Friday, 20 August 2021

Visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London



At the beginning of July, my Mum and I took a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens or Kew Gardens as many know it.  Despite having lived about 25 miles away for much of my life I had never visited, and nor had my mum so we were really looking forward to exploring and Kew Gardens didn't disappoint us.


Getting there

The drive up to Kew from Woking along the M3/ A316 was easy and took about 35 minutes, I was heading for the Kew Ferry Lane car park, which is £7 for the whole day and I thought this was very reasonable for London. However, before we even reached the car park we saw loads of spaces around Kew Green and we were able to park right in front of Elizabeth Gate and enter there. It cost us £5.65 to park there for 4 hours using the RingGo app and at the time Mum and I thought this would be fine, but we actually could have done with double that time. I'd say leave at least six hours free if you want to have a good explore and enjoy some lunch/ a coffee. 

There are good public transport links to get to Kew Gardens - 

  • a mainline train stationat Kew Bridge, just 800 meters walk to Elizabeth Gate, 
  • Kew Gardens tube station for the District Line and LOndon Overground
  • Bus routes 65, 110, 237 and 267 all come close by
  • There are bike racks at each of the four entrance gates and note that bikes, scooters, skates, skateboards etc are not allowed to be used within the gardens



Exploring Kew Gardens


There are so many different areas to explore at Kew, both inside and outside. As I mentioned we spent four hours there and didn't manage to do all the inside spaces, I'm not sure if we waited in queue a bit longer than might be normal because of social distancing and the need to limit the number of people inside each greenhouse. So maybe we could have seen more in normal times. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew is a World UNESCO site that is currently 300 acres, making it about one mile across and this takes around 40 minutes to walk from one side to the other, but of course, it takes so much longer to explore as there is loads to see. In fact, there is around 50,000 living plants there.



I think my favourite place to visit was the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which was really light and packed with a vast variety of plants to look at. I really loved the cati area and it was interesting to see the carnivorous plants, as well as the Amorphophallus titanium, which is a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. 



The Palm House is a beautiful sight to see from the outside, it really is magnificent and a wonderful feat of engineering. When it was built in 1844, no other glass structure had been built at this size, so it took the knowledge of boat builders and used that. Nowadays it houses the oldest pot plant in the world, amongst many other tropical plants of note, but to be honest I didn't find it worth the wait. There wasn't anything in there that really caught my imagination.



As we knew we wouldn't have so much time we decided to take the Kew Explorer land train around the gardens. It cost us £4.50 each and took just over an hour. I think normally, it is a hop-on, hop-off service but right now it is running as a circular from Victoria Plaza. This gave us a good look around the site and I particularly enjoyed seeing the Great Pagoda.



Within the grounds there is Kew Royal Palace, Royal Kitchens and Queen Charlote Cottage and these can all be visited within the price of your Kew entry ticket. Sadly, this was another thing we didn't have time to do.

When we visited the treetop walkway wasn't open due to the Coronavirus, but I think this will be great to look around next time, as it is around 18 metres above the ground and would give you stunning views of the trees, Kew Gardens and of course further out to London as well. We'll need to be feeling fit though as there are 118 stairs up to the walkway and sometimes the lift isn't in action. 

If you have children with you there is a dedicated children's garden and we didn't go in there as we didn't have kids with us but as you go by you can hear the joy of the children playing in there. The garden is designed for children aged 2 - 12 years and you are having to book an entry slot currently so numbers can be controlled. The garden looks as if it is a real sensory feast and has a whole variety of play elements.



Eating at Kew Gardens


There is a whole variety of places to eat and drink across Kew Gardens and many have both indoor and outdoor spaces. We first had a coffee and shared a large toastie at the Orangery and this is a beautiful and airy place to sit and enjoy a good coffee. Then later we a cake and drink at the Victoria Gate cafe, which is very informal and reasonable in price. 

If you are at Kew for something really special then you might enjoy a table at the Botanical, you can book in advance and have a full afternoon tea or a tasty brunch. Or there is the Pavilion Bar and Grill where you can dine Al Fresco with super views of the Pagoda and Temperate House, whilst enjoying a freshly grilled burger, salad or baguette. 

You can picnic on the grass almost anywhere in Kew and there is a different area to suit every mood. In the arboretum under the shade of the trees, in the rose garden, enjoying the smell as you wonder at the Palm House, or by the pond at the plan house or maybe in Cedar Vista by the Great Pagoda. 



What's On at Kew?


There always seem to be something going on at Kew, on the day we visited we saw lots of people coming for a pilates session in the Nash Conservatory and they were setting one of the lawns up for an outdoor cinema experience. They also seem to have lots of outdoor theatre production going on and I bet these are great fun as we visited Wakehurst, Kew's sister site a few years back and watched Alice in Wonderland, which was so much fun. 

This summer there is a Secret World of Plants spectacular with various art installations across the site for you to enjoy and explore. You can explore native UK plants in large scale immersive structures, which you can pop your head into the viewing holes. You can listen to the trees and there s special classical music been composed for this event. There is a family traila nd also workshops on Saturdays.

Check on the website to see what is going on when you want to visit, there is bound to be something. 

There are also two galleries within the gardens, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art and also the Marianne North Gallery.

We also spotted guides doing free walking tours of the gardens and I think it would have been good to join one of these, rather than take the land train, as it was hard to hear the guide at times and of course this would be more interactive as you can ask questions. 



Useful Information

Address: Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE

Telephone: 020 8332 5655

Website: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens

Book Tickets: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/visit-kew-gardens/tickets 

Email: info@kew.org

Opening Hours: The opening times change with the seasons, it mostly appears to open at 10am and can close between 3pm and 7pm, depending on the time of the year. Check the website before you travel. The different catering outlets and shops all open and close at various times too, so again check on the website to ensure you are not disappointed. 

Acessibiliuty: It looks like there is good accessibility arrangements at Kew and they are keen to help and do anything they can to make your trip easier for you, so do ask for what you need. Here is the information that they publish about accessibility

Dogs policy: Only registered disabiliyt assistance dogs (and those in training) are allowed within Kew Gardens 

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