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A feature by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!






Christmas at Kew

(c) RBG

Kew Gardens

Until 4th of Jan. 2014

Not open every day, check for details




Kew Gardens is alluring at any time of year, and on a cold, damp winter night, Christmas at Kew proved that! Strolling down a specially designated, mysteriously weaving, mile long intermittently glowing Christmas path in the Gardens by night is a sense heightening experience, and seeing many of its’ stately trees awash with illuminated colour, intermingled with amplified soundscapes enhances it!

Lanterns in the moonlight, sounds of bells and marimba, purple, red, yellow lighted rings upon a lake, tall bubbling tubes with waving underwater plants inside, a sea of fiery torches, the Palm House lit in such a way that it seems as though its’ leafy contents are about to spring into animated action, a giant lotus reflected in a pool, a Christmas Market and Father Christmas himself. Ooohs and Ahhhs abound!

Having overcome uncustomary snafus at the press desk, we followed the arrows into what appeared to be a darkened wood, but knowing the Gardens as we do, we feared not, moving behind excited children and parents, snuggling couples and alternatingly fact spouting tree experts. What you will see along Kew’s nocturnal path will, at times, pretty much depend on what you’re sensing, and in my case, I was often beguiled by leafy shadows, made all the more beckoning by accompanying audio, mixing natural sounds with artistic enhancements. ‘Plant Whisperers’ appeared here and there as we moved along, with their mixture of 18th and 19th Century dress and botanical fact and nonsense. Of course we talk to our plants, though some of us wouldn’t readily admit it! Round orbs punctuated the night with piercing reds, yellows and blues and we wondered why we hadn’t considered using such lanterns to form an archway to pass under ourselves. Wrapped against the elements, I didn’t feel cold, but invigorated, finding myself lingering near some of the flood lit trees for photos, as many strollers did.

Walkers were informed at the outset that refreshments could be found at the halfway point, in the form of mandatory mulled wine and other seasonal delights, and they were for sale there, but as we proceeded along one side of Kew’s lake, shimmering with reflective colours, thoughts of lesser sensory sustenance vanished in the frosty air. Various artworks, illuminated in one form or fashion, are installed among the trees, on the lake and in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, with the Palm House itself employed as a large canvas for a short animated projected ‘grand finale’, Thrive On, featuring the voice of Baroness Lola Young, in an original composition by Dan Fox, intermittently shown on a loop. Midway along the walk, visitors were warmed by an installation entitled Fire Mandala, a large circle of fiery torches, mesmerising for their flickering flames and yuletide folkloric implications of yore, though their written explanation regales their propensity with mathematical equations commonly found in nature. But art-wise, the wow factor winner, going on audience reaction, was giant illuminated Lotus Flower, perfectly reflected in a circular pool below it, inside Princess of Wales conservatory, designed and created by Helen Davies, structured by Mike Pattison, which even the children seemed to relate to. Thoughts of that perfect, enchanted rose in Beauty and the Beast abounded, despite the dissimilarity of the blooms. Perhaps it was the lotus’ hot pink colour and the enthusiastic, bright eyed toddlers around me that suggested that iconic fairy-tale image.



(c) RBG


This is the first winter Kew’s gates are open after dark, and it presents a rare opportunity to be in the majestic Gardens until 10PM, Thurs – Sun on specified dates (below). Tickets are for allocated times, and after following the mile long path, you may find yourself drawn towards the bountiful café, Christmas market and/or shops. Kew’s shops and cafe, though a tad pricey, have always been lovely, and buying from them aids upkeep of the Gardens; their seasonal ‘boutique’ market will help you complete your Christmas shopping in fine style. The plant shop offers the option to purchase living gifts as well and, of course, hearty live Christmas trees, no doubt lovingly tended, are also for sale. The Christmas Village offers tasty nibbles along with colourfully lit funfair amusement rides for all ages. Have yourself a Merry Kew Christmas and feast your senses on the Gardens’ illuminated trail this year!



(c) RBG


Christmas at Kew admission: 
• Evening ticket: Adults £12.50, Children £8.00 and Family tickets £38 (2 adults and 2 children 5 – 16). Under 5’s go free. 
• Opens at 4.45pm - on the dates below:
Remaining Dates
12 December – 15 December 2013
19 December – 23 December 2013 
26 December –4 January 2014 

• Tickets are now on sale

• For bookings and information see:
Illuminated trail time slots
The illuminated trail operates on a timed entry basis so everyone can enjoy the experience to the full. There are nine timed trails per evening, and each walk takes approximately 75 minutes. The first trail starts at 4.45pm and subsequent trails run every 30 minutes with the last trail starting at 8.45pm. Choose your preferred time slot at the point of booking.
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