I visited the Xstrata treetop walkway at Kew gardens a couple of years ago with my son and and returned recently with my daughter and some friends visiting London. We had a fun time climbing to the top and getting a bird’s eye view of the treetops. I’m assuming that the name Xstrata is after the company who sponsored the walkway rather than any Latin botanical reference to trees, but the equally strangely named Rhizotron information centre that you walk through beside the treetops stairway is named after the Greek word for Roots, as it tells us what’s happening below ground where the insects and worms are busy burrowing and feeding off the trees.
We passed by the wooden blocks of different named woods and enjoyed looking at the little animated creatures, beetles and maggots in the cases and some videos telling us about their life underground. At the foot of the dispay was a colourful stained glass panel representing the interwoven roots and fungus and life at the roots of the trees.
The walkway was opened in 2008 and I guess we must have visited and taken these photos not long after it opened, but I was back there a few weekends ago when there were not so many leaves on the trees. You need to climb 18 metres up the steps to the top, which is half the fun (the lift is not currently working) and then you are up in the treetops, able to admire the tall trees and observe the bird life. It is a little dizzying but fine if you don’t look down too much.
At stages around the walkway we came across sculptural metal plaques that had motifs about trees and poetic phrases such as where bees come to feed, flowers can make seeds and powered by sunlight, trees make their own food from water and air. I think most younger kids there loved the idea of running up the steps to be in the treetops, even though they might not see much close up except these plaques. One of the fun things was the coin slot at the top of the staircase, where you put your donation and heard the coin rattle all the way down to the bottom into the collection box.
Another unique perspective was on the beautiful Victorian Temperate house viewed from above. These giant greenhouses are one of the highlights of Kew Gardens and house all sorts of exotic plants and trees as well as plenty of benches where you can sit and eat your picnic on colder days. A little further on by the lake, you’ll find the tropical house which on the cold winter’s day when we visited was very busy. I guess I’m not the only one who longs for a little tropical heat in the English winter.
The Xstrata treetops walkway is great for families from toddlers to school age, but all ages will enjoy a unique perspective on the woodland that normally only the birds and the bees enjoy.
You may enjoy the video below from Kew Gardens about the Xsastra Treetop Walkway
Visitor Information for the Xstrata Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens
Tickets for Kew Gardens at the time of writing are Adults £13.90, Concessions £11.90, Children Free
The best way to reach Kew Gardens from Central London is by Tube to Kew Gardens Station which a 10 minute walk away
There are many attractions at Kew Gardens and I recommend you schedule a full day for your visit. The things we particularly enjoy in addition to the treetop walkway are the Temperate House and Tropical Palm House by the lake, The Marianne North gallery of botanical paintings, Kew Palace which is only open in summer and be sure to stop for a coffee and cake in the Orangery.
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