A stroll in the treetops, Kew Gardens, London
From its 18th-century Pagoda to its magnificent Victorian glass conservatories, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew contain wonders of garden architecture as well as nature. A new experience for me this year was the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, an exhilarating stroll in the treetops of the Gardens’ arboretum.
Xstrata was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, who also designed the London Eye. Opened in 2008 on International Biodiversity Day, Xstrata’s elegant steel ‘trunks’ are rusted by design to blend visually with the environment.
Eighteen metres (59 feet) in the air seemed higher than it sounds! Up in the wind, I clutched the walkway’s railing as hordes of students thundered past like giant squirrels. Once I caught my breath, amazing vistas distracted me from the metal mesh that trembled under my feet. Photographers around me focused on the beautiful moss, lichen and bark of the enveloping trees.
I found out later that Xstrata’s design was based on the Fibonacci sequence, a numerical sequence that pervades nature (tree branching, fern whorls, seashell chambers, etc). From the natural beauty of mathematics came the golden section, a ‘golden ratio’ inherently pleasing to humans and commonly used–consciously or unconsciously–in architecture, painting, design.
Eventually I had to come down, but the Xstrata Treetop Walkway remains one of my most vivid experiences in London. It’s just one more reason to love Kew Gardens.
Did you know? The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and much more than just a pleasant place to while away a day. It is an important research centre for global plant science, biodiversity and conservation. When you pay to enter Kew, you are helping save the plants and crops we all need to survive, as well as the planet itself. Well done, daytrippers!
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