London can be a bit much sometimes. It’s busy and fun and full of stuff to do, but the constant rushing and the view-blocking sky-scrapers and packed tubes take their toll. Sometimes, I’d do anything for a bit of green, a bit of quiet. And that’s what Kew Gardens offers… and then some.
Rather than a bit of green, Kew offers acres, stuffed full of nooks and crannies to retreat to, laden with rare and exotic plants and watched over by beautiful stately buildings. The Palm House is a warm, steamy, glass oasis of towering palms and beautifully dilapidated Victoria wrought-iron. You can climb up its spindly, winding staircase to walk around a balconied-ceiling, getting an unrivalled view of the bright green leaves, flat as pancakes and huge as boulders. A small aquarium in the basement is always packed with kids, annoyingly banging on the fish tanks, but houses seahorses, which lope around the water in their hilarious sideways manner.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory takes you through an impressive ten climate zones, from mushrooming cacti that look good enough to touch, to rare orchids, jewel-bright. And I highly recommend a visit to the Waterlily House, with lily pads from the Amazon the size of bean-bags. Every time I go there, I think about the Thumbelina story from my childhood. Go, and you’ll see why.
If glassy interiors aren’t your thing, the treetop walkway will give you a stunning view of Kew from the canopy. You might even spot a bright green parrot causing a racket in a rival tree. Kew Palace (aka my future home) is worth seeing as well: a little gateway into the past and strewn with interesting history.
Of course, the wonderful thing about Kew is its ever-changing nature. Each season brings with it new colours, new plants and new trees: life blossoming on, irrelevant of cold winds or summer sunshine. Indeed, my uncle John is a regular visitor to Kew and insists that he always sees something different with each visit. I must admit that the fact that John has such a wealth of knowledge on Kew gives me a little bit of a biased view of this gorgeous place – I get a personal tour guide each time I visit, and he always treats me to cake and catch-ups in Kew’s multiple cafes.
So, if you’re looking for a slice of green to contrast the grey, visit Kew.
Photo credit: Thanks John Clifford for some of these lovely photos!