Daffodils, blossoms and magnolia trees greet me as I pass through the gates into Kew Gardens. It’s a little early for bluebells but soon the woodlands here will be carpeted with them too, a favourite subject of many a photographer. At last the sun is shinning. Spring has most definitely arrived in Kew Gardens.
It’s the Easter Monday bank holiday. The long-awaited sunshine warming the queue snaking along the pavement, patiently waiting their turn to be let in. Those in the know booked online in advance and nonchalantly walk by, entering the garden with minimum delay.
Kew Gardens is a fabulous place to visit any time of year but last Monday must have been the warmest day of the year so far AND it’s a bank holiday. Visitors, including me, flocked to the gardens that run alongside the River Thames, 10 miles west of London.
The Kew Royal Botanical Gardens
The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens was founded in 1759 and in the past 250 years it has made an immense contribution to our understanding of plant and fungal life. Its research and conservation work has proved an invaluable asset to projects around the globe. In 2003 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is so much to see and do here that it is easy to fill a whole day, whether you come here to learn about or simply to enjoy the amazing variety of plants that you will find here, all set in beautiful parklands. And once we were inside and away from the main gate, it is so spacious that it never felt busy despite the large number of visitors that day.
The Palm House
First stop, the iconic Palm House to explore this mini tropical rainforest and learn about how dependent we are on these precious ecosystems. As we climb up the spiral staircases the humidity and heat became intense but its a must, even if you don’t stay up there for long.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory
With ten different climatic zones under glass there is plenty for me to photograph here – cactus, orchids, ferns and even carnivorous plants but its the orchids that really captitvate me.
Back outside we head towards a new feature that wasn’t there when I last visited, the tree top walkway.
The Treetop Walkway
I seem to be acquiring a head for heights and a visit to the treetop walkway is high on my list for a bird’s-eye view of the gardens. While up there, we were treated to a display from two very beautiful wild rose-ringed parakeets, sadly too far away for me to photograph with the lens I had with me. It’s estimated that there is at least 6,000 (some say as many as 50,000) of these pretty green birds living in south-west London. They’d be more at home in Africa or Asia and there are various theories of how they got here, my favourite being that they escaped during the film of The African Queen from Shepperton Studios in the early 1950s.
The Orangery, Kew Palace and the Rock Gardens
This was my fourth visit to Kew, having visited twice when I was studying Botany and once when studying Photography (I’ve studied a lot over the years) and there’s still parts of the gardens that I’ve yet to see. There are different events and exhibitions throughout the year. We caught the last day of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Exhibition and it really was superb. I even bought the last copy of the book in the gift shop under the excuse that all profits go to conservation projects. And then I tried to get all arty with the magnolia…
Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB.
Alongside to the River Thames, 10 miles west of central London.
Entry: Adult £15 or £16.50 with a donation. Concessions £14. Children under 16 Free. Ticket information.
Car park: £7 for the day (but it does get full if you don’t come early). Details about public transport to Kew can be found here.
Optional extras include chocolate workshops and a guided tour on a small train around the garden.