With the pavements covered in crunchy, tawny leaves and the looming threat of winter ahead it seems only right to visit Kew Gardens and revel in Mother Nature’s bounty for a day. The anticipation builds as you walk along stately Kew Road, with grand houses to the right and a high stone wall to your left that brings to mind the magical world of C.S. Lewis, helped by the stone unicorn perched on top.
It’s difficult to know where to start once you’re through the grand gates and have a map in hand from the friendly ticket staff. A vast green expanse lays in wait, dotted with dozens of theme areas, genteel glasshouses, and a dizzying variety of plants, trees and flowers.
Do you make you way around the circumference and then work your way into the centre, do you zig zag between the glasshouses, or do you meander along the paths, getting lost and stumbling across peaceful spots? There are seasonal tours starting from Victoria Plaza near the entrance which will help you get your bearings, while gardeners will be chomping at the bit to zip straight to areas of interest. Here are my autumnal highlights for those without green fingers:
Queens Garden Walk behind Kew Palace and step back in time in an eerily peaceful, stone paved garden with cherubic and pan-like statues, and a delightful area for medicinal plants, complete with amusing descriptions from days of yore about their healing properties.
Secluded Garden Another charming spot, with delicate arrangements which invite you to explore with smell and touch.
Princess of Wales Conservatory This intriguingly modern-designed house enables you to step into warmer worlds, providing soothing respite if you’ve been tramping around the 800 odd acres in crisp temperatures. Its indoor journey takes you through different climates, from tropical through to arid desert, with more varieties of cacti then you thought possible.
Mediterranean garden The summer may be over but the Med’s holding up well. Close your eyes and you could be walking through the garden of that Spanish hotel you stayed in a few months’ back. Breathe in the pine and ogle the olive trees.
Conservation area There’s a secluded spot near its entrance where you can sit and quietly observe the bird feeders. If you’re lucky a green parakeet might flutter down. A cultivated forest floor is starting to emerge which makes an interesting contrast to the sculpted displays elsewhere in the grounds.
Treetop Walkway Take a deep breath, head up the metal staircase and onto the sometimes shaky metal floor. This 18-metre high construction takes you into Ewok land amongst the toasted leaf tops of lime, sweet chestnut and oak trees.
Palm House This stately structure built in the 1840s contains the biggest palm trees you’re ever likely to see. Walk up the winding staircase and round the balcony to get up close and personal with these exotic giants. Leave the heels at home girls.