Last day of spring is cold and wet. We are still about very early – it is light at 4:30am, our body clocks are not attuned yet. We walk in the rain a few blocks west and catch the 27 to Ravenscourt Park and the 391 to Kew Gardens. Bus is the way to go – it is as good as sightseeing for free having committed to a GBP42 weekly ticket – and the Plan a Journey website shows the route and all the options.
Kew Gardens is 300 acres of every conceivable plant species. Given the weather we see little more than about 20% of it; the main attractions in the north corner. The Palm House with Marine Aquarium and the Princess of Wales Conservatory are warm and dry and huge and amazing. We would like most of the plants at home please.
We see the rock gardens, inside and outside, the woodland garden, take snaps of Lilly in the secluded garden and have our sandwiches while oversighting the horticultural students veg gardens. Mainly they get high distinctions. The Great Amazon water lilies are 2 metres across and can hold up an adult if they spread their weight around. Can’t get Lilly on the Lilly though.
The latest knight of the realm, Sir (thanks Tony Abbott) Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip planted in the gardens a Wollemi pine which was discovered about 20 years ago in a remote valley not far from Sydney. This tree had previously been only known in fossil form and dates back about 200 million years.
The People and Plants Exhibition showed just how much civilisations past and present have relied on plants for their existence, welfare and development. Collected by Kew for over 250 years, you can see shoes made from bark, poisons and potions, and even a cannibal’s knife and fork! Think rubber, rice, corn, beans, lentils, bamboo (a grass and “friend of the people” in China), pine, the list is endless. In the huge grounds there is a Bonsai House, azalea garden, alpine house, rhododendron dell, rose garden, peacocks and much more.
We spend a bit time at Kew Palace and in the Royal kitchens. Google reveals “Kew Palace was the country home of George III’s aunts. The palace was used as a schoolhouse when the royal family was living at the White House just opposite. Here George, on the insistence of his father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, received a grueling education in the arts and sciences. George was an enthusiastic student and during his reign, he became an active patron of both; he continued to study architecture as a grown man and peppered his estates with new buildings designed by fashionable architects, including the startling Pagoda in Kew Gardens by Sir William Chambers.” Enough said.
Lilly insists I record our return train journey where we mistakenly (mine) get off the train at Gunnersbury thinking we had to get on the underground. I was wrong, the train was both over and under and we had to re-board a later train. Crossed at Earls Court for Bayswater and delicious dumplings at our warm and cozy apartment.