Towards the end of August, we took a trip to a town not too far from us called Orpington and went to visit the Crofton Roman Villa and then stopped at a beautiful park called High Elms Country Park on the way home!
Let’s start with the Roman Villa. This incredible piece of history is unassumingly tucked away inside a small warehouse next to Orpington Train Station. The ruins are looked after by a group of private historians (mainly family) who fund the upkeep themselves AND they only charge £1.50 per adult for entry (that's way too cheap by the way, I know the ruins are small but these volunteers have done an incredible job and I feel it's worth more than just £1.50). A bit of history from the villa, it was believed to have been occupied between AD 140 to 400 and was primarily used as a large farmhouse, the very knowledgable lady at the villa explained to us that there would have been up to 20 rooms but now you can only see the remains of around 10 as the Victorians built on top of the rest of the ruins to make the train station.
Along the side of the ruin viewing area, there are some genuine and copies of artefacts found at the site, it was amazing to look at the pots, jugs, roof tiles and decorative animal horns from over 2000 years ago!
Next, we moved around to the viewing areas where you could really see the ruins in detail and almost imagine the family home that was once there. The historian pointed out to us that the red archway that you can see (which is just a reconstruction) would have led into a type of fire pit and was situated underneath the house. Now, we know the Romans were famous for inventing alot of things we use today, one of which is the very fancy underfloor heating (hypocaust) which the historian said you can see evidence of in these ruins, each one of those red pillars would have funnelled hot air from the fire pit underneath and helped to move it throughout the house and keep it warm for long periods of time, what an incredible piece of history to witness!
So, to give some context, we were told the room you see in front of you where the archway is would have been the fire-pit and kitchen, on from that would have been a dining room and the rooms to the left and back would have been bedrooms and living areas/common rooms. They explained to us that they had recovered plaster from the original walls and it showed that although the rooms would have been plastered over and painted on the edges, the families weren’t rich/powerful enough to have murals or mosaics on their walls and floors.
We had such a great time at the villa, although it was small there was loads of information and plenty of pictures showing the original excavation and artefacts. We were also told that the land the ruin sits in was bought by the historians from the council, as the council planned to build a car park on it! What a waste of an incredible piece of history that would have been. I’m always so happy to hear when people come together to protect something so special and rare and I think Crofton Roman Villa deserve all the support for their amazing work!
After our time at the villa we ventured closer to home to High Elms Country Park, if you’re on the lookout for a great piece of countryside to explore with family, friends or just yourself then you’ll want to hear about this place.
High Elms Country Park is a 250-acre area of woodland, meadows and manicured lawns that's completely free (apart from the parking) to explore to your heart's content! We started our afternoon with a homemade picnic and lovely ice cream with extra sprinkles! The grounds near the car park are immaculately kept with big, open spaces, perfect for families to relax in on warm summer days.
The grounds were originally owned by the Lubbock family from the 1800s, after which it had many different uses including a nursing college but it then unfortunately burnt to the ground and there is no house on the grounds now, but the local council have done a brilliant job of setting up a tour through your phone by scanning different QR codes along the 20-25 min walk through the grounds as it explains about the history of the family and many uses of the grounds. I’ll leave a few pictures of the walk here so you can get an idea, it was pretty accessible, there are a few wide steps and hills but for those who are pretty steady on their feet you should be fine.
This was the side garden of the stately home, it had all these incredible trees and shrubs as well as some old fountains and statues.
Here you can see the signpost explaining where the house would have stood and its layout…also I have no idea who’s glasses they are!
After seeing where the home would have stood, you make your way to the back of the grounds and onto a special viewing area built for the original owner by his wife after his death that features a huge gold clock underneath that archway at the back, although the clock isn’t there now the story surrounding it is lovely and well worth reading when you get to it.
And that was our very local day out! We had been looking for days out that are inexpensive and local to us and I think we did really well here all in all, the ice creams at the park cost more than our entrance to the Roman villas! I hope you enjoyed this little local travel inspiration post and I hope it has inspired you to explore the local area you live in a little more, no matter how long you’ve lived there you’d be surprised how many new/unknown things are hiding right under your nose!
Oh, and it’s only 5 days to Halloween!