30 October 2010

Ponds, palace and plants

The combination of a short holiday and a bright Autumnal day naturally leads to Kew Gardens.

It's a big place, far too big to explore on one visit, which makes repeat visits all the more rewarding. And the changing seasons help too.

This time the Play School decision was to go in via the so-called Main Gate off Kew Green, rather than the more usual (for me) Lion Gate or Victoria Gate (which most people think is the main gate).

The first place to explore was the north corner where Google maps had revealed ponds that I had not seen before.

They are well hidden by trees and even knowing they were there they took some finding.

The first was clear, loved by ducks and geese, and kept alive by a small fountain.

The second was perfectly still allowing plants to claim it as their own with only a few lost coots daring its green surface.

There were few other people in this corner of the garden and one of them, another regular visitor to Kew, said that she had not been to the ponds before either. I suspect some sort of cloaking magic.

From the ponds it's a short walk west towards Kew Palace, the smallest of the royal palaces.

Behind Kew Palace, i.e. on the north side, is a small formal garden with structural hedges, not unlike the side garden at Ham House.

But this is a bit bigger and a bit grander than that with a rectangular pond, a semi-circle of statues and sunken flower beds. Something to tease the eye in every direction.

The palace itself is not bad either.

It's beauty derives mostly from its symmetry and order but the bold contrasting colour helps too.

From Kew Palace its another short walk to the Orangery for what was going to be lunch but as I ended up having some Seville marmalade cake it was probably more an early afternoon tea. With cake like that who needs lunch?

Turning east from the Orangery takes you to the grass garden. And I love grasses.

This section of the gardens is small but the clever people there have managed to pack in many varieties of grass and to arrange them so that their differences and similarities are emphasised.

Man and grass have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for tens of thousands of years and Kew helps you to appreciate that.

The prettiest way home from there is through the Princess of Wales Conservatory which also fulfils the unwritten rule that every visit to Kew includes a visit to one of the three main greenhouses.

The variety and extravagance of the plants makes all the greenhouses worth visiting but the Victorian ones have the advantage of grandiose architecture that the Princess of Wales sadly lacks. It already looks old and worn, unlike its much older companions.

The trip ends via the Victoria Gate and a 65 bus home.

Another two hours or so spent pleasantly in Kew Gardens with the promise of more to come. It's a real treasure and deserves its regular worship.

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