Kew is a historic garden where time certainly hasn’t stood still. Formed out of two separate, royal, designed landscapes – Kew Palace and neighbouring Richmond Lodge – there are historic features from four centuries to discover along with exciting 21st century innovations.
For ages I have been wanting to visit when Queen Charlotte’s Cottage is open. Originally smaller than today, it was designed as a place for the royal family to go to have picnics and the picnic room is still intact. It is exquisitely decorated with a trellis of trailing plants, which might have been painted by King George III and Queen Charlotte’s third daughter, Princess Elizabeth. The cottage is tucked away at the far end of the site and only open at weekends and bank holidays from April to September, so is something of a hidden gem. It is close to the badger’s sett, so gives grown-ups added persuasion value when young legs start to flag. The other thing I am keen to see is far newer – the Xstrata tree-top walkway. At 18 m high, it gives you a whole new perspective on trees and I love the way that the supports echo the shapes of the trees so elegantly. I was therefore quite envious when my son announced that they were going to Kew on a school trip.
As I couldn’t go with them, and as I am waiting for a fine Spring Sunday to visit, here are the thoughts of a six year old on what inspired him at Kew, in his own words:
‘The best thing was the Princess of Wales conservatory because there were animals in there. I liked the poison dart frogs best. They were cute. There were turtles too. Oh and I have to say the Venus fly trap. I saw one with a fly in its ‘mouth’. The tree top walk was cool because you saw parakeets and you could run. School let us go round triple times. The worst thing was that it was a long way between things, so you had to walk a long way.’
Now I am even more keen to go back. What will he like when allowed to be a bit more free-range than he could on a school trip? What will his two and a half year old brother (small, but with strong opinions on subjects) like? How will their experiences be different in Spring as opposed to the last days of winter? And maybe this time we will see the lizards Nanna promised him were in the Princess of Wales house.