Bromley's Ancient Yews

A cycle tour as part of We Love Yew

This 11 mile cycle route will take in a few of the ancient yews of Bromley, as well as other notable trees along the way. It will start at Hayes station, accessible from Charing Cross and other Southeastern Railway stations. It is accessible for the whole family but on-road experience is necessary.

To help you follow the route you can download a GPX file for GPS units below, or a KML file for free mobile apps such as MapsWithMe:

GPX download | KML download

Share your adventure with #weloveyew and @ConservationFdn

Words by The Conservation Foundation and photos by Diana Patient and from Geograph. The map was created by The Conservation Foundation as part of the We Love Yew campaign, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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The Knoll

Stepping out of the station, head towards the roundabout and take the first left onto Station Hill and then onto Ridgeway. You’ll pass The Knoll, a small park on the remnants of the grounds of Hayes House, saved in the 1930’s as the estate was being redeveloped for housing. You can walk through the small park to find ponds and old trees, including hollow oaks, or stay on the bike and take the next left, up the road also called The Knoll. At the top of the park or road, take a right onto Pickhurst Lane. At the roundabout take a left to come to the oldest building in Hayes, St Mary the Virgin Church.

More on The Knoll

The Hayes Yew and Oak

The church dates from the 13th century but has had numerous developments since. During 19th century restorations Roman stones were found, and the site was reputedly once that of a Roman temple. You can find a number of trees here, including a veteran yew tree, a good example of a yew in the process of becoming two fragment trees. In the churchyard you can also find memorials to Alexander Mackenzie Fraser, a general during the Napoleonic Wars, and of 9 year old John Panis of the North American Panis tribe, who was brought to England as a slave in 1763. Next door you can find a 150-year old oak in the Rectory Gardens, which was recently fertilised and its soil de-compacted to extend its life.

More on Hayes church

Toward's Downe

We’ll now head out of Hayes and take B roads about 4 miles south, to Downe, home of Charles Darwin and more ancient trees. Head back to the small roundabout and cross over it, to head south down Hayes Street, and then take the first right onto the quieter West Common Road. Follow this out of Hayes for about 2 miles, crossing over Croydon Road (A232). When you reach the mini roundabout turn right and then right again at the next roundabout by The Fox Inn, to head down Fox Lane. Follow it until the junction, then turn left onto Jackass Lane, passing fields and hedgerows. This will lead onto Church Road and soon after a junction with the busy A233. Here, turn right (or walk along the pavement) to the roundabout where you’ll take the first left onto Downe Road. Follow this for 1.5 miles as it becomes New Road Hill and then Rookery Road until you reach Downe village and the cafes and pubs for refreshments.

St Mary the Virgin Downe

In the churchyard, opposite the George & Dragon pub, you’ll find what the Ancient Yew Group have recorded as an “exceptional” ancient yew. The yew at Hayes was beginning to split but here, the split is already very visible, with two distinct sides to the tree. It is far older than the already considerably aged churchyard, which is thought to date from 1291. Downe’s most famous resident is Charles Darwin, who is commemorated with a sundial on the outside of the south wall of the church and a stone in memory of his family is found outside the church door on the west of the path. Although Charles was buried in Westminster Abbey, his wife and brother are buried in the east of the churchyard, along with other family members.

History of Downe church

Charles Darwin's mulberry

Next, you can either head south east, past the George & Dragon onto Cudham Road for just over a mile to reach our next yews at Cudham village, or if you don’t mind paying for a visit to Charles Darwin’s house, you can find his veteran mulberry tree. If you’re heading to Darwin’s house, get back on the road your entered Downe in and follow it around, to head south west on Luxted Road. The mulberry is found in the garden and is thought to be some 250 years old. Like many black mulberries (Morus nigra) it now requires propping to prevent it shedding its spreading limbs. It is said that Charles Darwin’s children used the tree to climb out of their bedroom window and into the garden.

Opening times for Downe House

Cudham's yews

From Darwin’s house, follow Luxted Road again further down and onto Single Street. As it becomes Jail Lane, turn off to the left, down Berry’s Hill to follow it round for half a mile to the village of Cudham. In the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul you’ll find two bulging ancient yews, one male and another, a female, containing the remains of a barrier now being swallowed up as new wood is laid down. The church itself is also ancient, with Norman remains but it is thought it was originally the site of a Saxon church. Just before Christmas in 1989 the church was struck by lightning, damaging the electrical system which led to a candle lit Carol Service. From the church, head back down Church Approach and at the junction turn right, to head north up Cudham Lane for just over a mile.

History of Cudham church

High Elms

Shortly after passing the second turning for Snag Lane and the footpath waymarker on the left, you’ll see a bridleway sign post for High Elms, opposite a house. The country park is on the former estate of John William Lubbock, a naturalist and friend of Charles Darwin. He was a Member of Parliament and a social reformer, responsible for introducing bills including the Bank Holiday Act, Wildbirds Protection Act and Open Spaces Act. As you follow the bridleway up the hill you’ll pass a golf course and Beech Walk, an avenue of beech trees planted about 1840 in memory of the 2nd baronet but many were lost during the hurricane in 1987 so young trees have been planted to replace them. At the top of the bridleway you’ll meet a paved lane, which you should take right to exit the park.

High Elms nature trail

Home from Orpington

After passing High Elms car park you’ll reach Shire Lane. To the left you’ll find the High Elms estate, including a formal yew avenue planted in 1896, but to continue the route, turn right and then take the first left, down through the woods on Church Road. Take the first right onto The Manse, to come out on Farnborough Hill. Turn left and, just before you reach the shops, turn right onto Tubbenden Lane South, following it all the way to its conclusion. Head over the roundabout and onto Tubbenden Lane, following this and, just after passing under the railway bridge, turn left onto Station Road to find Orpington station where you can catch a train north towards London, or south into Kent.

Orpington station