One of the major days during my week off in London during the summer was to Kew Gardens. As a new-Londoner, I really want to get to know the city better, and that means both tourist attractions as well as organically finding indie spots!
Kew had been on my go-to list for quite a while, and I knew that I wanted to see it over the summer to catch the plants in bloom. What I wasn’t ready for were the intense heats of the greenhouses, the fear-factor treetop walk, or the chirping parakeets that I startled when navigating as-the-crow-flies around the park! Here’s a run down of my favourite attractions that I visited on the day; Kew is far too big to see everything in one day so if I’ve missed any places you’ve enjoyed, please let me know for my next trip.
Princess of Wales Conservatory
This was one of my favourite spots on my day out at Kew. With ten climatic zones, the Princess of Wales Conservatory has a beautiful selection of plants growing, showing agave plants in the Palm House, and air-fed orchids in the Orchid House. There was even a little pineapple growing on one of the plants, something I’ve never seen before! It’s possibly my favourite house in the park, but it’s pretty hard to choose!
While it seems slightly outrageous to have a compost heap as a visitor attraction, I did enjoy seeing how Kew recycles its garden waste. By combining woody and herbaceous cuttings with horse manure from the Royal Horse Artillery Stables in St John’s Wood, the gardens are somewhat self-sustainable.
As a sort of limited edition attraction, The Hive was one stop I wasn’t going to miss on my first visit. Having recently written about the minimal efforts we can go to in order to save the bees, I was really inspired by the huge wiry structure which represents a bee’s home, with lights, audio, and sensors giving an insight into the ways bees communicate in a hive. There was also another jelly-legged moment as part of the floor is completely transparent, which showed the ground (and other visitors) directly beneath my feet!
Does anyone else remember the episode of Blue Peter where they showed the giant waterlilies at Kew? I was so excited entering the Waterlily House to see large lily pads and hanging gourds – so pretty, and the humidity was a fun experience too.
Another amazing and humid greenhouse, Palm House was an extra-special place for me as there were so many plants that I’ve encountered in one way or another since getting into wellness! Most important was the oil palm, a giant tree that oil is extracted from, and quite controversially is causing intense deforestation due to its value. As Selva Beat magazine taught me – there’s so many easy ways to avoid it in food and beauty products, and it’s worth looking out for if you’re environmentally-conscious.
Other plants in the palm house that were fun to get up and close with: the soap nut tree, which produces natural clothes detergent, the salvadora persica, or toothbrush tree, and a vanilla plant, which was the first time I’ve seen fresh vanilla!
Having never had a problem with heights, I was so excited to go go on the 18m high treetop walkway. I ran up the steps and reached the top eager to see the trees from a different angle and spot birds flying around. Instead, I was greeted with jelly legs, vertigo, and a genuine fear of the rusty and creeking walkway! It was a long and treacherous 200m walk, with steel pinging and the whole bridge swaying, but when I was able to relax and it was amazing to see bees bumbling around at such a height, and how the trees span across the area.
Kew’s little extras
If you stray off the beaten path, you’ll find little delights such as a replica badger sett and of course the flourishing wildlife there. The best attractions were the surprise ones, such as finding a friendly red robin hopping about, and if you’re lucky, some Kingston parakeets, feral green parrots that squawk and eat tree fruits.