Deserts, rain forests and a broken wheelchair

Tropical plants

Last Saturday it was a hot and sunny day in Richmond, Surrey – and perfect weather for visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Ignoring the terrible M25 queue (trying hard not to turn this whole blog into a pun), we had a brilliant afternoon. Kew is super accessible and quite straight forward to get to. We had planned to park in the car park but couldn’t access it because of road diversions. Eventually we decided on to park on a quiet side street on Kew Road (which is also the coach drop of point). There are lots of ‘parking permit only’ signs but these seem to be odd times and not applicable when we were there so we chanced it. Incidentally, if you are lucky to get one of the 300 parking spaces in their carpark it will cost you £6.50! Kew has a vast array of transport and parking information on their web-site which is worth a look.

So, parking done, time to head towards the gate. Oh my goodness. You know those drills they dig up roads with that vibrate the brains out of the operators …. that is how my head felt after driving along the most bumpiest pavement I’ve ever been on. If you use a chair – DO NOT use the pavement alongside the wall of Kew on Kew Road. It is horrific (take a look at it on street view to see how bad it is).

My brain now feeling like a blancmange that has gone through a tea strainer and my contact lenses still whirling round my eyeballs, we were in. We don’t know why but we were both given free entry (normally, carers/assistants go free and disabled people get a concession).

Really, I should have been paying full price because my experience was no different to people who walked in. The 300 acre grounds are all very accessible, smooth paths and gentle slopes. I could see nearly everything and they get a pat on the back for having a CP toilet.

Here is a sample of some of the different paths/terrain.

Paths at kew gardens

Kew is huge and you can easily spend an afternoon in one glass house. Currently the Evolution and Temperate House are closed for major works that will last many years. However, give me a tropical house and a huge conservatory with ten climatic zones any day. One minute you are amongst the plants of Madagascar and then next you are sitting with Cacti of central America. Did I mention I like succulents…. and rain-forests of orchids…. and bananas and mangos…. lets just say I was dragged out of there.

Kew plants

Tropical plants require tropical climates – just perfect for me. So with my husband and mother-in-law, Molly, wilting, I reluctantly came out the other end. I guess I’ll have to save the other side of the Prince of Wales Conservatory for next time.

We were rather out of season for the grass gardens and some of the floral displays but had a gentle meander through the rock garden and pools.

Next stop was a wander towards the Palm House. Within seconds of entering Kevin and Molly shot straight back out the opposite door! If you think the desert is hot – try this on a scorching summer day. Kevin did the gallant thing and came back in just in case I passed out or something. This glass building has 16,00 window panes to channel that summer sun like a death laser onto your hot and sticky body. Hard to believe the whole thing was dismantled and replanted in 1988. The glass is now toughened safety glass and the frame is stainless steel.

Here is a fact, inside this building is the Mexican Yam – used to develop the contraceptive pill! You can find plant facts and touchy feely boxes all around kew – it can be a very tactile experience! All the main tropical fruit trees and huge palms can be seen.

With the humidity in the extremities of the building it must have been over 100 degrees. After ten minutes I melted and went out. If you can walk down steps into the basement there is a modern aquarium display of 4 marine environments so I just read about it on the Net.

Pineapple

Bit of a breakdown….

There is only one ramped entrance but a few stepped exits – and it was on my way around the outside building that my chair started making a loud whirring noise… then it went putt-putt, jumped around … and stopped. My right motor failed and got extremely hot. Eventually it cooled down and I could move on snail speed. I don’t think it was the heat directly but the tropical house probably hastened its death.

I limped around the water-lilly house and we wandered through the wood area towards the lake. It was late afternoon and the treetop walk had closed. Kevin was quite up for it … until he saw how high it was (18 Metres high) and that you walk on mesh looking straight through to the ground! The walkway has a lift but does not permit mobility scooters (I guess electric chairs are ok?). Either way, some people were still going up despite signs that it was closed. We gave it a miss.

We also missed the Stag Beetle habitat, the Bonsai House, bee garden, aquatic garden and Lily Pond, museum, Kew Palace … so many areas that you really need a 2-3 days (and of course different seasons if you want spring bulbs or cherry blossom).

and for the tech geeks….

I had the Kew App (which you can download at the gate on free wifi) and with that you get a whole encyclopaedia of plant information. You can scan QR codes or hold up your phone to scan the area. As you hold up your phone on camera mode, it highlights the names of trees and plants you are looking at, which are clickable. You can then find out about the tree, what the wood is used for, where it comes from and all the technical information a hardy botanist might need.

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