Thu 20 Aug 2020 14.36 BSTLast modified on Fri 21 Aug 2020 04.37 BST
Children looking at humpback whale sculpture
Those unable to satisfy their wanderlust in these uncertain days of lockdown and travel quarantine are invited to immerse themselves in the sights, smells and spirit of faraway places – in a botanical sense at least – here in the UK.
From colossal Californian redwoods, those imposing ancient giants of the plant kingdom, to the balmy fragrance of Mediterranean rosemary and lavender, visitors to Kew Gardens in London will be transported to 10 countries across six continents within just a few hours as part of its Travel the World trail experience from next week.
The essence of a tranquil Japanese tea garden and delights of the Himalayan flora of an undulating Rhododendron dell are still within reach, for a tiny fraction of the real cost, with visitors’ senses heightened by accompanying prose, poetry and illustrations specially commissioned from talent across the world.
Sophie Rochelle walk past beds of asterids in the Agius Evolution garden within Kew Gardens, London.
A visitor walking past beds of asterids in the Agius Evolution garden within Kew Gardens. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA
“In a year when many holidays and travel plans have had to change, Travel the World at Kew will offer visitors a chance to experience the next best thing, a journey around the world inside the safety of our walls,” said Richard Barley, the director of horticulture, learning and operations at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
“Visiting 10 special locations dotted throughout our 320-acres landscape is a perfect way to reconnect with nature after months of lockdown.”
Kew’s Great Pagoda towers over plant specimens collected in China’s Sichuan province. South Africa’s bergs and kloofs are replicated in a rock garden stippled with cascading waterfalls. Eucalyptus trees arouse thoughts of Australia, as do spectacular mountain gums.
The monkey puzzle trees – “coiled succulent pine / with saurian arms, bony plates / on reptilian back” in the words of the Latino-British poet Leo Boix – are redolent of the time of dinosaurs. They evoke, too, Argentina’s “sub-Antarctic forests” and rivers of “the most radiant turquoise I’ve seen”, writes the Kew scientist Dr Laura Martinez-Suz in her accompanying prose.
Britain’s native woodlands of tall grasses, wildflowers and whispering beech and hazel are also on show. Meanwhile, Óscar Martín Centeno’s poem The dance of sunrise in the Mediterranean Garden is a dreamscape of flowers swaying in the light of a rising sun.
A centrepiece will be a large-scale humpback whale botanical living sculpture, created by the winner of the Netflix series The Big Flower Fight and on display from 22 August – 18 September.
The specially commissioned poetry and prose by literary award-nominated writers, with a strong connection to each country, are displayed alongside vibrant illustrations by artist Mark Boardman.
Visitors walk past flowering beds along the Broad Walk, Kew Gardens, London.
Visitors walking past flowering beds along the Broad Walk at Kew Gardens, London. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA
Writers include Joe Cottonwood, who lives in the coastal mountains of California, whose words read: “because a redwood with its power / will never preach / makes no demands / sips from the clouds / swallows the sunlight …”
The world-renowned Himalayan poet Yuyutsu RD Sharma has penned Rhododendron’s Suitor, which includes the lines: “an eternal lover / jilted by the silver-barked / suitor of the steep cliffs, / the Nepalese alder …”
Paul Denton, the head of visitor programmes at Kew, said the trail highlighted some of the “hidden gems” of Kew Gardens. “You can be reading a beautiful piece of poetry at the same time as seeing the landscape, so you can get a real sense of place and space,” he said. “It’s like taking the perfect holiday snap.”
His favourites? “I love the Californian redwoods. There is something about the colossal nature of these trees. And the monkey puzzle tree, which just has such a strangeness about it.”
Kailash: Jewel of the Snows is an enthralling account of a Delhi-based mountaineer, and creative entrepreneur, Rajinder Arora. This is one of the first few expeditions to Mt Kailash after the Chinese government permitted the entry of Indians to the sacred land of Lord Shiva, highly venerated in the Hindu-Buddhist scriptures. Extremely captivating narrative of a young atheist, Kailash sketches Rajinder’s journey to Mt Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, 4,600m above the sea level. Starting his sojourn in the Indian Himalayas, he crosses over the rugged Kumaon territory and enters the Tibetan terrain with a group of 16 individuals. Arora strays on the forbidden trail in the Tibetan wilderness. Along the perilous trail, he moves in search of faith and meaning in life and narrates, with awe-inspiring details and anecdotes, of survival in the high Himalayas, exploring the cultural diversity and saga of ancient travel along Silk Road. Having encountered the grand vision of Mt Kailash, completely awe-struck, he stumbles his way back home with a new-found reservoir of spirituality that had lain dormant during vagrant young years. Profusely illustrated, embellished with highly evocative accounts of fauna and flora, breathtaking landscape and enviable life style of the nomadic tribes, the book is a treasure to be preserved for posterity. A must for mountaineers, spiritual believers and non-believers alike including all those interested in keeping a true account of the fast changing Himalayan landscape and people struggling to keep it beautiful and sacred in the centuries to come.
An atheist takes a religious yatra and comes back with a new religion for the mankind. Kailash’ by Rajinder Arora is a fascinating account of an arduous 30-days high-altitude trek to the land of the Gods. In one of the sections in the book he sums up “Ecology is Religion”. Rightly so, the mankind has endlessly exploited earth, thus brining upon it the wrath of nature. Environmental degradation is wrecking havoc all around the world. We should follow his advice in preserving our beautiful planet. Mt Kailash and the Holy Lake Manasarovar is the abode of Lord Shiva – the Himalayas, with all their splendour and beauty are nothing short of God. Let us all join hands in protecting the Himalayas for generations to come.
–Padma Shri Capt MS Kohli, Everester and the leader of Indian expedition to Everest in 1965. Chairman, Himalayan Environment Trust.
A mountaineer, trekker, photographer and collector of all sorts of memorabilia, Rajinder Arora is a graphic designer by profession. His adventure travelogues have been published in Indian Mountaineer and online journals. His publications include an illustrated volume on Everest Base Camp; three poetry booklets for children in Hindi; besides short stories in English and Hindi. A passionate reader, Arora lives with his wife and children in Gurgaon, India.
Kailash: Jewel of the Snows by Rajinder Arora, Now on Amazon India, UK, Canada and USA