We decided to visit Kew palace. Whether one wants to visit the Royal botanical Gardens (world heritage site since 2003) or not, one has to enter it to arrive at Kew palace. But who wouldn’t want to see these fabulous gardens at any time?
A visit to the Royal Botanical gardens at Kew and its Palace is a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon in London. (And London has been particularly sunny while I was there). As life members of the Arts fund we were able to enter them at half price (and Kew palace for free), which is a considerable saving since the standard admission charge is £15 – a far cry when to get past the turnstiles one placed just one penny in the slot – not centuries ago but as recently as 1971 (if I remember correctly). This means that the admission price has increased at least 30,000 times! Having said this, a visit to Kew was worth every penny, inflated, decimal or not!
Kew has not only the largest collection of plants in the world; it has the best example of Victorian iron and glass building in Decimus Burton’s palm house, the best example of chinoiserie in Sir William Chambers’ (he of Somerset house) pagoda, indeed the best of so many things.
From the Victoria entrance we headed for the palace which was actually used not so much as a “palace” (it’s only the size of a large house) but as a nursery for King George III’s children (of which he had fifteen who survived sired off Queen Charlotte who died here in 1818).
On our way we spotted a goose that had chosen a slightly exposed nesting place. Perhaps she enjoyed classical architecture!
A detour to the water-lily house revealed the most delicate wonders:
Kew palace must be one of the smallest of royal palaces and was George III’s favorite residence. For me the highlight was its herb garden which was beautifully laid out and provided some of the remedies which the king’s physicians tried on his madness, (remember the film starring the incomparable Nigel Hawthorne?), which has now been diagnosed in retrospect as bi-polar syndrome.
Nearby were the kitchens with a delightful vegetable garden outside which also grew artichokes.
The King’s bathroom would definitely be in need of an upgrade should any royal visitors take up residence here again.
All the palace rooms were delightfully presented and our visit was made much more alive by costumed attendants:
Kew palace was once also the scene of fetes champetres including this one which featured a giant swan..
It was clearly the scene of much music making – some of which continues today:
We found the palace very well-displayed but the only thing I wished for was that the brick work should have been stripped of its red paint to more clearly expose its unusual (for the UK) Flemish bond which has also given the building the alternative name of the Dutch house.
Back in Kew Gardens we explored the tree walk which was only opened in 2010. It was definitely not for vertigo sufferers since there was also a slight sway on it but what a great way to climb trees without the effort or the possibility of breaking one’s neck!
My visits to Lucca’s botanical gardens, still continuing to be very delightful, will never be the quite the same again although, at least, I’ll be more able to afford its entrance fee of three euros!
In the evening at the Punch tavern in Fleet Street we enjoyed a Beckenham historical society supper together with the company of an old school mate. Let us say that the company was rather better than the food…although the beer made up for that.