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For their evening events, Ravensbourne Morris often use two nearby venues with a short stand at each. They invited us to join them in one such enterprise with dancing firstly at The Blacksmith's Arms in Cudham and then at The Queen's Head in Downe, just a short drive away.
Our hosts, Ravensbourne Morris, have a long and interesting history having been formed just after World War II. They have danced for royalty and the actor Richard Chamberlain (ladies of a certain age seem to swoon just at the mention of his name) and even appeared on radio! They also have an active Mumming play that they perform in the winter months. The undoubted star of this show is their Hooden Horse, named Dobbin.
Anyway, storms were forecast for the evening so we found an undercover area in the first pub's garden. As you can see from the photographs, The Blacksmith's Arms has some fantastic gardens with extensive colourful borders and masses of hanging baskets and pots full of flowers everywhere. It is no surprise that they have won numerous accolades including The London Garden Society gold award in 2015.
There was a paved area in the garden which was an excellent dancing surface and this allowed the audience a great view of the performances. Ravensbourne, who are a Cotswold side, got proceedings under way and we followed with our first dance which was Sidcot. As our dances were longer than theirs, Ravensbourne kindly took pity on us and danced two between each of our performances. We completed the session with KBC Processional and Milnrow.
After about an hour, it was time to move on to our second venue which was about a mile and a half away at the The Queen's Head. On the way down to Downe, the rain started to come down. What I hadn't realised until we got there was that the dancing surface was actually round a tree in the middle of a road junction! To add to the hazards, a bus arrived and needed to swing round the tree to leave. It was certainly one of the more unusual spots that we have danced at.
We just about managed to do Marston 8 before the rain started and completed the evening appropriately enough with the so-called windscreen-wiper dance (Aughton 8). A decision was made to abandon the session and repair to the pub where food was provided, including toad-in-the-hole, roast potatoes and birthday cake. Inevitably, an impromptu folk singing session broke out to make a good ending to the evening.
A big thank you goes to Ravensbourne for hosting the event and to the pubs for making us so welcome. Well done also to the dancers and the band for coping so well with the conditions.
Incidentally, the village of Downe is best known for its association with two famous people.
Nigel Farage was born in the village in 1964. I understand that he lives in Westerham now, but he had an interesting experience at the Queen's Head in Downe in March 2015 when he was chased out of the pub by protestors. Click here to read the story.
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