Today I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than head to one of my favourite places, Kew Gardens. When I lived in West London, this was somewhere that I used as a replacement for having a garden of my own, and I have many happy memories of sunny days relaxing and exploring this beautiful place. The first wildlife to greet us was a grey squirrel, scampering through the grass.
Kew has recently opened a new attraction, The Hive. This amazing structure was the centrepiece of the British Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo. It was commissioned by the British government and created by artist Wolfgang Buttress, Simmonds Studio and BDP. It’s a beautiful structure, the honeycomb representing a bee hive. What’s more extraordinary though, is that it is linked to one of Kew’s bee hives, with a buzz sounding all around and lights illuminating to indicate movement within the hive.
There were volunteers around The Hive, with pots of honeycomb, propolis or bee glue and pollen, with a magnifying lid so that you could see in detail what they looked like. There were also posts with small slots in them which you had to press into with a thin wooden stick, held in your mouth. By doing this you could hear the different noises made by bees in the hive, from the waggle dance noise to when a virgin queen has arrived at the hive, which may result in a fight to the death. Around The Hive a wildflower meadow has been planted.
The installation forms the centre of Kew’s bee trail. We walked through the rock garden and into the order beds, stopping to carry out a timed bee count as part of the Great British Bee Count. We also rescued a ladybird from the water flowing through the garden, he dried off on my arm a little before we placed him on a plant to recover.
In the order beds we watched more bees enjoying the plants, giving us ideas for the most pollinator friendly plants to add to the garden if a space becomes available. At the back of the order beds, some of Kew’s hives are placed, for honey bees and bumble bees, with information about what happens in the hive and pictures stored in an information hive in front of the area they were in. It was a really interesting insight into the life of a bee. Did you know that a little bee can fly as far as a mile from its hive in search of food?
After a spot sheltering from a sudden rainstorm exploring the Princess of Wales conservatory we carried on exploring the gardens, stopping for a made to order ice cream by the lake.
Walking through the gardens we came across a very damp Jay, so intent on drying his soaking feathers that he let me come very close to him as he preened, before he flew away, startled by the raucous cries of the roving gangs of ring necked parakeets.
We headed into the quieter parts of the garden, the Lake and the Japanese landscape. We watched the water birds on the lake and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the gardens, a little oasis in London. Damselflies darted and dashed, flashes of blue against the green.
The ground under our feet as we wandered was wet and boggy after the recent heavy rains.Under the trees and on the lawns, mushrooms bloomed, looking more like Autumn than Midsummer.
On the blooms, raindrops shone and shimmered, adding to their beauty. Birds are everywhere in the gardens, the air alive with their song, and taking a cheeky peek at you hoping for food.
Kew Gardens is also the perfect place to hug a favourite tree or two. Kew has so many wonderful old trees but my personal preference is for the beautiful sweet chestnuts with their twisting bark curving towards the heavens, trunks wider than I could possibly reach round, green verdant and magnificent. If you live anywhere nearby and have not visited, I recommend you do, it’s a wonderful place.