Kew Gardens

As much walking as you like, April, clouds. Solo

I’ve had a lifetime working with plants, and in that lifetime I’ve spent many hours hunting them down and gawping at them at Kew. It’s one of the most famous botanical gardens in the world, it certainly has the largest and most diverse collection of botanical specimens, including its preserved plant and fungal specimens, we’re talking in excess of 8 million. That’s a lot of botany. As if that wasn’t enough, in a state of the art underground storage facility in Wakehurst Sussex there are 2.4 billion seeds in their Millennium Seed Bank. A visit to Kew has a lot to live up to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been, but I must be approaching triple figures, so the question of whether it’s worth a walk for me is academic. If you like things that grow, and you don’t mind them tamed, you’ll probably like a walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Firstly, and unlike any other walk on here, you’ll have to pay to get in. When you’re in you’re a captive for the food outlets, and they aren’t cheap, plus you’ll have to run the gauntlet of the garden centre and shop. They have the same plants as other decent garden centres so there’s no need to go beserk in there and you can bring your own picnic. It’s also very accessible, you can borrow motorised buggies and there’s even a little train bus. You cannot however bring your pets.

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I can walk for miles, particularly if I haven’t been for a while. I feel the need to check in with old tree friends, and see what’s new in the glasshouses. It’s a mile across but I’ve never once walked in a line across it. I will step off from the main drag and wander into the trees. I prefer the wild areas to the blousy floral displays. I’ll go left from the main gate and find the grassy area beneath the trees that most people miss. In summer I’ll escape the crowds and find a spot and lie down, listening to jackdaw and crow town.

In Spring, today’s visit, Kew is beginning to burst. Already the magnolias and cherry blossom are showing off, the best of the spring trees are along the south eastern path where you’ll find the camellias, around the Temperate House, where the cherries are underplanted with tulips and the rhododendron dell.

Everything is happening in Spring. Today a fox sauntered across the grass in front of me. I went towards the end of the day when things are a little quieter. If you come first thing on a June morning you might see a deer or if you’re lucky a knock-kneed fawn skittering for cover in the bushes. I’ve never seen the badgers but I know they’re there. I’ve watched a green woodpecker bouncing unconcerned by my feet as I sat, and a greater spotted high up in the tree.


Where I walk is dependent on my mood and the season. It is a year round place to walk. In spring I walk round looking for unfurling leaves, blossom and the shape of things to come. I’ll sit in blossom petals and look for wildlife. I’ll visit the chaotic bird feeders and the bluebells at Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I’ll almost certainly have lunch in the pavilion.


In summer I’ll sit with the jackdaws, or by the lake if it’s hot. The geese will eat duck food from your hand. We’ll play look up, lying under trees watching the blue sky through gently waving branches. I fell asleep once and the jackdaws stole my dream, it was gone when I woke up. I might take a look at the rose garden or grand displays of flowers along the Broad Walk, but more likely we’ll go dragonfly and butterfly watching in the woodland, and have a lazy picnic. We did the Big Butterfly Count here, and found plenty. If it’s too warm I’ll hide in the bamboos.


Kew is special in the autumn, as is any place with magical trees. First I’ll check on the colour of the two Euonymous by the temple of Bellona. In a normal autumn they are stunning, in a good colour year they make me cry. I’ll seek out the Liquidambers and maples, and if my timing is right I’ll stand under a Ginkgo leaf shower like a dinosaur, these are the oldest tree species in the world. Or I’ll take a moment of peace in the Japanese garden.


But Winter is my favourite time of year in Kew. The crowds have gone, and the trees are stark naked, but I know they’re up to something. Now is the time to walk briskly along the holly walk, or under the giant redwoods and if needs be, warm up in the Palm House. You’ll probably meet the jays on the way there. I like to check in with the carnivorous plants in the Princess of Wales glasshouse, just to make sure they are eating enough. Then I’ll go looking for the secret winter scents: christmas box and witch hazel, and my favourite, gorgeous wintersweet which hides near the Nash conservatory, once smelled, hard to leave behind. And at Christmas (for an extra charge) there is the Kew light show, in the darkness surrounded by fire and neon with mulled apple juice.

So pick up your free map on the way in, study it and then hand it back. You don’t need it anyway because whichever direction you decide to go in you’ll find your Kew. But don’t stick to the main paths and signs, there is much more to find off the beaten track.

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Walk info

Kew is easily reached on public transport, Kew Gardens station is served by the district and overground lines. Allow as much time as you can spare to enjoy your walk. There is of course no set route and you should not feel obliged to visit everything, every glasshouse or every square inch. I recommend walking to some of the outer areas, particularly around the southern end. Bear in mind your map isn’t oriented north-south. The glasshouses are fun to visit too, particularly walking the high level, as is the treetop walk. Look out for less visited spots like the rock garden and alpine house. There will always be exhibitions or special events, including the famous Orchid Festival which runs in February. Go early if you want to see that but be prepared for queues on the weekend.

19 responses to “Kew Gardens”

  1. Marvellous! Not too long go, my London family treated us to a day there: it cost them a mint, but they bought tickets beforehand – and it tipped it down most of the day. We still enjoyed it, in a British kind of way, but it did prevent us seeing Kew at its best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A day for the glasshouses and finding a tree canopy to shelter under.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. Not so good for the under 7s though.


  2. I enjoyed every second of that. I’ve only been twice, both in times long ago, before the fancy overheads and rising prices. I had no money then so it was a treat, and no doubt still would be. Our world is so full of beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Back in the day the membership cost was reasonable, not any more! But I’m extremely fortunate to get a corporate discount these days


      1. Sounds good to me 🤗💗


  3. Looks wonderful. And very jealous of your fox and green woodpecker encounters. 🙂


  4. Beautiful photos, and great narration! 🇬🇧❤️

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You make it sound so exciting, thanks for the tour.
    I used to visit Kew regularly when a student in London, as well as the other green spaces to keep my sanity. I am sure admission was free in those days (the swinging 60s) or very little otherwise we wouldn’t have gone.
    Only visited once in the last 10 years, if I’m down there tend to go to Richmond Park, Savill Gardens or Wisley. They have all become expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true, so many of these gardens have priced out us folks. And getting to the countryside by train can be ridiculous prices too. I worry that down south fresh air is now the preserve of the rich

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Come up north it’s free!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I see they’re charging an exhorbitant price for entry into Hampton Court gardens now, which had been free entry for a long time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s getting silly. And why charge kids? It’s bad enough if there are two adults but bring 3 kids and it’s over £100 to visit Hampton Court!!


  6. A green lung on the edge of the Big Smoke. We’ve been there a couple of times quite a few years ago when they were showing a major exhibition by the sculptor, David Nash. They changed the exhibits half way through, hence the return visit. I iked the big old glass house and it was a pleasant wander round the grounds. I do remember that during the first vidit there was an almost constant stream of planes flying into Heathrow. So not so peaceful. They must have been using a different flightpath the second time. You get the same problem, mind, in the woods at Styal (National Trust) which is in close proximity to Manchester airport.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there are also the considerations of atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature. Some days the planes are really distracting, this last time I hardly noticed them. I remember Roger Deakin writing about the trains at the bottom of his garden being louder in damp weather. I remember the David Nash sculptures well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely description, went there once many years ago and it brought back fond memories of the Palm House. Now I know how you know the names of all the plants 🪴

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It feels like I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew :/

      Liked by 1 person

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