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Kew Gardens With A Baby

I dread to think about how many times I’ve done laps of my local park. Rory loves looking up at the trees and he’s even started to make super cute ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ sounds, which makes me feel good that I’m stimulating him in some way. But walking round the park no longer stimulates me and I am bored of going round and round in circles, nodding to the same dog walkers and smiling at other mums / sneaking a glance into their pushchairs to see what their babies look like compared to my cheeky Rory.

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Looking at Rory’s face makes me smile, but I don’t get as excited as he does by the park. As I said, I am BORED. I don’t like that feeling as I want to enjoy our time together rather than endure it. So I started to research things to do in my local area because I knew that if I had a change of scene, I’d enjoy our walks more. I recently took Rory to the Sensational Butterflies exhibition at The Natural History Museum, which he loved, and so I wanted to find something similar. Googling ‘activities for babies in London’, I came across a Time Out Guide of 101 things to do in London with babies and toddlers and seeing the words ‘Kew Gardens’ brought back a lot of memories. I distinctly remember visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew on a school trip and being amazed at the giant water lillies in the glass houses, stunned by tall trees and delighted when we had a wonderful picnic in the open space. Then I looked up Kew on a map and saw that it was just over a mile from my house and we could get the 65 bus that stopped directly outside the garden’s Victoria Gate. It made me wonder why I’d done so many laps of my local park when Kew was so close!

I’m not somebody who takes pleasure in turning up to an exhibition and blindly walking around. I  prefer to know what to expect when I go out somewhere. I like to know that there will be some decent cafes, I like to work out what attractions I want to see and then I plot a rough route around with some coffee and cake stops along the way. I am aware that I sound like a control freak but it stresses me out if I don’t know what’s at a museum or gallery as I feel like I’m constantly missing something. Thankfully, Kew has a thoroughly comprehensive website and so I was able to pick out what I wanted to see – the new beehive exhibition, the variety of orchids in the Princess of Wales glass house and the waterlilies in the waterlily house. I was also quite fascinated by the Treetop walkway. Prams aren’t allowed on it but I wondered if it would be possible to carry Rory up the stairs – I mean he’s not super heavy and 118 stairs is a lot but I’ve been up a lot more.

We were lucky with the weather on the day that we visited as it was really warm and sunny.

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That made walking around a much more pleasant experience, but I have to admit that I stuck to the little route that I mapped up for myself. We started by visiting the main lake and the Sackler crossing as that’s in the centre of the park and I wanted to get the walking done at the start while we were both fresh. It was also a good way to judge Rory’s mood to see whether he was excited and looking around at new things, tired and not bothered or calm and peaceful (although that only happens when he’s milk drunk). Thankfully, he was in the first kind of mood, which is always more fun. I pointed out some flowers to him as we walked. People passing us may have thought I was very strange talking to a baby in a pram that was clearly too young to talk back!

I always feel calm near water and the lake at Kew is just beautiful. The Sackler crossing was designed to give better access to far-flung attractions inside Kew but we didn’t cross – we just admired the architecture. It’s walls are a series of vertical, flat bronze posts. On approaching the bridge, these give the appearance of forming a solid wall but when viewed sideways on they appear almost invisible. This is akin to the ways in which water can appear both solid and fluid.

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sackler_crossing15I took Rory out of the pram to take it in, but he didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. I could tell he wanted to see more trees so we took a walk to the White Peaks café on the far right side of the gardens. I fancied an ice cream and I could tell that Rory needed some milk as it was a super-hot day.

All refreshed, we made our way to what I really wanted to see – The Hive. The installation is made from thousands of pieces of aluminium which create a lattice effect and is fitted with hundreds of LED lights that glow and fade as a unique soundtrack hums and buzzes around you.

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The soundtrack reflects to the real-time activity of bees in a beehive behind the scenes at Kew. It’s pretty fascinating stuff as the sound and light intensity within the space changes as the energy levels in the real beehive go up and down, so you feel totally immersed inside the bee colony. This time, we BOTH loved it. Rory loves noise and I could see his little face trying to work out where it was coming from. We stayed there for quite a while as he was having so much fun!

Pic: Jeff Eden, RGB Kew

Pic: Jeff Eden, RGB Kew

The Princess of Wales Conservatory, The Waterlily House and The Palm House are located close to each other so we did those next.

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It is possible to take prams and buggies into the greenhouses, but you do need to be careful on a warm day as it gets pretty humid inside those houses. I could see Rory’s cheeks starting to get a bit flushed (as you can sort of tell from the photo above) and so I backed out. These would be great for kids on a cold day, but I would advise caution if you visit on one of the rare hot British summer days like we did.

All this activity made me pretty tired so I headed for another café for a coffee for the road and  chickened out of the Treetop Walkway. Rory and I can do it on our next visit as it looks like there’s a really good view from the top.

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There will definitely be a ‘next visit’ as it makes sense financially to become a friend of Kew if you live in London. It’s £14 for an adult ticket if you buy it online in advance, but it’s £72 to become a Friend of Kew, which means you can take another adult with you for free for a whole year – you’d only have to go 3 times to make it worthwhile. It’d take you at least 3 visits to explore the whole area and you’d never find yourself in the situation of doing lap after lap of the same area. There’s always something to explore. And have you heard about all the events that take place at Kew such as book festivals, plays, opera and Christmas exhibitions? Friends of Kew get priority booking.

I cant wait to go back!

For more details on What’s On and to plan your visit, check out the Kew Gardens website.

Zoe Griffin

Journalist, author and mother-of-one. I love fashion, beauty and gossip (preferably over a glass of bubbly). I founded the blog LiveLikeaVIP.com in 2009 and BabyVIPs.com launched in April 2016 - the same month my son was born.

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