Kew Gardens – 01/01/22

Today has had some spontaneous elements. That will become apparent as you read on but, in my defence, it really is quite difficult to plan ahead at the moment isn’t it? So I’m never sure whether anything will actually happen, whether we’ll be in Hampshire for NYE or not and whether or not the children will be up for a bracing New Year’s Day walk. Actually, scrap the last one. We have enough data from previous years to confidently assess that, whatever their mother says about “tradition”, they will not be up for it but will grudgingly go along with it.

So, much uncertainty and, as Eva said during The Masked Singer tonight, “a plan with so many moving parts”. Turns out we *were* in Hampshire for NYE and the children *were* up for a bracing New Year’s Day walk. Well, kinda. So, in the style of Shed Seven, we chased rainbows all the way up the M3, only stopping at Fleet services for a meal that I intended to be brunch but was pretty much lunch because the kids wanted Burger King.

My whole concept for this day was “breaking up the driving” because we’ve been up and down that M3 a fair bit lately and we’d all been late to bed last night. So lunch at Fleet and then a visit to Kew.

The only problem was that Kew closes at 3PM this time of year and the latest entry slot is 1:00-1:45. I didn’t want to leave Winchester until 11ish, so Nathan could sleep as much as possible between partying and driving, so that wouldn’t give us huge amounts of time to explore. Still, with some careful planning we could make the most of it.

Ah yes, that’s where I went wrong. I only really checked where to park around Kew this morning and had found a road somewhere near the Lion Gate. I knew we drove past Kew Gardens on the way home from Winchester and I thought as far as “get somewhere that looks like Kew Gardens, stop car, go through gate”. Kew don’t encourage people to drive – presumably out of courtesy to the local residents – but I thought it was justifiable seeing as it was the halfway point of a 70 mile drive back from Winchester. I think otherwise we would probably have got the tube, like we did to the National Archives.

We parked up fine, not far from the Lion Gate and on a road that was only permit holders for Mon-Fri. I may have even spotted Peter Serafinowicz as we were looking for a spot and Eva took the opportunity to do some hopscotch along the way:

But what I didn’t consider is that we also had tickets for the Children’s Garden (which are free but need to be booked) and had come in at precisely the opposite end of Kew Gardens to where we wanted to be. The Children’s Garden timeslots start 15 minutes after your entry time so ours was for 1:15…but considering we were running lateish and didn’t even get in through the gate until 1:20…well, you can imagine. Also, Kew is a lot bigger than I anticipated. We drive past it all the time, and it does seem to go on forever at that cringingly slow 20mph on Kew Road but still, I didn’t imagine it would take almost half an hour to traverse.

Anyway, it did. Along the way, we passed some of the hothouses and an art installation but we didn’t stop to look because we were on such a mission. We made it to the Children’s Garden by 1:45 and it was closing for the day at 2:15, so we had half an hour to explore. Eva completely missed the whole area with sand and slides and only noticed it as we were being shepherded out by a woman with a bell. But here are some of the things she did find:

The age range for the Children’s Garden is 2-12 but most of the play equipment was geared towards smaller children. Roo was slightly underwhelmed by the trampolines but Eva enjoyed them:

I think he would have had more fun if he’d been wearing shoes he could climb in, rather than his sliders but that’s an argument I’ve given up on.

Oh, and Eva was dressed as a Dalmatian all day but again, that’s pretty standard at the moment.

After a late night and a long walk, I was pretty desperate for a coffee by this point. The Family Kitchen, right next to the Children’s Garden, looked promising. But alas! It closed at 2! We consoled ourselves with a trip to some toilets nearby and started making our way back towards the gate. Yes, I know we’d only just got there but the gardens closed at 3 and it was a long walk out. See, I told you this was badly planned.

Looking at the map in hindsight, it seems like the Brentford Gate or the Elizabeth Gate would have been better options for getting to the Children’s Garden quickly. But parking near either of those looked challenging and possibly even involved parking in the middle of the Thames, so I can’t go on living with so much regret. Maybe though, finding a spot closer to the Victoria Gate, which was the gate we used to exit, would have been a nice compromise.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! There were some interesting things to see on the way out. I realise that Kew is meant to be a celebration of nature and most of the interesting things I’m going to talk about were man-made but you probably know by now that I’m not really that good at nature-related things. Still, here’s a Monkey Puzzle tree:

And this is The Hive, which is inspired by nature and had a soundtrack piped into it from a real beehive:

Mainly though, it was just a nice spot for taking photos:

My favourite spot, though, was right next to the Victoria Gate and had several neon stars in front of the Palm House. I would have stayed there longer if it wasn’t so close to kick-out time:


Eva wanted to go to the shop and I assumed that this would also be near to closing. It was but we still had time to circle round three times in increasingly frantic loops as Eva looked for a “souvenir that would last”. I was pretty keen to get her out of the souvenir-shop loop so she scored a wooden pen, as well as pricey bags of sweets for both her and Roo. The cafe that was housed in the same building *was* closed already, so still no coffee…but at least she had her souvenir.

After that, it was just a simple matter of a half-mile walk back down Kew Road to where we’d left the car, with kids that got moanier with every step. As The Cat would say, 100% Successful Trip. I think we might need to revisit soon and go to all the bits we missed, like the Treetop Walk but we did at least get those kids out for that bracing walk.

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