June’s usually a busy month for Kew Gardens. Normally, it’s packed with visitors, and staff are gearing up for the annual Kew the Music festival.
But Monday’s reopening revealed a quieter, cautious, more contemplative Kew.
There are new rules. Far fewer visitors are allowed. You HAVE to book a ticketed time slot online, even if you’re a Kew Member, and have to show proof of that booking on arrival. You won’t be admitted if you just turn up. For booking see kewgardens.seetickets.com/timeslots/kew-gardens
Buildings, restaurants and glasshouses are closed, although some toilets are open and there are limited outdoor refreshment areas.
Not all gates are open for entry and exit; some are one-way only. The good news is that queues are small and socially distanced. Even better, you can probably dodge them completely if you arrive half way through the 45 minute time slot allotted to you for entry.
People are being encouraged to travel to Kew by bike, on foot, or by car, rather than by public transport. You’re told you shouldn’t bring any guests from outside your household. And obviously, you shouldn’t visit if you show any symptoms of Covid-19.
For more details see: kew.org/kew-gardens/visit-kew-gardens/dos-and-donts
So does all this detract from the Kew experience? Well, in my opinion, no. It’s actually an improvement. Kew staff say far fewer visitors are being admitted each day to enable people to maintain social distancing. Not surprisingly, the lack of crowds makes the garden feel much more spacious and welcoming. In some areas, you feel like you have the place to yourself.
On the negative side, I felt the width of some of the perimeter paths and smaller walkways occasionally made it a challenge to maintain social distancing. So avoid them if you’re concerned.
Foot-pump operated hand sanitisers are available at the Gates, but you’re also advised to bring your own hand sanitiser. For instance, you might need it after paying for parking; when we visited, the Brentford Gate seemed to have only working one pay-and-display machine, with a touch key pad.
But overall, a great experience. Quieter? Definitely. But perhaps all the better for that.
Welcome back, Kew!
Pre-booked time slots available from 10am – 4pm daily
Prices for adults range from £4.50 (students) to £9, with family tickets starting at £13