This is a sponsored article on behalf of Kew Gardens.
In the middle of a busy city like London, spending some time out of the hustle and bustle surrounded by 300 acres of landscaped gardens, wilderness trails, iconic glasshouses, historic buildings, art galleries and a treetop walkway is like being transported to another world.
This year, Kew Gardens’ summer festival, Plantasia, explores the powers that plants and fungi have to heal, calm and entrance. Visitors will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with special activities, interactive displays and workshops that demonstrate how immersing yourself in, and engaging with, nature is good for mind, body and soul. Here’s what you can get stuck into:
Climb the Pagoda: Major excitement! They are opening their iconic Pagoda for the first time in eight years, so visitors can scale the spiral staircase to the top of the 50-metre tall building for views across the gardens to the London landmarks beyond. This is a real treat and we’re stupidly excited, it’s worth a trip in its own right.
Barefoot Walk: Once you’re down from the heights of the Pagoda, ditch your shoes and become acquainted with what’s under your feet in the Arboretum. Experience the textures of your surroundings by hopping barefoot between beams, tree trunks and springy forest floors. There’s even a muddy ‘squelch’ zone for those wanting to experience the sensation of nature’s ooze between your toes. One for the kids, perhaps?
Lotions and Potions: Speaking of which, throughout half term week kids can get stuck in to making their own plant-tastic potions. Got a bump on the knee? Create your own special balm. Want a more explosive wash-time? Create your own bath bomb. It may be sticky, but by jove it will smell great.
Healing Giant: A human-shaped, raised horticultural display showcases the effects of plants on different parts of the human body. Which plants are often employed as love potions and aphrodisiacs? Which natural skin treatments have people used throughout the ages? But it’s not a case of ‘look and don’t touch’ as after browsing, visitors can get rather personally acquainted with the giant by having a rest in his ‘loveseat’ – a small bench placed in his crotch.
Gin and Tai Chi: Relaxing goes hand in hand with healing, so it’s only right that Kew Gardens is also offering visitors the chance to just kick back and enjoy the surroundings. On weekends, enjoy botanical cocktails in the Gin & Tonics Garden (situated in the Secluded Garden Glasshouse) and learn their forgotten medicinal properties, or join a free drop-in Tai Chi session, held every Thursday and Sunday on Syon Vista.
Herbs for Health workshop: There are one-off events too. Medical herbalist Christina Stapley comes to Kew on Saturday 6 July to teach which herbs could and should be used to make a small medicinal garden. At this workshop Christina will provide guidance on the safe home use of various herbs, along with how best to gather, dry, store and preserve them (Sunday 6 July, 10.30-5.30pm, £55/£50).
Other exciting happenings include colourful horticultural displays, croquet activities and roaming storytelling performances from Mrs M’s Cart of Curative Curiosities.
In short, there’s a lot to see and do, but being busy has never felt so calming.
Plantasia is supported by GSK and at Kew Gardens from 24 May-7 September 2014. Price to the festival included in admission to the gardens, which is £15 for adults, £14 concessions and free for under 17s. Climbing the Pagoda costs £3.50 and Lotions and Potions workshops are £3 per person. For more information on Kew Gardens visit the website or call their visitor helpline on 020 8332 5655.