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Review: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Attraction - Park & Garden

Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE, United Kingdom

Plantscapes at Kew Gardens

  • By SilverTraveller Rowsie

    134 reviews

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  • July 2021
  • Friend(s)

34 people found this review helpful

Having not seen one of my friends for nearly a year, we decided to have a day out in London. I had seen advertising for the artist Vaughn Bell’s installations at Kew Gardens and that looked interesting so we booked tickets. Unfortunately, it was during a week when we had nothing but rain in London so we cancelled. I have to applaud Kew Gardens in that you can cancel your tickets up to 24 hours beforehand and get a full refund not many venues will let you do that. A week later we decided to try again and I went on line to re-book. Unfortunately, in just 7 days the prices had gone up by £2 a ticket which was a bit disappointing! (£17 for a senior and £19.50 for my slightly younger friend). However, the weather was kind to us so we started walking around Kew and seeking out the installations that we had especially wanted to see. There are seven of these installations, Sand Dune, Moorland, Marsh and Meadow, Hedgerow, Woodland and Green Roofs. The first one we came to was Hedgerow and to be quite honest this was supposed to “connect people more deeply with plants” but it was rather like standing in my own garden with my own bushes around me. The Marsh and Meadow installation was nicer, lots of wild flowers on raised wooden beds but walking around these I did not feel that I was “understanding more about plant ecosystems” as the brochure told me I would! The other installations we saw (we missed out a couple) were nice but not as exciting as we had expected. Overall we thought that Kew in general looked a little tatty and sad on this visit. One really interesting feature is The Hive. a multi sensory experience that reveals the secrets of the honeybee. That is well worth a visit. The Palm House and The Temperate House were as I remembered them but not hugely colourful or interesting.

After a lot of walking we decided to get something to eat and most of the food seems to be served from kiosks at the moment. However The Orangery had a more varied menu listed. Unfortunately, the only veggie thing on the menu, quiche, had all gone so we had to settle for a sandwich. Afterwards we visited The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art where there was an exhibition “Naturally Brilliant Colour”. To be honest this was a little too complicated for us. Four galleries took us through “Bio-inspiration”, “A kaleidoscope of nature’s colours”, “Pollia” (micro-technology using extremely small pieces of colour) and other similarly brain aching descriptive exhibitions! It rather went completely over my head I am afraid.

So our trip to Kew was a little disappointing. At the moment it is more like a park than a garden (and I can walk in a park without paying £17 to do so!). I hope this is just because they have been closed for so long and I hope they soon return to their former glory but the Plantscapes installations are not really exciting enough to warrant a visit.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 1 Comment(s)

  • Hardyplant
    2 months ago
    Thanks Rosie, very Interesting to read your thoughts as we were there yesterday. My husband is a Friend of Kew and also donates monthly but as we live a fair distance away I booked a hotel for 2 nights for his birthday (I'll review our stay near Kew Bridge later) so we could spend a long day in Kew. As you've done a review of Kew I won't now do one myself but want to add our thoughts about the current state of the gardens. You don't mention that access to the Temperate House, Palm House and Princess of Wales Conservatory is severely limited `due to Covid`! We were very disappointed as there was only one one-way path open through each of these houses, meaning no access to about two-thirds of the plants. The reason given, when we asked, was for `social distancing` but everyone was pushed along one path causing far greater crowding than if it had all been opened up. When we asked one of the gardeners if things would be opened up on 19th he said that they hadn't been told but he suspected they would keep restrictions in place, so not very good value for those who want to see plants in Kew at the moment. As you comment, a lot of local people use Kew as a local park, somewhere to push their children in their prams, and they couldn't care less about the plants. I also think Kew should have saved their time and money regarding the installations. We understand that Kew has lost a lot of revenue in the last 18 months and had to furlough staff so concentrating on the care of what plants they have would seem a better use of money. There were some tasty roast vegetable focaccias at The Orangery when we were there but the cakes at the Pavilion were extremely expensive - £5.95 for a slice of lemon drizzle - and you can't even see how big the cakes are as they are kept in the kitchen for ordering off a menu. On a positive note, the toilets are numerous and clean. Apologies for the length of this comment but i'm still upset.