It was one of those days where the sun didn’t know what to do, was it going to come out and brighten things up or was it going to stay behind the clouds…who knew so I thought I’d take a chance and head off to Kew Gardens in the hope that the sun decided to shine.
Kew Gardens is an excellent day out and although it’s pricey to get in at around £15 per adult I do love going there, it’s one of those places that just feels a world away from London.
The Royal Botanic Gardens to give it its proper name is around 121ha and contains 30,000 species of plants including several that are extinct in the wild.
I was there with a friend and we just decided to wander with no specific plan of what to see or do apart from stopping for several cups of coffee.
Our first stop was the Temple of Aeolus set on top of Cumberland Mount in the Woodland Garden, it was designed and built by Sir William Chambers in the 1760’s.
Next we went to The Palm House, a masterpiece of Victorian engineering which was constructed between 1844 and 1848 using 16,000 sheets of glass. We wandered around admiring all the different palms from around the globe then we decided to climb the wrought iron spiral staircase to view the plants from the raised walkways – you get an incredible view from up there. While there we also visited the basement with its marine plants and habitats including some living coral which is quite something as it’s apparently very difficult to cultivate in captivity.
Wandering through the Rose Garden at the back of The Palm House we walked down Syon Vista before cutting off to see the Minka House, the Bamboo Garden and Rhododendron Dell. The Minka House is a traditional Japanese farmhouse and this particular one is an original that stood in a suburb of Okazaki City, Japan. It was donated to Kew in 2001.
The Orangery Restaurant was our first coffee stop before we headed off to Kew Palace. We didn’t actually go into the palace but just had a look around the gardens which were very pretty, particularly interesting was the herb garden. The palace is probably most famous for being the home of King George III, the one who was supposed to be mad.
Also in this area is the Nash Conservatory. Originally built in the grounds of Buckingham Palace the conservatory was moved brick by brick to Kew in 1836, today it provides a private function space but nevertheless it’s worth a look.
Walking back on ourselves we just enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and some of the stunning spring blossoms that were out. Eventually we ended up at the Sackler Crossing which is the bridge that spans the lake. The curving path of the bridge mimics the lakes rounded banks, it’s an unusual piece of architecture but seems to fit in well with its surroundings.
After crossing the lake we approached one of the things I’d been most looking forward to doing, the Treetop Walkway. The walkway is 18 metres high and 200 metres long, there are 118 steps to walk up to reach the top – there is a lift as well – but it’s worth it when you get there. The views are amazing and you are able to walk around the crowns of lime, sweet chestnut and oak trees giving you the opportunity to see the trees close up as never before. If you’re frightened of heights this one’s definitely not for you.
From the top of the Treetop Walkway you get a good view of the Temperate House which is the largest of the glass houses, unfortunately for us this was closed for maintenance which was a shame as I would have liked to have gone in.
Another stop for coffee this time at the Pavilion Restaurant before we moved on to the Pagoda, probably one of the gardens most recognised landmarks. The ten story pagoda was completed in 1762 for Princess Augusta, the mother of George III and at the time was the most accurate reproduction of a Chinese building in Europe. It’s amazing to think that the structure is so old and actually not that bad a copy.
We finally made our way back to the main entrance with one final stop at the Temple of Arethusa, built in 1758 and designed by Sir William Chambers for Princess Augusta it is one of only six surviving buildings of the twenty she commissioned. In 1803 “by His Majesty’s command” it was moved from its original position on the lake to its current place, now Grade II listed it is used as Kew’s war memorial with a bronze tablet designed by Sir Robert Lorimer which was unveiled in 1921.
Our final coffee stop was at the Victoria Gate from where we left the gardens to head home. With so much still left to see and do I will be back to Kew Gardens some time in the near future.
To see more pictures of Kew Gardens please visit me at www.pinterest.com/mrbelltravels