Kew Gardens – Art and Nature in the Sun
Trip Over to London
Kew Gardens is very easy to get to from the centre of London. The District Line on the tube takes you straight there. For us, this meant a lovely walk down through St James’s Park to St James’s Park Tube Station. Here you need to make sure you get on the correct train, as there are also Circle Line trains and District Line trains to Ealing Broadway. The train you need to get to Kew Gardens is the District Line train to Richmond, Kew Gardens is the second last station on this line, just before Richmond. Once you get off the train there are signs to show you the direction to Kew Gardens, just a few hundred meters away along a dead straight, flat road that leads you right to Victoria Gate, the main entrance to the Gardens.
Entering at the Victoria Gate, there was a queue for tickets (Should have bought them online!!) but it moved quickly, and we got a 10% discount as we had become members of the Historic Royal Palaces. This membership gives you unlimited entry to Kensington Palace, The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, and Banqueting House, along with the 10% discount on the Kew Gardens ticket, all for less than the price of single tickets to each of these places. If you lived near Kew Gardens I am sure you would become a member of Kew Gardens so you had unlimited use of beautiful gardens and the many other benefits that come with membership.
First we went on the Kew Explorer, a hop-on hop-off ‘train’ that takes you on a huge lap of the Gardens, with very interesting commentary, from here you can see a lot of what the Gardens have, and you can decide what to walk back to. The tree that was used to make a mould for one of the trees in one of the Harry Potter movies was pointed out to us, I think I am one of the only people in the world who is not a big fan of Harry Potter and I have never seen any of the movies, but the tree was amazing. Do you think we could find it again???? Kew Gardens really needs several visits to do it justice, so if you only have one day, make it worth it!
The Great Pagoda is quite stunning, bringing a bit of Oriental flair to that area of the Gardens. It was completed in 1762 as a gift for Princess Augusta, George lll’s mum, the founder of the Gardens. If you are feeling fit (I wasn’t!!) you can climb the 253 steps to the top, I understand it offers amazing views of London and the River Thames.
Fortunately when we were there, there was an exhibition of Dale Chihuly art works, one of the world’s most celebrated glass artists. The magnificent glass sculptures are placed throughout the Gardens, and inside the glass houses. They both blend in with and stand out in all environments. Dale Chihuly has worked with glass artists from all over the world and put on amazing outdoor exhibitions of his stunning works. I would have loved to have seen the one he did in Venice some years ago with chandelier like creations hanging over the canals.
Many of the permanent sculptures in the Gardens were gifts, or moved there from other parts of England and the rest of the world. The bronze sculpture of Hercules wrestling a serpent stands in the lake in front of the Botanical Restaurant, it was on the North Terrace at Windsor Castle in the 1800s, then did a short stint and Hampton Court from 1957 to 1961, when it was moved to Kew Gardens. The pair of white Oriental lions on the edge of the lake looking over the Palm House were presented in 1958, they possibly date back to the Ming period from the 1300s to the 1600s.
Strolling on through the Gardens searching for some of the things spotted from the ‘train’ was really lovely, the lakes, flower beds, trellis arrangements and buildings make for a great day trip away from the hustle and bustle of central London. Bringing a picnic would have been a good idea – maybe next time……
Eventually we came to Kew Palace, the summer home of George lll and Queen Charlotte, and their 15 children!!! That is way above the call of duty – Charlotte was clearly an over achiever! The Dutch looking building dates back to the early 1600s, sitting on the banks of the River Thames and surrounded by its own beautifully manicured gardens. It was offered to Princess Victoria and her mother to live in in the late 1800s, but was deemed to be ‘quite unsuitable for the future Queen of England’ by her mother. Sometime later it was opened to the public until it went through a major restoration starting in 1996, then re-opened in 2006 after Prince Charles had hosted the Queen’s 80th birthday bash there.
Kew Gardens and the surrounding areas are really lovely, with such handy links directly to London. There is even a pub on the platform at the station called ‘Tap on the Line’, what more can you ask for? I’m sure Kew would be a great place to live, but it is on the flight path to Heathrow Airport…………the planes are still high enough not to be too noisy, but there is one flying overhead every few minutes……….when flying into London if this is the approach to the airport that day, it was when I flew in and I had views over Westminster, St James’s Park, Green Park, Buckingham Palace then over Kew Gardens before touching down at Heathrow – a great start to the holiday, it really got me in the London mood.
Itinerary for my Trip Over to London
Flew from Sydney to London Heathrow via Singapore, with Qantas on QF1, then QF2 to come home.
Stayed at the Royal Overseas League in St James’s.
Picked up at Heathrow by Naz from Black Lane Limos.
Travelled around London using a Visitor Oyster Card.