What is Kew Gardens?
The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew – commonly called Kew Gardens is a large attraction of 300 acres near Richmond, London established in 1759.
It has the largest selection of living plants in the world.
Furthermore, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a charity. Although it receives funding, 45% of its income is from the public purse.
Living in Richmond, I’m a member of Kew Gardens, which gets me a discount in the shop and cafe and priority entrance.
The devastation of Covid-19 has been keenly felt by all charities and none more so than Kew Gardens, who have lost millions in visitor income.
If you live nearby, it’s worth getting a ‘season ticket’ for yourself, your partner, or your family. This means that you can visit as often as you like and you are doing your bit for the charity. If you are just visiting once, then National Rail often has a 2-for-1 deal.
Tickets are cheaper if bought online rather than at the kiosk and start at £14 per person. Children 4-16 pay £2.50 and under 4s are free.
How to get to Kew Gardens
The 65 bus goes directly from opposite Richmond station (Victoria Gate stop). There is a multi-storey car park at Richmond Station. Or take the tube from Richmond Station – one stop. It’s a short walk from there. Near the station are a few cafes and a wholefood store, so bear this in mind if it’s crowded in the park cafes. There is no general visitor car parking onsite. If you have a blue badge, there are a few spaces at Brentford Gate for visitors with disabilities. See Kew Gardens website for more information.
Where to go and what to do
The kiosk will provide you with a free map – you usually have to ask for one.
There’s a lot of walking to do, so it’s best to pace yourself. There are plenty of benches though if you do get tired. Paths are level and paved, so perfect for wheelchairs and buggies. As well as glorious displays of flowers in the summer, there are several greenhouses and one that has giant waterlilies. There is an art gallery, several cafes and the main shop, as well as a smaller one.
It’s gloriously dog free, so your little ones can run around unhindered. There are lots of quiet grassy places to spread out a picnic rug. It’s traffic-free too, apart from the odd mobility scooter and Kew Gardens vehicles, so safe for your children. If you take a picnic, you’ll obviously have to carry it around, so maybe plan to eat first.
I hadn’t been to the raised walkway, so we headed there first. It warns you of 118 steps. I walked up 463 to the Duomo in Florence (which nearly killed me), so this was a piece of cake. There is a lift but the walkway is not suitable for buggies or young children – the sides are high, presumably for safety reasons – so they wouldn’t be able to see anything. Naturally, the Treetop Walkway affords good views.
Henry Moore sculpture
We made a slight detour to see the Henry Moore sculpture Madonna and Child. It works really well in this open space allowing it to breathe. A dark green sheen on the metal complemented the contrasting lime green of the grassed lawns and backdrop of trees.
Very old trees
We passed some huge trees, needing a person in the shot to get perspective. This plane tree is hundreds of years old.
Along the Broad Walk is a wonderful planting of country cottage style flowers, buzzing with bees and a riot of colour.
Not far from here is one of the park’s oldest trees, dating from the 18th century.
Cascading water from several waterfalls can be heard that draw you in to the rock garden section.
Sackler Bridge crossing
Crossing over the Sackler Bridge, which is more or less in the middle, we then made our way through the bamboo and azalea gardens to a café for a much-needed ice cream and milkshake.
The Palm House was crowded so we kept our visit brief, sitting outside for a while to admire the floral displays with water backdrop.
By now we were feeling tired, but I managed to have a quick look at the rose gardens and kitchen garden before we decided to make our way to Victoria Gate.
Victoria Gate Shop
Exit is through the shop. I was impressed with the reasonable prices and quality of the products. In particular, the china, place mats, Emma Bridgewater mugs, scarves and Kew toiletries.
I also used the toilets along the route and it was very clean. In fact, the whole park was litter free and well maintained.
We spent about two-and-a-half hours in the park. If you stayed for lunch, maybe you could see a bit more.
Disclosure: Nothing to disclose; I paid for everything myself.
Have you been to Kew Gardens? What did you think?