A trip to Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens has always had special appeal to me - my grandparents lived not too far away in Kingston, and my father had embarked on his working life there. Although I haven't been there for a few years, my last trip being as part of a forestry college 'southern tour' (the college was in Penrith, Cumbria) in 1990, I do have recollections of visiting as a child whilst staying with my grandparents.

Finally in September this year, I decided to take my 6 year old son for his first visit, also inviting my parents. Although my memories of the place are a little hazy, once I was back I was instantly reminded of many of the stand out features - the large glass houses, the palace, the lake, the pagoda, but most importantly the number, variety and size, of the trees across the whole site. There are also a number of new attractions at Kew since my last visit, most notably the treetop walkway.

I had an enjoyable day reacquainting myself with Kew, and I'd also picked a good time of year for wood decay fungi spotting, so whereas my son enjoyed running around in-between the trees, I also did the same trying to spot some good examples to photograph! Interestingly, I found an Inonotus dryadeus fruiting body growing on a London Plane - something I've not seen before as they are commonly associated with Oak - and also a Phaeoleus schweinitzii (Dyers Mazegill) growing at the base of a Cedar with extensive heart rot - a fungus that I had not seen for myself before.

When we came to the treetop walkway, my son was surprisingly keen to climb up the steps to the top (he's not normally one for heights!), and although I had to look up twice (I'm not keen on heights myself - strange for an employee of tree surgeon you may ask, but I've always been more involved in groundwork/forestry, and for the past couple of years carrying out tree surveys from ground level!), we made our way up. Once we were up there, having got used to the slightly 'bouncy' nature of the metal mesh floor of the walkway, we had a great view of not only the surrounding treetops, but of the gardens and London beyond.

Perhaps the most personally satisfying part of the day for me was arriving at the Temperate House (the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world), and the site of my fathers first place of work! The most disappointing part of the day, although we did know this before coming, was that the Temperate House closed in August of this year for a 5 year restoration project, costing £34.3 million! I did however manage a photograph of my father and my son outside of the North Octagon (one of the two smaller rooms linking the main house to the side wings), this being the room where my father had sole charge of the plants inside during part of his time there!

Although Kew is famous for its architectural features, there are not many places in the country that can compete with the gardens in terms of its tree collection. There are many different specimens throughout, not only of the common 'everyday' native species, but of course the abundance of exotics which cross the site.

Kew Gardens is a great day out for people of all ages, and offers a variety of interest to all who visit, and is something that I would recommend to anyone. I hope not to leave it so long before revisiting myself!

Submitted by Iain on Thursday 7th November 2013

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