DANTA Blogger Visits Kew Gardens On A Layover
Prior to my 12-hour layover in London, I researched sites that were between my connecting airports Gatwick and Heathrow. I wanted to avoid downtown, and I wasn’t excited about Big Ben, London Eye or Tower of London. They are just too common and popular. I wanted something natural and tranquil.
Kew Gardens is London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site. It is easy to get to using public transportation. The gardens span 300 acres, so I knew I was going to be kept busy. On TripAdvisor the recommended duration is over 3 hours. I spent over 7 hours (including a 20-minute nap) and still did not see the entire facility!
I entered a small gate and first explored Kew‘s arboretum. It’s a living library of over 14,000 trees, many of them dating back to the 18th century. I didn’t know what to expect and when I saw this picturesque park with towering trees and manicured lawn I was pleased, even though I am more of a flowering plant/greenhouse kind of person.
After a little stroll I became even more impressed and excited as I explored the Temperate House.
The Temperate House is the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. It is twice the size of their Palm House, which I would visit several hours later. The impressive glasshouse is home to temperate plants from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands. I specifically studied the plants in the African section as that was where my connecting flight was taking me, marking my 6th continent.
As I was leaving the glasshouse, Gnomus the giant gnome, started sharing stories about the amazing plant collection to elementary students.
After the hours long Temperate House visit, my eye was immediately drawn to the Treetop Walkway, which is a 200 meter long path nearly 60 feet high. It allows you to walk through the branches of sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, beech, Fagus sylvatica, horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum and different oak species, Quercus. There are facts and photo opportunities along the way. It was a TREEmendous experience, even though it is designed to flex slightly in the wind, causing some fear as the walkway swayed in the breeze.
After this experience and the 9-hour flight I was tired and hungry. I stopped at one of their cafes whose commitment to conservation I did not overlook. Signs read that they recycle 250 tons of material a year. Containers, which advertised the sandwiches within, used a translucent window which were made from plant material making them 100 percent compostable.
The palm house was my next attraction, whose rainforest climate was a little hot and humid for myself and my luggage. I stepped outside a few times to cool down, trying to prevent an olfactory overload for the lucky passenger who was going to be assigned to sit next to me on the upcoming 11-hour flight.
I retreated to the rose garden, smelling the musk, spice, fruit, and perfume scents each variety created. A 20-minute nap followed under the canopy of hundred-year-old trees.
As I continued to explore Kew, the better the gardens became. The Princess of Wales Conservatory was a highlight due to the variety of carnivorous plants. The building has ten different climate zones which were beautifully detailed in their landscape.
A Grass Garden which has 9,000 species! was next, followed by the Davies Alpine House whose design provides cool and dry conditions for alpine plants.
I was impressed by the Kitchen Garden which was voted ‘most inspirational vegetable garden 2016’ by the Great British Growing Awards. It was created for the BBC series ‘Kew on a Plate’ on a site formerly used to grow produce for George III. With London’s climate it was exciting to see how much food can be grown in a small space with cloudy skies.
The Hive was one of the last things I was able to visit. It is a unique multi-sensory experience, which stands 17 meters tall, over a wildflower meadow. The Hive is designed to highlight the extraordinary life of bees and was designed by UK based artist Wolfgang Buttress.
Kew Gardens is a great place for photography, education, and relaxation. Visit them to support their conservation and science initiatives. Like their website says, “We want to live in a world where plants and fungi are understood, valued and conserved.”
To view more Kew photos that are synced up to music, click here.
My new book 99 1/2 Homesteading Poems highlights sustainable living and gardening. It is now available for pre-order.