326 Reasons Why You Need To Visit Kew Gardens
Where, When, & Why
Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, London // June 2018 // Go around the world in 300 acres
Richmond-adjacent Kew is possibly a little overlooked in comparison to its dead fancy neighbour and her Bambi-filled park. Except, of course, for Kew's own insanely fabulous Royal Garden (no big deal, right?). Kew's quaint village vibe leaves visitors baffled that they're even in London while they chomp on boujie brunch, fuel up on fresh baked Pastel de Nata, and scour local bookshops for a brand-new must-read. This is all in a morning's work before heading in to discover the wild meadows and preened beauty of Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
Set across 326 acres of land, be prepared to walk off your Florentines as you travel the world in just one sublime location. Kew Gardens is the bee's knees and with so much to experience, pocket my top tips to the make the most of your summertime trip.
1. The Merits of Tropical House
Although tropical house boomed a couple of years ago to become the resounding sound of summer and has remained a strong influence the year round, this isn't what I'm talking about. No, I'm talking palms. I'm talking walking through welcome mists. I'm talking trees that transport you to another world. Yes, Temperate House and Palm House are spectacular glasshouses as stunning in architecture as they are with floral content. Stepping into these buildings, the expectation of bumping into Sir David Attenborough or Jeff Goldblum is strong, but instead of meeting these heroes we "settled" for Cirque Bijou's stunning marriage of unique aerial & musical performances. I mean, if this is settling, sign me up.
Acrobatics aside, the resident I was most excited about meeting was Encephalartos Woodii. Endemic to South Africa, this solo tree has been dubbed the loneliest in the world. Pass the tissues because only one specimen has ever been found in the wild, and that was over 100 years ago. All known specimens are male meaning this lad could be considered as solo as I am or tragically lonely - seeing as he can't speak for himself, you can make your own mind up about his emotional state.
2. Local Heroes
From the tropics to our own backyard, Woodland Walk made me truly nostalgic for my childhood playing, walking Roxy and taking Dewi for hacks along the Wenallt. You know, The Wenallt in Cardiff, just the gorgeous ancient woodland in which wild garlic and bluebells flourished. No big deal. As you walk along the boardwalk, there to protect the ancient woodland, plants that look as though they've been conjured from Lewis Carrolls' imagination live peacefully next to the Fern Gully-esque trees in quiet broken by happy chattering & curious footsteps.
Foxgloves, remnants of bluebells (because my visit was out of bluebell season), oaks, beeches and more took us back to a simpler and far less polluted time before leading us to the badger sett and a fruitless hunt for Dr Brian May. I highly recommend horseplay in a badger sett, it's very silly and a lot of fun.
Spending some time in the Orient is a bucket-list trip for many people, if this is you allow a garden as grand as Kew to guide you through zen gardens, bamboo mini-forests, and striking pagodas for a flavour of the Far East. Aside from the peacock popping his head over perfectly pruned bushes, the Great Pagoda covered in gilded dragons and standing tall over the rest of the property, is the piece de resistance.
Gifted to Princess Augusta in 1792, the Great Pagoda was designed by Sir William Chambers and, once completed, offered one of the earliest & best bird’s eye views of London. From Summer 2018 visitors will be able to climb the 253 steps to the pinnacle of the Pagoda to embrace this view for themselves.
4. Tree Tops
Climbing atop a 200 m structure of 400 tonnes of weathered steel 18 m above ground on a transparent floor isn't everyone's idea of a good time. I am not one of those people because dizzying heights aren't the terrifying ocean depths and the Treetop Walkway was a thrill - even if some absolute moron kept actively shaking the bridge. I can't stress enough how visibly wobbly the walkway is without assistance from local idiots.
Prats aside, the walkway provided unbeatable views across London over the Temperate House and a rare view into the magical world living in the forest canopy. Smashing bird's eye views and nuggets of trivia all along the tower will certainly keep at bay any nerves or vertigo and the whole experience is highly satisfying.
5. The Hive!
Hate to say I told you so but this is Hive is not everyone's favourite Swedish rock band, although no less special either and they share many similarities. On the surface, this structure is striking in its melding of nature and industry as this home-grown steel hive stands 17 metres tall in a wildflower meadow. See, this one-of-a-kind multi-sensory experience was built to highlight the incredible life of bees and how integral they are to our ecosystem.
The lights and sounds echo the activity of bees in a real hive in Kew, as their activity increases the signal intensifies. Beautiful in its construction and science, the Hive has proved an immeasurably important installation in creating a buzz (sorry!) for the challenges bees are facing in today's world.
Kew Gardens opens up a world of possibility and fuels the imagination. It's a place where anything is possible. Yes, 5 points have been listed, but each acre of land gives rise to one of 326 reasons why you need to pay this special Garden a visit.
Find out more about visiting Kew, including ticket prices, opening hours, and special events, from their website here.