Helen Dolphin MBE Accessibility Review

20. August 2019

Allied Mobility reporter, Helen Dolphin MBE, reviews one of the most popular World Heritage sites the UK has to offer, the Royal Botantic Kew Gardens.  Check out her review.

Getting There

Kew Gardens is home to the largest and most diverse collection of living plants and fungi in the world.  The day I visited turned out to be the hottest July has ever recorded!  I covered myself in sun cream, donned a large straw hat and set off to southwest London where the gardens are situated.

I opted to drive from Norwich as this was the easiest way.  However Richmond Station, which has step-free access, isn’t too far away.  I parked in the Ferry Lane car park next to the Brentford Gate entrance – there are plenty of disabled bays and Blue Badge holders park for free.

Mobility Scooters

I tried to book the free mobility scooter from Kew but unfortunately they were already taken.  I would recommend booking as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.  You can do so by calling 020 8332 5121.

Scooters can’t be used in the glasshouses or galleries, although there’s a manual wheelchair kept at these locations to transfer into.  As I was unable to borrow a scooter, I used my manual wheelchair.  Pushing wasn’t too bad as the paths were tarmac and lovely and smooth.  There’s also a Kew Explorer Land train you can board and a wheelchair user can sit at the rear.

GeHelen Dolphin - Kew Gardens tting to Know Kew

Kew Gardens is absolutely huge so I focussed on a few attractions.  My first stop was the Children’s Garden where kids can explore and learn all about plants.  There’s also a lot of water activities for children to play in, as well as playground equipment and a 4m high canopy walk wrapped around a 200-year-old oak tree.  You do need to book tickets in advance to get into this garden (at no extra cost).

I then headed to Palm House, home to rainforest trees and plants.  The air in this greenhouse is very humid so I couldn’t stay for long.  Many plants in this collection are endangered and some are even extinct.

Kew Gardens is home to the largest and most diverse collection of living plants and fungi in the world.

One of Kew’s biggest attractions is the Temperate House which is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse and a Grade I listed building.  This glass house is home to some of the world’s rarest and most threatened plant species from the world’s temperate zones.  The glasshouse is accessible to enter but I could not get up on the balcony as this is only accessed via a spiral staircase.

The final attraction I visited was the Treetop Walkway.  Towering 18 metres above the ground, it’s a chance to get closer to Kew’s trees.  There’s a lift for wheelchair users to take them to the top which I was really excited about.  However, I was left disappointed when I realised the lift was broken.  I would recommend checking this before you go.

Taking a Break

There are plenty of places to buy food and drink around Kew, but they’re quite pricey.  You can however bring your own picnic.  Accessible toilets are within easy reach of the main attractions and there’s a Changing Places toilet near the Brentford Gate entrance.Helen in Temperate house

Accessible Tours

Kew offers several accessibility tours and walks.  There’s a British Sign Language walking tour, sensory guided walking tour for visitors with sight loss and health walks for visitors living with dementia.  Places are limited for these guided walks and you need to register in advance by emailing discovery@kew.org or phoning 020 8332 5643.

Overall Kew is a lovely place to visit.  It’s a very accessible and lots of thought has been put into achieving this.

Photography by Paul Dolphin.

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