8 January 2012

First visit to Kew Gardens in 2012

With the office closed between Christmas and the New Year there was plenty of free time to see the family and also to pay a visit to Kew Gardens with friends.

I am not very good with heights (to say the least) but the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway was an obvious place to start. Walking among the trees at this height gives you great views of and through the trees as the seasons change.

This is as bare as it gets and the circular walkway is clearly visible from the ground.

I've been up there quite a few times now but it's still challenging. Luckily it was not that busy and I could walk round carefully and leisurely while trying to ignore the swaying, creaking and bending. It was good to hear at one of the rest points a mother explain to her two young girls that Dad had stayed below because he does not like it up there. It's not just me then.

The walkway is simple but clever.

It winds between the trees so that you really do get up close and personal.

The construction is reassuringly solid with high side yet is made from mesh so that the wind ignores it and you still get good views even when cowering with fear on the floor.

The downside is that the floor is equally transparent and that is somewhat less reassuring.

I tend to play safe and walk on the supporting girders whenever possible and I only stop to take in the view in the frequent observation bays above the supporting pillars.

And the views are definitely worth stopping for.

The Temperate House vies with the walkway for construction plaudits, and wins easily. The Victorians really knew how to build large greenhouses.

The walkway reveals more of the structure of the Temperate House than is obvious from the ground or inside. The uniform straight lines of the roof fall down like heavy rain then disappear to be replaced by gentle curves and the extravagant decoration of the fanlight.

Returning safe to the ground I headed for the Waterlily Pond to swap mechanical beauty for natural wonder.

And how better to demonstrate natural wonder than a peacock or four.

I had seen peacocks at Kew before but never this number and never this close. This one almost brushed me as he walked past.

Annoyingly peacocks walk with little jerks and refuse to pause for the many cameras that quickly appear from coat pockets as they approach.

I tried a few times to get a close-up of the Liberty fabric inspiring tail feathers and got badly composed and blurred photos for my efforts.

Luckily most of the things in Kew Gardens are pretty static and you only have to worry about the breeze moving them.

Just up from the pond is the lake. This is the view from the north end looking south-east. If you look carefully you can see the Sackler Crossing that is just over half way down the lake. More impressively if you look even closer you can see through the crossing to the trees beyond. Like the walkway earlier, the crossing is designed to stop people falling over/in also to also let light and wind pass through.

From there is was a gentle stroll toward White Peaks where I discovered a latte, some cake and a mince pie.

Rested, the final leg was past Kew Palace, through the Queen's Gardens, past the lake by the strange Nash Conservatory and then out of the main gate on to Kew Green.

Kew Gardens has a clever knack of filling a couple of weekend hours effortlessly and pleasantly. That's why I keep going.

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