Plinky-plonky music, fairy lights and dancing fountains with a synchronicity to please even the most neurotic of pedants welcome visitors to Kew Gardens' Christmas trail 2014 — a one-mile-long, fairy light bedecked night-time route through Kew's foliage. Searching spotlights erupting directly from the lake hypnotise visitors, whilst behind us, the Palm House glows incandescent — looking in the same second as if it has both caught fire and frozen over.
Gay Coley, director of public programmes at Kew intends people to "enjoy Christmas with their feet in nature", a statement we originally wrote off as PR gubbins. That was until we found ourselves gasping in surprise as we faced plants, both native and exotic, so pleasingly recreated in light form.
The trail is a veritable adventure for kids, with illuminated presents amongst the trees, fire pits for toasting marshmallows, and of course, Santa's Snowflake Grotto. Around every corner is another enchanting feature — chandeliers hanging from branches, a tunnel of fairy lights, and the Wishing Tree (see above). And when the lights of the Victorian carousel and helter skelter appear though the trees, you can well imagine the look on the kids' faces.
Adults, particularly those with romantic tendencies, will love the trail too. The whole thing is well-executed, even in its timing: just when we thought the fun was trailing off, pyrotechnics firing off in front of the Palm House rooted us to the spot.
A couple of tips; bring cash, as food and drink cabins are dotted along the route, with delicious smells to break even the strongest of resolves. Fire pits and gourmet marshmallow vendors offer you the chance to toast your own, but on the rainy night we visited, staff were having a spot of bother getting the fires going. The trail can be puddly on wet days, so wellies are a good idea for youngsters (and the young at heart) for whom the temptation to splash is too much to resist.