29 March 2014

Temperate House and more at Kew Gardens

The Temperate House at Kew Gardens has been closed for a few months in preparation for its major refurbishment that will keep it closed until 2018. Once the work starts in earnest it will be hidden behind construction hoardings so I went on one of the guided walks to get a final look at it and to learn more about it.

Almost all of my visits to Kew Gardens are at 9:30 on Sunday morning so being there on a Saturday at 11 was an unusual experience. It was busier than I expected as I thought that everybody else went shopping on Saturdays.

Despite the day and time change I still had my usual fix of coffee. This time before the walk rather than in the middle.

We were led to the Temperate House via the main path that follows the wall west towards Lion Gate. This was to allow us to approach it the way that it was designed to be approached. Kew Gardens station was meant to be built at the end of The Avenue (that's the name of the road) and there is a false gate to Kew Gardens where this road reaches it. The avenue continues inside the park and leads to the entrance of the Temperate House.

Inside the Temperate House work had almost completed in clearing plants out of the way of the impending refurbishment. Some had been moved elsewhere, including outside where they were hardy enough, but for a significant number their destination had been the grinder and the compost heap.

The bonus of the absent plants was that more of the metalwork was exposed, and that is what I had gone there to see.

There was some bad news there too, sadly, in that the distinctive and decorative spiral staircases to the upper walkway are due to be replaced. I can only hope that the cries of despair from our group will be added to others (there must have been lots of others) and that will cause a rethink.

We were given details of what the restoration project aims to achieve, including fixing the opening windows and the watering system. It was interesting to learn about the mechanics of the building but what really interests me about the restoration is what the building will look like when the work is finished and I'll have to wait until 2018 to find that out.

When the tour was over, it took almost exactly an hour, I made for the Treetop Walkway as that was nearby and I had not been up it for a couple of months.

I like to go up there regularly as it is one way that I can convince myself that I am not always terrified of heights.

The other reason for going up there regularly is because the view changes dramatically with the seasons, possibly more so than any other part of the gardens.

At this time of the year, with very few leaves on the trees, the walkway itself was one of the things that I wanted to see and another was the view from it of the garden. It is an impressive structure in both regards, even if it does sway and creak a little bit more than I am comfortable with.

My previous few trips to Kew Gardens had been to the east-end where the flowers are but with Spring arriving the wooded west-end was starting to take on the appearance of a welcoming glade with fresh verdant undergrowth with clumps of daffodils.

The last thing to see on the way out was the Pagoda.

I had learnt on the earlier tour of the Temperate House that the Pagoda was also being refurbished and this would include allowing people to go up it. This was brilliant news indeed.and I will definitely be going up if I can, despite its height.

The restoration work there was well under-way and there was a substantial amount of close-packed scaffolding to one side of it. I like scaffolding.

I also like Kew Gardens. A lot. And that is because there is something new to see every time.

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