I have heard many good things about Kew Gardens, and have been anxious to go for quite some time. Other than gardens being supposed to be magnificent, I didn’t really know what to expect. I went there on a Friday afternoon, and in retrospect, a full day would have been preferable as the gardens are so large I didn’t get to see more than a few highlights. Because the weather on the day could have been better, there were few people there and it really felt as if I had the gardens almost entirely to myself. It was bit chilly, but in all honesty, I’m just glad it wasn’t raining…!
To get to Kew Gardens I went on the District line towards Richmond, and got off at Kew Gardens station. (I love informative station names like this!) The station is located a short distance away from the Victoria Gate entrance, and the walk there goes through the most lovely neighbourhood of truly exquisite houses adorned by blooming wisteria. It must be wonderful to live there…!
If the walk there had gotten me excited, I was quite literally jumping up and down once I had properly entered the Gardens, as the ticket came with a complementary map [PDF]. The lady who sold me and my company our tickets was lovely and showed us the highlights on the map. As we went into London via National Rail we made use of the 2-for-1 offer that is available for many London attractions, and as both me and my company were students we were allowed concession, making the tickets very affordable (£6.25 per person; £12.50 total). The tickets also come with free access to Kew Palace, but we didn’t make use of it this time.
The first thing that attracted our attention was the colourful tulip flowerbeds in front of the Palm House. I was also very intrigued by the statues of the Lion of England, the Unicorn of Scotland and the Dragon of Whales. We then made our way into the Palm House, and then to the Temperate House — each of which will be given posts of their own to make them justice. From the Temperate House we went to the Great Pagoda and the Japanese Garden.
The Great Pagoda stands in the south-east corner of the Gardens and was erected in 1762. It was originally elaborated with dragons in gilded wood, but these have since rotted away — no doubt courtesy of the English weather! Apparently the Pagoda is open during the summer months, offering visitors views of the Garden. The Pagoda was not open during our visit, which was a bit disappointing, but there is always next time! Much to our amusement a brilliant peacock was however patrolling the area.
The Japanese Garden was a personal favourite with its raked gravel that created the illusion of rippling water and the nice contrast of the red flowers against the green lawn and foliage. The garden surrounds a 4:5-scale replica of the Chokushi-Mon gateway of a Kyoto temple. The replica was built for the 1910 Japan-British exhibition and moved to Kew in the following year. The stone slab in front of the Chokushi-Mon was sprinkled with pennies thrown by visitors, which I thought very sweet.
From the Japanese garden, we made our way to the bluebell forest and then onto the rhodondendron dell and past the Minka House, an authentic Japanese wooden house. Eventually we then made our way back to Victoria Gate as the Gardens were about to close.
There is too much to see at Kew for a single visit, and I will definitely be going back soon — as soon as the weather has improved! (It’s almost June, so here’s hoping…!) I took a bunch of pictures, and I will be using these in a few more posts, so stay tuned!