Distance travelled: 6 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 16 (still…although I did have a bagel with salmon spread, so…)
My plan for Day Twenty-One was to revisit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a place I’ve visited on my two previous solo trips and is probably one of my favourites. I managed to get up and moving and functional early enough to be ready in time to head to Paddington by 9:30, catching the District Line to Earls Court where I changed to a Richmond-bound District Line train, finally getting off at Kew Gardens, the Tube stop only a short, scenic walk from the Victoria Gate entrance. Although I’d visited twice before, the sheer size of the gardens and their seasonal changes mean there’s always something new to see, so I made a point of wandering paths and areas that I hadn’t on previous visits. I was so very glad I did when I came across a badger sett along the southern border (although the fluffy inhabitants were napping for the day); I saw quite a few other badger setts later on in areas I’d explored before, but without seeing that first one and its sign, I’m not sure that I would have known what they were.
There’s always an interesting juxtaposition at Kew as you walk through nature, often quiet except for beautiful birdsong…while every twenty or so seconds a jet goes roaring overhead with its gear down on its approach to Heathrow. Anyway, a little while later, a flash of blue in the woodland was something I had been desperately hoping to see on my visit: bluebells. I’m just a little bit obsessed with them as that particular bluebell isn’t found in North America at all (Virginia bluebells are a different plant) and a bluebell wood in bloom is a wondrous thing to behold. My first UK trip was in April and May during the height of bluebell season while my later two trips have been about a month earlier. Last year, I missed them completely so I was crossing my fingers that they would begin to emerge before I head home to the States on Thursday. Luckily, the bluebell gods smiled on me and while there weren’t the huge swatches of purplish blue that there will be later in the month, there were quite a few of them out and about throughout the gardens.
After going ga-ga over the bluebells and wandering through the rhododendron dell – which I always leave with the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca running through my brain (“The rhododendrons stood fifty feet high…”) – I made my way to the Orangery for a bite of lunch, sitting outside to enjoy the cool weather while constantly being monitored by a magpie who would hop around on the umbrella above me and then peer down over the edge (I think he was eyeing my brownie). Side note: A sign in the rhododendron dell explained that scientists have found that the poisonous nectar of the invasive plants is toxic to honeybees (Read more…).
When I’d finished, I wandered over to Kew Palace and its Queen’s Garden before continuing on around the rest of the perimeter to the Alpine House, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and the rock garden before passing the Palm House on my way back to the Victoria Gate and the garden shop in search of any new bluebell swag.
Successful, I said goodbye to Kew and walked back along Lichfield Road to the station to make my way back to Paddington, grabbing some groceries for dinner at the station’s M&S before heading back to the flat. Tomorrow is the last full day of my trip and I’ve a bit of an idea of how I’ll spend it.