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Sarah Markworth, Chiswick
Childrens Events at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. This year, for the first time, the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew have introduced a childrens guidebook. This little books aim is to give young children an insight into the life of plants. It is called the Young Explorer Pack and as Sarah Markworth found out it is irresistible to children. Kew Gardens, as it is usually referred to, is spread over 300 acres and that is a lot of garden to explore. Dotted amongst the specimens of trees and plants are exhibitions, childrens activity centers, planthouses, historical buildings, restaurants and gift shops. It is open all year around with the indoor exhibitions attracting visitors during wet winter months and the lush parkland attracting families during the summer. As we entered the park the Young Explorer Pack scored a ten out of ten for self-promotion. Charlotte, who is aged ten and tall enough to see over the payment counter, spotted it immediately and without hesitation she fired the (I want one) question. What is that, Sarah? Is that for children? She said. Pointing at the book. Her head spun around towards her sister Elizabeth, aged 7, to see if she was wearing her (Can I have one too) expression. The packs are £3.95 each and as entry to the park for young children is free you really do not begrudge the cost of them. After paying we were handed our packs and a map of the park. The maps are illustrated with pictures of the main attractions and the childrens activities are highlighted in blue. There are numbered explorer stops on the map and they highlight the path to take passed all of the main events. The park is very large and traversing its entirety could prove a bit too demanding for small children and so it is best to choose a selection of activities and stick to those paths leading to them. Our first port of call was the Palm House, a beautiful Victorian glasshouse built in 1844. There are giant palms and bamboos planted in here and some of them date back to the Victorian era. Small birds and butterflies fly in and out through large open doors at either end of the glasshouse. The sound and the sight of these creatures add to the sense that you are exploring a mysterious tropical forest. There is a metal, spiral staircase accessing the top walkaround platform. The children loved this platform and enjoyed the birds-eye view of the enormous plants and leaves. After the walkaround platform in the planthouse had proved to be such a success our next stop had to be the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop structure. It is an 18 meters high walkway that gives you a fantastic view of the treetops and the park beyond them. There is a pathway to follow for this event that will first lead you to an underground exhibition area informing you about the structure and biology of trees and their roots. The path will then take you up to the treetop platform. There are see-through floor panels in some sections of this walkway and they allow you to see the ground below. Although the platform is solid and very safe, adult supervision is advisable. This structure is great for adventurous young children but perhaps not so advisable for adults who are uncomfortable with heights. Tucked away in a corner of the park is a Wildlife Observation centre. Here the plants and trees have been left unmanaged in an attempt to attract wild insects, plants and birds. There is a pathway that leads through this section of the park and if you follow it you will eventually stumble onto a man made badger sett. The badger sett is 1 meter high inside and children are encouraged to enter and get an impression of a badgers lifestyle. Charlotte and Elizabeth shot inside the badger sett undeterred by its dark nooks and crannies and the possibility of spidery encounters. As we followed the path out of the wildlife observation centre we passed the Stag Beetle loggery. Rather than mulching the logs at Kew the staff opt for arranging them in an area to encourage the reproduction of Stag Beetles, once a common sight in England. It was a relief to me that we did not see any during the time of our visit. Kew Gardens invests a lot of time and energy in educational programes for young children. They work in conjunction with the BBC who provide educational material, books and images for the visitors. Events are designed to encourage children to learn about plants and conserve them in the wild. Kew Gardens can arrange childrens tours on request and there is even a Midnight Ramblers club that is essentially a sleep over in the park, supervised by qualified members of staff. The last event on our list was Climbers and Creepers, an adventure playground for 3-9 year olds. Charlotte who is ten could not play, however, she was quite happy to sit with me and read her Explorer pack, whilst Elizabeth climbed through the tunnels and slid down a giant pitcher plant. On our way out of the park we stopped at the White Peaks gift shop. This one of Kews shops has the largest range of products that would appeal to children and so after a couple of A Very Hungry Caterpillar books and two stuffed badger purchases we were ready to head for home. Kew Gardens is definitely a place to visit time and time again. There is just not enough time to see everything in one day. The most important thing though is that the kids got plenty of exercise and managed to learn a thing or two about plants along the way. However all they talked about on the way home was the Badger set and I honestly do not think they will remember much about the plants. But perhaps they will in the future. Parking is limited at Kew Gardens and so using public transport is advisable. Public Transport. 65 bus passing the gardens, or routes 237, 267 and 391 stop nearby. Kew Gardens Station (District line or London Overground) is only a five minute walk away. The nearest mainline station is Kew Bridge, on the South West Trains Network. By Car Kew Gardens is well signposted from all the major local roads. The South Circular (A205) passes the northeast corner of Kew Gardens and Kew Road. (A307) forms the eastern border. From Chiswick Roundabout (M4, A4, North Circular Road), take the A205 and go over Kew Bridge. The Main Gate Entrance is on your right, on Kew Green. From Richmond Roundabout (A316, leading to the M3), turn onto the A307, Kew Road. Look for the wall of the Gardens on your left. Parking. Kews car park (£5 per day) is next to the Brentford Gate entrance and is signposted from Kew Green. There is also limited parking available on Kew Green, and further roadside parking on the Kew Road (after 10am).
Liked: Positive experience
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