It’s a rare occasion when Jon and I manage to plan a day out. With both of us being self-employed, our work hours are anti-social at the best of times. We decided to take the opportunity of having less clients over the school holidays by booking in some ‘us’ time.
We took a little day trip into London via the horrible A10 and North Circular. Thank goodness for holiday traffic. Had the roads been busier, it probably would have ruined the day. But they weren’t so we ventured off to the wonderful Kew Gardens. We’d never been before and I don’t think we’d even visited a Botanical Garden.
We arrived at Elizabeth Gate at about 10:30am to a surprisingly empty entrance queue (which was a bonus). The sun was shining and the breeze was perfect. We went straight to the Orangery to get coffee and plan what we were going to see. En-route, I got distracted by pretty things… this tends to happen if I have a camera with me. I like to think of myself as being able to take a good shot but have absolutely no idea how to use a proper camera really. Anyway, I like trying. Although there isn’t a huge amount in bloom at the moment, the colours in the Spring bulbs and the Magnolia’s were magnificent.
Once we had finished off our coffee, we made our way over to the Palm House. On approach, you’re first met by a beautiful man-made lake, with statues on each corner and ducks and swans gliding arounds in the sun. Jon has a thing for Geese. They make him smile. So, while he was trying to get the perfect shot of a pair, I looked up to see the beautiful Victorian iron and glass structure before me. It’s steamed up windows and palm leaves pressed against the glass were much like Kate Winslet’s hand against the car window in Titanic. It’s white iron frame looked so impressive against the blue sky.
Once inside, it took a while to adjust. We assumed it was warm inside as every child who walk out of the door gasped and grabbed at their clothes. When we walked in, our glasses steamed up and the lens on the camera was foggy. Eventually, the temperatures matched and we were able to see where we were going. Just walking around the vast tropical plants in the humidity made me feel like we’d landed somewhere hot. The same kind of heat that I have missed from 4 years ago in Vietnam. We meandered around, with Jon looking for ideas for art work and me just staring at the plant varieties wishing I lived somewhere warmer. We eventually found an wrought iron spiral staircase leading up into the top of the conservatory. I swear, once up there, the heat doubled. We were dripping with sweat, but it really didn’t matter. The view across the tops of the palms was gorgeous.
The cold when we left the palm house brought us back to England with a short, sharp shock. Back to the very British pond with ducks and swans outside. We wandered around aimlessly for a while, looking for somewhere to sit and eat lunch. Once we found a bench within the trees, we ate our packed lunch. We watched the giant Airplanes climbing in front of us carrying lucky people off on their travels from Heathrow Airport. After experiencing the palm house, we were slightly jealous of the travellers.
Our next stop was the Japanese landscape. It was quite easy to find. The towering structure could be seen from where we were eating lunch and peaked through the trees so we knew we were going in the right direction. This collection of small, tranquil spaces was created as a bond forming tool between the UK and Japan. The area was surprisingly busy with tourists, showing the obvious pull to Japanese culture. However, within the hustle, people still found time to quietly reflect in the peaceful surroundings. Many people were just sitting and taking in the calm environment. The gardens have a way of taking you out of London. The only reminder was the hum from Heathrow as the planes flyover.
After finding our inner peace, we walked for a while. Through the trees, finding more areas to explore. The sun was high in the sky and there was no real rush so we just absorbed the environment. People watching, getting broody over children playing in nature and generally soaking everything up. As we walked, we came across the palm house again from the opposite direction. It crept up slowly, growing, as we walked up the promenade between the trees. I was so distracted by everything, I slipped in a patch of mud and very nearly ended the day with a soggy journey home to Hertfordshire. I managed to catch myself in time, squealing loudly and breaking the peace for everyone around us.
Our final stops were the Waterlily House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The Waterlily House is another example beautiful, Victorian conservatory from 1852. It really makes me want a period house with a conservatory to retire to during the day… Anyway! I can dream. The lilies were the most vivid colours I’ve ever seen. With not much knowledge of Waterlilies, it made me want to learn more.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory, is a far more modern structure but it contains a vast selection of plants from a multitude of areas, with it’s 10 separate climates within one building. Personally, I was most excited about the Cacti. There is something about the succulent beauties that I adore. I think it’s their ability to survive in dry, desolate environments and still produce wonderful, vibrant blooms within their little thorny bodies. I love them. The layout in the Cacti section allowed you to wander along the path but still feel like you were in the dry landscape.
Unfortunately, the walled vegetable garden was out of season. The majority of beds still had green manure growing. The garlic was growing and the fruit trees were budding up but that was about it. You could see that the gardeners had started to wake up the garden for the peak growing season. We’ll definitely com back again to see how this part of the garden has taken shape.
That was our day out. With a quick journey and a vegan pizza on the way home, we were exhausted when we arrived through the door. But, it was great to remind ourselves that, when we make time, we have a pretty awesome time together on a day out exploring. More time needs to be made for things like this. It’s so easy for work to get in the way and every day starts to roll into the next and before you know it life has already happened. Our advice, fit in what you can, experience things, take risks, be busy enjoying life not just working through it.
It’s amazing what a trip to a nice garden and being in nature can do for your mindset.
Thanks Kew Gardens!!