Autumn is a great time of year to get out from central London and explore other places before December rolls along with its colder weather and Christmas hype.
When the light falls on all the fading leaves, there seems to be a glorious atmosphere in the air – something almost mystical about London.
Three former villages that were all once historically part of Kent: Blackheath, Chislehurst, and Bexley are great places to experience this time of year. Dotted around South-East London, they offer a charming contrast to the hustle and bustle of the more central London Boroughs.
When London – or as it was then known Londinium – originally formed about 2000 years ago, it’s unlikely that the Romans could have even grasped the monumental scale that London has now achieved as a thriving city.
The city witnessed rapid development throughout the industrial age in the Victorian era and it continued to expand well into the early 1960s when Parliament passed legislation to incorporate parts of the Home Counties into Greater London which now stands at approximately 600 square miles.
While these villages are located in London, only Blackheath has a London postcode. Chislehurst and Bexley have kept their Kent postcodes since the Post Office could not afford to update and convert them when these areas got pulled in to Greater London’s ever-expanding reach.
Starting with the village closest to central London, Blackheath is a beautiful little village located only a stone’s throw from Lewisham, the Royal Park of Greenwich, and the Cutty Sark.
The beautiful All Saints’ church stands tall on the expansive heath and there are great views of The Shard and other parts of London’s skyline which make up the backdrop. All of this gives Blackheath a countryside vibe to an area only located seven miles from central London.
Charming cafés are scattered around the village and there are a few great bookshops too. But there are also some lively wine bars and lovely pubs, which means that Blackheath is a perfect spot to unwind and explore after a long day at work.
With its large heath, it comes as no major surprise that Blackheath was home to the very first golf club in England, which was institutionalised in 1608 after the game had been introduced by the Scots. The modern club is now located a few miles down the road and still incorporates Blackheath into its name.
As the most secluded of the three, Chislehurst has the genuine feel of the English countryside, yet it isn’t at all far from other areas in the London Borough of Bromley.
Chislehurst is home to some great pubs and old churches which are scattered around the green. So, you shouldn’t need to walk too far from one to other whilst the soaking up the architecture of the churches and the autumnal ambiance.
This is an area which is immersed in history and has been home to some prominent individuals. British philosopher Alan Watts was born and raised in Chislehurst before moving to America to further his study of Eastern Philosophy. His house is a short walk from the green and the house has a blue plaque providing a seal of historical approval.
However, there is also the Catholic Church of St Mary’s, which is the resting place of Napoleon III – founder of the Second French Republic and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Chislehurst is also home to a labyrinth of caves which can be a great alternative if the skies open up with rain. They are manmade and are believed to date back to the 1250s. In the Second World War, they were even used as an air raid shelter and a small hospital.
Prior to the Second World War, Bexley was an agricultural area with expansive farmland. Just like the London Borough of Bromley, the London Borough of Bexley borders Kent and acts a marker of the end of London and a beginning of one of the Home Counties.
Just like the other two, Bexley village also houses many pubs and a handful of cafes. There are many restaurants and whether you fancy Greek food, Curry, Chinese, fish and chips, Italian food, you won’t go hungry in Bexley.
The Anglican Church of St Mary’s in Bexley is so old that it is even listed in the Domesday Book of 1086.
To see all of Bexley and take a nice stroll, it’s worth starting near the village War memorial and walking through the village until you reach Hall Place which was formerly a stately home and is now a beautiful green area open to the public. All in all, it takes about 25 minutes and will allow you to see the village and its quirks in its entirety.
Overall, London has so much to offer and it is so diverse regardless of whereabouts you may be. But next time you’re in the capital, why not venture out and hop on the train at Victoria, Charing Cross, Cannon Street, Waterloo East, or London Bridge and go down to London’s South East where you will see a quieter, historic side of the city that isn’t quite replicated in any of its other Boroughs.