While much of the formerly extensive grounds attached to The Mount, his birthplace and childhood home, has been built upon, other parts have survived in private gardens. We have been approached by the owner of one such property, who is offering us the chance to buy an acre of steep, wooded land that once played a vital role in Darwin’s childhood.
Through the wood, alongside an ice house once used by the Darwins, runs a path with views down to the River Severn. It was here 200 years ago, that the young Darwin was sent every day before breakfast to walk the loop path at the bottom of the garden. It was known as the Thinking Path, providing as it did, a regular time for thought-gathering and reflection. The habit became ingrained in Darwin’s daily routine and when he and his wife Emma bought Down House in Kent, they made their own Sandwalk through the grounds, carrying on the tradition of morning walks with their children.
We are thrilled to have this chance. No other part of Darwin’s childhood home is accessible to the public, so this would provide a much-desired opportunity for people to see where the young Darwin lived:“I often think of the garden at home as a Paradise: on a fine summer’s evening, when the birds are singing, how I should like to appear like a Ghost amongst you,” wrote Charles to his sister in 1833, while aboard The Beagle.
The appeal target of £75,000 reflects not only the land price, which has generously been offered to us by the vendor at below the market rate, but also removal of some unsafe sycamore trees, opening up of views, making good boundaries and installing simple, artistic interpretation and continued educational activity. The Trust intends to look after the site in perpetuity, so much of the money will be saved for looking after the site into the future.
It would be our intention to open the wood regularly and invite small groups to visit. The aim is not to create a major tourist attraction, but to provide a much-wanted place where people can see where young Charles Darwin lived and the landscape that he loved. The wood will also have its place at the heart of the Darwin Festival which has been run by Shropshire Wildlife Trust for the last two years.