Thanks for coming back for another adventure with Travelingwithtom.com. This week I take you to Kew Royal Botanical Gardens located in the London Borough of Richmond upon the Thames. As I mentioned last week, our first plan was to fly to London then travel by train and then ferry over to Normandy. However, Trump was in London on a state visit and he and the Queen were going to Portsmouth where most of the flotilla originated for the D-Day invasion. And to top it off, there were protests due to his visit planned for Central London so instead of heading there, we decided the nearby Kew Gardens would be more peaceful and out of reach of the protesters.
We started our journey to the Gardens by making the short walk from our hotel to the Hatton Cross tube station for the short ride to Earling Station.
After exiting the tube station and taking the above photo of the train leaving the station for London, we crossed the street and caught the number 65 bus that would take us near the entrance to Kew Gardens.
After a short quarter mile walk, we paid the entrance fees and entered the Garden. Just ahead of us was an ambulance that unloaded an elderly gentleman who was in a wheelchair. We overheard his caretaker explain to the ticket agent that the gentleman was terminally ill and this would likely be his last visit to his much beloved Kew Gardens. We saw them a couple of times during our time in the Gardens and hope he enjoyed his visit.
The Kew Gardens is quite large, 121 hectares or about 300 acres. Historical records indicate there were private gardens on this location as early as the 16th century. In the 1730’s the site was acquired by the Prince of Wales and by 1759, the dowager Princess of Wales established a garden of exotic plants and within 10 years had accumulated over 3400 species. Over the years, the collection grew and grew, eventually in 1840 the Gardens were conveyed to the British government. Not only are the gardens a major tourist attraction but a center for scientific research and the international exchange of plant specimens. Today the Gardens contain over 28,000 plant species and it’s collection of orchids, succulents, ferns and plants of Australia is considered one of the worlds finest. Kew Gardens are an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With that background, let’s take in some of the sites. First, many of the flower species were in full bloom. My traveling partner is an avid flower gardener so was keenly interested in all the blooming plants. She knew that many of the same flower plants as some of these back in the US wouldn’t bloom for at least another month.
Then there was the landscape with plants, shrubs and trees to complement the many flowers.
The Temperate House is the worlds largest glasshouse and is home to some of the rarest and most threatened plants in the world. Built in the late 1800’s, it was closed for restoration for several years, reopening in 2018. It has a viewing gallery that looks down over some of the collection.
The Palm House is no slouch either and originates from the mid 1800’s. It contains tropical plants and has a rainforest climate. It too has a walkway so that visitors can get a close up look at some of the large palms.
As we were walking along the paths, we came across a number of school groups that were visiting the Gardens. It was one of the last days of the school term so they were out for a year end field trip. This group was well behaved and nicely dress, boys with ties and girls with skirts.
A few times during our walk about, we stopped for refreshments in one of their seven eating options. The food was good and healthy albeit on the pricey side. Water was served in cans so as not to use plastic bottles.
One of my favorite stops was at the The Hive. This exhibit highlights the life of bees (to which I’m allergic to their sting). When entering The Hive one feels and hears the bees doing their valuable work. In a way, it’s kind of spooky but yet very inspiring. If you’d like learn more about the concepts behind The Hive click on this link.
But our overall favorite was the display of the glass art of Dale Chihuly, Reflections on nature, that were integrated into the landscape. The Gardens provided a handy map so that visitors could find all the glass installations. Here’s some photos of what we saw.
The exhibit added so much to the Gardens and in my humble opinion made the price of admission seem like a give away! As a bonus, inside The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, there were many of Chihuly’s smaller works of art. Of note were some sketches of how he created his ideas.
We walked through the Ruined Archway said to have been designed and built as a mock Roman ruin in 1760 and was supposed to create a sense of melancholy. Apparently, it didn’t do that!
The Great Pagoda stands over 160 feet tall and can be seen from several points in the Gardens as a point of reference. It was built in the 1760’s with a staircase in the center. The stairs weren’t open the day we visited but apparently there is periodic visitor access.
This poem was situated near the sculpture meant to symbolize conifer trees.
Near the end of our visit, we made a quick walk (it was near closing time) through the very interesting Princess of Wales Conservatory where one can experience ten different climates. This building was opened in 1987 by Diana, Princess of Wales to honor her predecessor Augusta, Princess of Wales who started the Gardens. The Conservatory contains the worlds largest water lily that can grow six feet across! The orchid room was phenomenal and smelled exquisite. I also liked the desert room with all the cactus plants, reminded me of the Southwest of the US.
Near the exit is the Kew Palace, the smallest royal palace. The Queen’s Garden that you see in the foreground of this photo contains plants that are considered to have medicinal qualities.
Below are a couple of odds and ends photos to round out the day.
Kew Gardens is in the flight path of Heathrow Airport. This meant that on the day of our visit the peace and quiet of the Gardens were interrupted every 66 seconds! Yes, we timed it, a plane flew overhead like clockwork. To be fair, the runways in use vary depending the wind speed and direction.
After leaving Kew Gardens full of the visual and sensual delights, we reversed our journey by taking bus 65 back to Earling Station. Near the station was this fruit and vegetable market, look at the beautiful produce. This visual shows the advantages of being a member of the European Union, the availability of fresh produce that can’t be grown in England or is currently out of season. I hope for their sake, they get some kind of deal that preserves the positives such as this when they Brexit.
Before boarding the train back to Hatton Cross, we popped into Tapinos, a traditional Spanish tapas bar. It was highly recommended on TripAdvisor and it certainly met all our expectations with great food and drink. It was the last night of our two week plus trip to Ukraine and London, tomorrow we would be on our way home. We celebrated with drinks, she with a sangria and me with a very nice beer.
After our tube ride back to Hatton Cross and on our walk back to the hotel, we saw this interesting scene. Tomato Plant is the name of a company that hauls stuff like large machinery, vehicles, boats, cranes and etc. And it looks like some kind of liquid that either is being delivered (no idea what that would be) or removed by the hose. It shall remain a mystery!
Hope you enjoyed our visit to Kew Gardens. If you find yourself in London with an extra day on your hands, I highly recommend this site, about 1.5 million others do every year, you should too!
Next week, we head for home.
Until then, happy travels!