Visit: 8th June 2013
Hello and welcome to the place where we plan to document our ambitious, probably quite unrealistic quest to visit every UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. We are two friends who are into visiting new places and seeing new things, and we are also not impartial to the odd list. So when I stumbled upon the official list of WHSs it seemed appropriate to set that as a target for us to tick off one by one. If nothing else, it gives us a structure for visits around the world. We will be joined on many of our visits by Ross’s girlfriend Louise, who will be our official photographer and translator. I’m sure there will also be some other people joining us along the way as no doubt every holiday we ever go on for the rest of our lives will now be engineered to include a new WHS!
So without further ado, the first WHS we visited since officially setting out on our challenge was Kew Gardens in London.
Kew is one of those places where you walk down the road and automatically say “I want to get a house here”. Too bad right now, as they seem to be in the £1-2m range. Entrance to the park is £14.50 and we had booked in advance. It’s surprisingly easy to just step over the low fence if you don’t have tickets – I think they could do with toughening up their security a bit as people must take advantage of that all the time. Although I guess there isn’t that much criminality in the horticultural community. But that’s just a guess. Louise, Ross and his mum were already there when I arrived at around lunchtime, and they had picnic!
The gardens were begun in 1759 at a time when many parts of the world were still being explored by the first time by Europeans. Collecting exotic plants was something of an obsession to the travellers of the day, so the Royal Botanic Gardens were designated as a place to keep living specimens. Needless to say, if I’d been around in 1759 I’d have been collecting plants.
The site covers 300 acres and seems to have a dozen or two buildings as well as apparently 30,000 species of flora.
The first place we went into was the Palm House, which contains plants from tropical climates. The giant greenhouse is kept at tropical temperatures by radiators under grills in the floor. Even on a midsummer’s day all the heaters were going at full blast!
There is a small greenhouse nearby containing giant waterlilies.
The Victorian kitchen garden has a Bonsai tree greenhouse at the end. These ones were imported from Japan in the ’60s and are up to 180 years old.
Ross’s brother Dave showed up. Remember what I said about the low security at the entrance? Well he just walked right in.
This Chinese pagoda can be seen from a long way off. Here is the view up ‘Pagoda Vista’. Unbelievably, it has been standing there since 1762. Apparently it was used in WWII for the testing of model bombs.
There is a newish attraction called the Treetop Walkway, which is 40 feet high and lets you walk around in the tree canopy. We couldn’t be bothered to walk up so we took the lift.
Near to the here is a traditional Japanese garden, with neatly raked gravel and an imperial karamon (gateway) that was sent to Britain for the Japan-British Exhibition of 1910.
This was one of the last bits we saw, and the we headed back toward the exit and came up with the idea of this blog in the giftshop! After the gardens we went to a Thai restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush for dinner. The starters were nice and the host was a character. I doubt the others agree with me but I didn’t rate my main. Also it was one of those places where you don’t get fresh cutlery after your starter. With chopsticks, that’s fine, but with forks and spoons it just feels not right to me! Is that too pedantic?
Overall it’s a nice place to go on a summer’s day. Just remember to bring your walking shoes.