With only days left in the year, I thought I should take advantage of the sunny morning and head to Kew Gardens to write the last post in my A Year in Kew Gardens series. It was a fairly spontaneous decision to start the project after a visit here in January but it’s brought me unexpected joy in following the year of these famous botanical gardens.
I’ve been coming to Kew regularly for almost as long as I remember. I even remember when you paid just one old penny to get in (so pre-1971), putting the coin in a turnstile at the entrance. It costs a good deal more than that now but my annual Friends’ season ticket is excellent value as I come here so often and I feel very lucky that as a Richmond resident, the Gardens are a kind of local park. Following the Gardens through this year though, coming each month to photograph the changes and see what’s going on, has brought greater focus to my visits, which in turn has made me appreciate them even more. It’s easy in familiar surroundings to just walk on without taking a great deal of notice of what’s around you. Before, I would of course notice the different seasons: the bulbs pushing their way through the ground in the spring; the vibrant colours of the summer and the glorious autumn colours later in the year. But coming here with the intention of writing a post on the blog about what I see has made me look with more attention; it’s highlighted changes throughout the year; as my camera has zoomed in to take close-ups of blossom and flowers my observations have become more focused too. If I loved Kew before, I perhaps love it even more now and feel I know it better. I love its diversity: from the ordered symmetry of the flowerbeds outside the Palm House – which change with the seasons – to the wilder countryside feel of the woodland glade.
The year has seen highlights for Kew, not least the Raymond Blanc TV series, Kew on a Plate, set in the Gardens, where we watched the planting and growing of vegetables and fruit in the kitchen garden with Raymond cooking up gorgeous dishes with the produce. Another highlight was their first Literary Festival – Write on Kew – when I went to a brilliant talk by Melvyn Bragg with my son, combining that with my September post.
So much have I enjoyed the project that I felt slightly sad this morning recording its final post. I will of course be coming back to Kew regularly, and no doubt will write the occasional post. But even good things come to an end and today’s post must be the last in the series. This morning’s visit didn’t disappoint. The strangely warm weather we’ve been having this December has resulted in spring bulbs and blossom coming out earlier than usual. I found large clumps of snowdrops in full bloom, camellias flowering and even magnolias. Here is my walk:
As I made my way round the far side of the large pond by the Palm House (photo at top), towards the Princess of Wales Conservatory, I found little hellebores opening.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory:
As I walked past the Orangery Restaurant I saw clumps of snowdrops and other spring flowers.
Passing the White Peaks Café & Shop, I took a little more notice than usual of the activities available for children, thinking that when grandson Freddie is a little older he’ll love playing here. Jonathan and Lyndsey already have a Family Season Ticket so Freddie is becoming familiar with the Gardens, but he’s a little too young for the playground yet.
Moving into a quieter area I saw this Ash in blossom:
Then I walked down a wide avenue of trees towards the Thames, which runs along the north-western edge of the Gardens.
I passed the Lake to my left, with its beautiful Sackler Crossing bridge. There were geese by the water’s edge and a large cygnet; not quite a swan yet with its many still-brown feathers.
The Lake is perhaps my favourite part of Kew Gardens. It’s a peaceful area and I do like being near water – rivers, the sea. There are benches set around it so you can always take a quiet break and sit and contemplate life and the world – or simply watch the feathered wildlife at play. At the far end of the Lake lies the boundary of the Gardens with the Thames.
When my kids were young we often cycled along the towpath here, travelling from Richmond to Kew bridge and back. Opposite you can see Syon House, the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland and famous for its Robert Adam’s interiors – Adam being a famous architect in the 18th century. From here I cut through a wilder wooded area towards Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, passing the Badger Sett.
And eventually I came to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage – really more of a house, given its size! It was built between 1754 and 1771 for Queen Charlotte as a private haven.
Weirdly, I was sure I’d written about it here and was trying to put in a link … but discovered that I hadn’t. I definitely visited sometime fairly recently so shall have to write about it another time. It’s closed during winter months so if you want to see the inside, check its separate openings times.
From here on the far south side of the Gardens, I started to make my way back to Victoria Gate, passing through the glorious Redwood Grove. I just love these magnificent trees.
Next, I passed the Japanese Gateway with its unique Japanese take on tranquillity, full of precise order and significance in every stroke across the gravel, the plantings and the bridge. A little way past it stands the Pagoda.
And in the final stretch of my walk, I saw Japanese quince, Camellias and Magnolias in early blossom.
It was a lovely walk (and notched up about 5km on my phone’s pedometer!). I may not have made the time to get there if it hadn’t been for wanting to write this last post in the Kew series, but now I’ve discovered that every month at Kew offers its own delights, I’m sure I shall keep coming back again and again all year long in years to come.
For more information about Kew Gardens visit their website: click here.
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