Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cue Kew

It was a while since we last visited Kew Gardens, and all else aside, we rather wanted to see the Treetop Walkway, so we decided that the end of August Bank Holiday was a good time to make the trip - the end of summer and all that. And yes, it remains a marvellous set of gardens - a place to wander all through a summer afternoon. I've put Angela's photos of the day on Flickr.

The Walkway is impressive, too - an elegant piece of engineering allowing one to take part of one's walk in the park 18 metres up, near the level of the tops of the trees. (Warning to potential visitors; the lift appears to have some kind of long-term problem. Personally, I don't find an 18 metre staircase a problem, though.) Funnily enough, this was one thing that made us consider coming back in late autumn or winter, when the leaves are down; the view it grants is currently of a lot of foliage, with just a glimpse of some buildings (including the Wembley arch). That's nice, but in a few months, it may allow some really impressive views across London. The plantings could be interesting in winter, too.

But Kew Gardens - an admirable scientific institution (currently celebrating its 250th anniversary) does feel obliged to play up the botanical education aspect. Access to the Walkway requires one to walk through an underground display centre with lots of stuff about tree biology, which is fine, but let's face it, is mostly going to be ignored by most of the visitors. It's a three-way science vs. recreation vs. commerce clash, too, when you consider the (fairly classy) gift shops clustered round the main entrances. Oh well, put it down as dynamic tension (which must be hard work).

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