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Kew Gardens – A Day In The Greens

Supriya Newar

Just like me, there were at least 20 other passengers who got off the tube and started walking over ground towards the bus stop in search of a bus that would take us to Kew Gardens after a detour in the tube route was announced. I finally reached Kew Gardens about 45 minutes behind schedule. But the day being nice and sunny, I didn’t allow minor blips to ruin my spirit. Entry ticket and a map of Kew Gardens in hand, I still had the full day as the park was scheduled to shut only by 6pm in the evening.

Home to one of the largest and most diverse collection of living plants anywhere in the world, Kew Gardens is one of the Royal Botanical Gardens that was founded by Princess Augusta, Princess of Wales and mother of King George III. Spread across 326 acres of beautiful landscape, the garden offers must see attractions that include glasshouses, iconic structures, charming cafes and more.

I decided to start my exploration with the treetop walkway, where I ascended 18 meters high into a canopy of lime, chestnut and oak trees for a bird’s eye view of Kew. The treetop walkway is a popular attraction, more so with school children who evidently enjoy the glass topped walkways and can be seen everywhere.

The Temperate House was next on my list and wasn’t too far from the Walkway. Working out some sort of a route is advisable as the Kew Garden premise is huge and walking from one point to another takes long, though every length and breadth of it offers greenery, water bodies and soothing sights and sounds.

This magnificent Victorian glasshouse of Kew Gardens was restored in 2013 and now houses some 1,500 species of plants from four continents and 16 islands, all within the temperate regions of the world. Many of these plants are now actually rare or even on the brink of extinction thanks to global climatic changes. There are two storeys with stairs at either end of the glasshouse and a climb up the spiral staircase for a view of the full glass house from the upper deck is highly recommended. The details of the display are both remarkable and thoughtful as plants are marked out according to their various usages, explaining the many ways in which human beings are dependent on them.

Photo Credits:The Temperate House: Kew Gardens                              Photo Credits: Palm House: The Epoch Times

If the Temperate House was all plants temperate, then the Palm House was all greens tropical. An iconic building, the Palm House recreates a rainforest climate within it to support a variety of plants from different tropical regions of the world under one roof. Not far from it was the waterlily house, a smaller but beautiful glass structure filled with lilies.

Photo Credits:The Victoria Plaza Cafe and Shop: Pinterest                                                  Photo Credits:The Orangery: Pinterest

Having walked a fair deal from the morning had helped me work up an appetite. Kew Gardens offers you a delectable range of eateries that serve delicious meals as well as views. I ambled up to the one closest to the Palm House - the Victoria Plaza Cafe and Shop. Finding myself a spot in the outdoors that overlooked a lovely green patch, I settled down with a large bowl of fresh salads and soup. Twenty minutes later, it was time for twenty winks on a nearby but secluded bench. I counted air planes that were flying really low and passed every other minute instead of counting sheep and dozed off amidst the greens to re-charge my batteries.

A perfect day in the outdoors and a good afternoon nap has to be topped off with a cuppa. I headed to The Orangery and treated myself to a slice of their freshly baked dark chocolate cake and tea. The Orangery offered a relaxed atmosphere, overlooking a water body and proved to be a good choice for a sweet ending.

Having checked off a few must see attractions on the map and knowing that there was no way I could visit each of them, I decided to put away the map and lose myself in the vastness of greens. A short walk from The Orangery got me to the Royal Kitchens. Though not in use anymore this was the kitchen where the food for the Royal family during the time of King George III was cooked. What was rather interesting about it, other than the fact that it gave a peek into yore, was that the elaborate oaths that each ‘humble servant’ had to undertake had been enlisted and framed. The kitchen garden right outside it looked bountiful with a ready crop.

With some more ambling around I chanced upon a gorgeous rose garden, an electric trail meant for elders that chugged along at a languorous pace, gift shops selling top class gardening equipment, seeds and plants and people of all ages and indeed from everywhere, soaking in the greenery.

Unfortunately I couldn’t enter the newly restored Pagoda at Kew Gardens since it was scheduled to be opened only in July, but I’m quite certain that’ll be a good excuse for me to visit Kew yet again whenever I’m in London again.