21 October 2012

Exploring Kew Gardens (October 2012)

Each visit to Kew Gardens that I make has some sort of master plan to it simply because there is just so much to see and without a plan you risk either wasting time deciding what to do next or getting home and realising that you missed something that you really wanted to see.

These plans are not complex and can be as simple as picking one of the major attractions to see, such as the Temperate House. This time the plan was to go for a reasonably long and brisk walk so that mean go in at the Lion Gate and heading towards the river.

I was happy to be diverted along the way (a plan is just an intention, it is not an instruction) and the first diversion came courtesy of the Japanese Gardens that the Kew Gardens iPhone app had alerted me to.

The gravel-pretending-to-be-water and the pagoda are the main features of this small and tidy garden and hidden behind them is this neat stonework and fading ferns.

From there it was a simple and necessary step to the Treetop Walkway.

I made the mistake of going up in the lift, just to prove to myself that it really was working never having seen it in service before, and that was more terrifying than the steps. Never again.

The reward is to be in among the treetops as they concede that Summer has gone and start to prepare for the Winter to come.

A special feature of the walkway is the way that some of the thin, see-through mesh that passes for the floor flexes and pings under your feet. Not very reassuring.

I keep telling myself that if I keep going up there then one day it will seem natural and I'll not noticed that I am not worried. That has not happened yet.

Back on the ground I continued in the vague direction of the river, this time being diverted by coloured trees.

Some celebrated Autumn with bright yellows while others went a less impressive brown. The most flamboyant decided to go red.

The lake dominates that section of Kew Gardens and that forces a decision on how to get around or across it. I kept with the head for the river plan and followed the lakeside path to the west end of the lake.

The view back down the lake from there was something special.

The size of the lake, the shape and colour of the trees and the almost complete lack of anything man-made makes the scene natural and beautify. Even the hint of the Sackler Crossing in the distance does nothing to fracture the harmony. This is a wonderful spot in a wonderful garden.

From there it was a picturesque, if somewhat damp, walk vaguely following the river and avoiding the main paths. The next distraction provided coffee and cake.

Then a change of plan. I had intended to leave at the main gate, now called the Elizabeth Gate apparently, but once refreshed I fancied the longer walk back to the Victoria Gate.

The main reason for this diversion was the grass garden. This is one of my very favourite spots in Kew and is especially gorgeous at this time of year. I love the way that the grasses are planted in small groups to emphasise both their similarities and their differences.

I have walked through and around the Alpine garden many times but this was the first time that I had actually explored it.

Steps take you away from the main path and from the higher level you get a better understanding of how the garden is laid out and you find more waterfalls too.

It was a grey day with a strong threat of rain (it came) and that served to keep some of the families away. Not that I am totally against families, I am in one myself, it is just that they bring noise, movement and colour when I was looking for peace, serenity and solitude.

The absence of people was especially noticed here in the Alpine garden where all my previous attempts to take decent landscape shots had been thwarted by people wearing bright red, blue or yellow coats. I was wearing grey.

And somehow that was a couple of hours on a Sunday morning gone in a very satisfying manner. Rremarkably, no greenhouses were involved. It was a morning that paid testament to Kew Gardens' size, variety and natural beauty.

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