With the sun making an appearance last week, we set out across the river to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew for a picnic lunch and a look at the Full of Spice Summer Festival.
While it’s been on my mind for some time to visit Kew Gardens, I became intrigued with the Full of Spice exhibition after reading Mummy Travels’ post. I wondered how Little T would react seeing these massive inflatable spices that you could poke and look inside.
I parked the car near Brentford Gate and we headed through the gardens, following the large Full of Spice signs along the way. There are many stunning spots around the park, like the scenery around the pond in front of the Palm House.
We continued walking towards the Princess of Wales conservatory and came across the first giant inflatable spice, a 14 meter chilli pepper.
But Little T’s eyes were drawn to the enormous garlic bulb. His first reaction was of pure astonishment. He threw his hands up like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing then dashed away, only to turn right back around for a closer look.
At that point, gusts of wind sent the garlic inflatable flailing wildly about, so to avoid being squashed, we moved on to the stem of ginger which was tethered in an area protected from the wind.
Little T went straight for the zippers. You can take a good sniff of the spice once you’ve opened the zipped flaps…
… and have a look inside for some interesting facts. No climbing inside, although it looks pretty comfortable!
We walked back over to the chilli pepper, but this was as close as we got before Little T wandered off towards the Spice Exchange on the other side of the conservatory.
The Spice Exchange is a timber pavilion featuring a display of thousands of spice jars, along with (not pictured) a spice market and chai bar, library and open-air theatre. The pavilion hosts fortnightly events for Spicy Saturdays, with each event visiting a different world region and featuring speakers, storytellers, food demonstrations and workshops. Have a look at the Spice Exchange page for more information, dates and times.
Now in explorer mode, we roamed through the gardens, pausing to smell the flowers…
I found a spot for our picnic, laid out the blanket and brought out the Yumboxes…
… but our picnic lasted all of five minutes before Little T became dead set on chasing some poor geese around. When I tried to lead him back to our picnic blanket, his interest switched to the Treehouse Towers play area not far from where we were. Since Treehouse Towers is more for older children, we (well, I) packed up our stuff into the stroller and headed inside the Climbers and Creepers play area which is ideal for toddlers and young children.
Climbers and Creepers is a botanical-themed interactive play area with a soft floor where children can climb inside a plant to learn about pollination.
It being term time and sunny outside, we had most of the place to ourselves!
The last time we were here was in the Autumn, when Little T started walking, and it was packed. There were children running about, practically bouncing off the walls, and I was worried Little T would get knocked over, but I found this quiet spot in the back where he could play on a small climbing frame and slide. Less than a year later and he already looked too big for this play area!
This was our third visit to Kew Gardens and I’m always amazed at how much there is to see, from rose gardens to woods to glasshouses and even a treetop walk. You can plan your day out with their list of attractions or simply enjoy wandering around and exploring on your own. Climbers and Creepers is an outstanding play area where your little one can burn off some energy – we lucked out this time around with it being so quiet!
The Full of Spice Summer Festival runs until 6 September, with talks, performances and workshops being held in the Spice Exchange, botanical cocktails being served over the weekends and a Spice Mix Super-Computer which you can use to create your own personal blend. For more details, dates and times, have a look at the Full of Spice events programme.
Kew Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW8 3AB
Opening Hours: Until 31 August 2015: Monday to Friday – 1000 to 1830; Weekends and bank holidays 1000 to 1930. Have a look at current opening times here.
Tickets: Adult tickets are £15.00, children 3+ are £3.50 and children under 3 years go free. [Tickets purchased online are slightly cheaper – Adult £14.00, Children 3+ £2.50.] *You can pay an optional 10% donation which goes towards Kew Gardens’ conservation work. By agreeing to pay the donation, Kew Gardens can claim Gift Aid on the full ticket price if you are UK tax payer. Details on other options here, such as family tickets and special local resident discounts on Tuesdays.
Closest Tube Station: Kew Gardens [District – Richmond brand and Overground services]
Parking: Parking costs £7.00 for the day at the Kew Gardens car park (TW8 3AF) which is accessed by Ferry Lane, a narrow turning off Kew Green. From here, you’ll enter the gardens via Brentford Gate. More details about getting to Kew Gardens here.
Good to Know
You can plan your visit to Kew Gardens with the comprehensive map on their website, which includes tick-boxes for selecting which attractions you would like to view on the map, such as “for kids”, “facilities” and “eat and drink”.
Kew Gardens offer plenty of interactive activities for children to get involved, learn and enjoy the outdoors. There’s a lot to explore, from the bee gardens, to the log trail, to the marine aquarium located in the Palm House. On our next trip, we’re going to check out the badget setts they have set up around the Gardens.
In addition to Creepers and Crawlers, there’s an outdoor tree-themed play area – Treehouse Towers – suitable for kids aged three to eleven. Bathroom and baby changing facilities are located in the Creepers and Crawlers building.
Right next to the two play areas, you’ll find the White Peaks Café and Shop which has a salad bar and serves kid’s boxes, gourmet sandwiches, ice cream.
All photos copyright Piccolo Explorer