If you want a different angle to get into the festive spirit this year, then I’d strongly suggest the Christmas lights at Kew. Incorporating ideas from a wide variety of sources, with over three quarters of their lighting LED, and all sustainable products, the displays have surpassed themselves this year.
Attractions include Lili, an abstract series of towering, illuminated flowers by TILT; ArtAV introduces Trapezoid, among the longest light tunnels at Kew, running by a cascade of over 400 lights adorning Camellia Walk. The Hive, an evocative representation of a beehive, makes its trail debut awash with 1000 glowing LED lights and an entrancing score, while returning favourites include Pitaya’s Spark Ballet, a dance of 24 lanterns, and Candles; a hundred suspended flickering flames to enchant passageways. The buildings are also given the illumination treatment, with the Christmas Cathedral and the reimagined Fire Garden, illuminating Kew’s oldest Victorian glasshouse with 300 candles and mesmerising LED displays.
Each installation punctuates a journey through the park, which is this year, not only dramatic and enchanting – as it usually is – but many times, extremely poignant. Music has been well chosen throughout to capture the fragility of nature, and messages in lights drawn bright about how we should save the bees, be respectful of nature and the planet. The trees are carefully lit, unlike some Christmas light trails I have followed where all semblance of nature is subsumed by luminescent pink and orange dancing mushrooms, many of which have nothing to do with nature – or Christmas, for that matter.
The day I visited it was cool, and I was spared inclement weather. Cold evenings usually mean clear skies, but you’re not inclined to linger (it takes an hour, even without children) , and when it’s raining (and therefore warmer), the lights are blurred. Thus, conditions were ideal when I went, and there are stops for food (the usual mulled wine, mince pies and whatnot). Other displays feature huge robins, stars perched in trees, portals of light, and a lake which becomes at once a sky of passing clouds, then Northern Lights, then flowing stream; it is mesmerising, and certainly memorable. Father Christmas is in his home, of course, with his hut and a heater, and the huge greenhouses are lit to resemble something out of Spirited Away, and Chinese palaces the final curtain call is the son et Lumiere over the lake, with its dancing fountains.
With all that is happening with climate change, and the gentle messages that pervade throughout this trail, I found myself quite tearful. We must not only sustain and be responsible with nature, but we must also regenerate, or else the lights will go out. For all of us.
Embrace the seasonal magic at Kew and Glow Wild. Note that due to limited capacity, bookings should be made in advance. For more information, and to secure the date and time of your choice, visit www.kew.org.