Kew Gardens with Hastings Battleaxe

Well, less Kew Gardens with Hastings Battleaxe, more Kew Gardens with the WI – 49 of us went up on a coach. Philosopher came as one of 3 husbands.  The weather was just right – sunny but not too hot, the place was not too crowded, and we had a lovely day. I had only been to Kew once, a brief visit about 15 years ago.

The Palm House at Kew

The coach trip was fine – very little traffic, and on arrival we all converged for coffee on the Orangery, the nearest refreshment outlet to the gate where we were dropped off.  Horrors – a massive group of women trying to use one working automatic coffee machine….

Philosopher and I headed off on our own. The first thing that struck me was the many beautiful old trees – many dating from the original foundation of the Gardens in 1762. Here is a web site describing the ‘monumental trees’ . We only saw a few of these – we’ll have to go back again and see more.

Black Locust Tree
Turner Oak

In the Princess of Wales glasshouse we were much taken with the huge waterlilies – and this lizardy creature which was standing absolutely mtionless on some steps. People were gazing at it trying to decide if it was real – but if you looked closely you could see its sides moving in and out with its breath, and occasionally it would twitch an eye. Turns out it is one of five Chinese Water Dragons who are employed to eat pests in the glass house.



We wandered along via the alpines, the rockery, the kitchen garden, and the newly planted Evolution Garden, which shows how all the different families and taxonomies of plants fit together. It had some wonderful displays of autumn flowers.

Eventually, we reached the Marianne North Gallery, which for us from Hastings, was a must-see. My goodness, she was a busy woman – the walls are absolutely crammed, top to bottom,  with her wonderfully bright paintings of flowers, tress and fauna from her world-wide travels. The result is a bit overwhelming.  Of course, Marainne is a Hastings woman – lilved much of her llife here when she was not traversing the globe. Here is a blog post I did a while ago on Notable Women of Hastings.


We ate our picnic lunch sitting by the lake near the Palm House. One thing, the gardens were full of glass sculptures by someone called Dale Chihuly. Many of my WI friends thought they were wonderful, but to be honest,  Philosopher and I didn’t care for them. A bit over-lurid and hectic, we felt.  Sounds strange coming from me who collects art glass, but there you go.

PIcnic by the Palm House
Chihuly outside the Palm House

Then to the first of the massive glass houses – the Temperate House, designed by Decimus Burton (another Hastings connection!) and built in 1860. It only re-opened last year after a five-year, massively expensive restoration.  I love a Victorian glass house…



More Chihuly in the Temperate House

Then we climbed I don’t know how many steps up to the Treetop Walkway.  It was good, but not that good….

Then, a walk through the Rose Garden and to the Palm House. It was wonderful, but very hot – they were squirting water vapour all around, which gave a beautifully misty effect.  The Palm House is one of the oldest, and largest, glasshouses in the world, also designed by Decimus Burton and built in 1844.  Many of the plants are so near the ceiling – they must have to constantly cut them back. The giant bamboo can grow 2.5 metres in 16 days.




Last, we visited The Hive, an art installation based on, and wired up to, a beehive.


By now completely knackered,  we tottered back to the Orangery for a final drink before getting back onto the coach. I haven’t mentioned the other WI folks at all – we saw them at intervals throughout the day.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There was so much we two didn’t see – we’ll go back.  Unfortunately the journey back was beset by delays – the M25 up to its usual tricks – two big accidents leading us to divert through Brighton. Didn’t get home until nearly 8pm.


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