tudor jousting yard. The more modern part of the palace was built in the 1930s for private owners and is thought to be one of the finest examples of Art Deco design in the country.

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