Thursday, 29th June, 2023

It was a bit drizzly today, so I took my umbrella. This ensured that the rain stopped and that we were not bothered by it again throughout the day! First up, we visited the London Museum of Water and Steam. This museum houses the world's largest collection of Cornish cycle beam engines, including the largest working beam engine, the Grand Junction 90 inch, which has a cylinder diameter of 90 inches and was used to pump water to London for 98 years. This machine is over 40 feet high and weighs about 250 tons. It was described by Charles Dickens as "a monster". This was a very interesting museum which detailed how water has been provided to Londoners over the years. Exhibits included a large variety of pumping equipment of various ages and powered by steam, electricity or gas. There were some interactive exhibits requiring one to work out how to complete a particular task by means of directing water from one place to another.

This small pump is a Benham Engline Pump. It was built in 1898 and was used in Salisbury until c.1970

The display on the wall had a huge number of items relating to the use of water. The following few photos show more detail.

The triple expansion engine is one of the most efficient and well-engineered steam engines ever used for water supply. It is so good that, when this one was built in 1910, they were one of the most common and preferred designs for waterworks use. This engine required little maintenance and could run non-stop for long periods of time without requiring attention. Similar engines were also popular for use in steam ships such as the Titanic. It is called 'The Triple' because it uses the steam's power three times, making it very efficient. This engine was originally at work in the Southfields Pumping Station in Newmarket. It was rebuilt here by museum staff and volunteers between 1978 and 1981.

This interactive display required one to follow the instructions to pump water into the left-hand tank to make a little yellow duck float.

It took Satoshi a little while, but he achieved the goal!

This is not a chimney but rather a standing pipe. It contains cast iron pipework which was once connected to the steam pumping engines and the underground mains pipes. Its job was to protect the engines and mains pipes from damage that could be caused by water pressure changes. Without it the pipes would burst and the engines could be smashed.

A water wheel

There were several "hands on" exhibits designed for children but some others enjoyed them too!

After a simple (but not quick) lunch at the museum, we moved on to the nearby Kew Gardens. It is claimed that these gardens include the "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world". The herbarium, one of the largest in the world, has over 8.5 million preserved plant and fungal specimens.The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We learned that there are no less than 350 scientists undertaking research there. All that is very impressive but our experience was a bit "ho-hum" really. Perhaps we are spoilt by the wonderful gardens in Australia?

There is the famous, and very large, "Palm House" glasshouse but we didn't find its exhibits of much interest. There is a small treetop walk which probably would be exciting if one hadn't visited several much bigger such structures in Australia. The Rose Garden had nowhere near the number or variety of roses found at our own Victoria State Rose Garden at Werribee Park. The Waterlily House had some lovely waterlilies but, again, this display is completely trumped by the Blue Lotus Water Garden near Yarra Junction. Having said that, we did have a pleasant time wandering around the gardens. They are certainly large and, although we were there for about three hours, we probably saw only half of the things to see.

The Victoria Gate of Kew Gardens

For £6.50, one could go on a tour of the gardens. It was a 40-minute ride. It gave us a good overview of what was available to see.

The iconic "Palm House" glasshouse

The Red Dragon of Wales
by James Woodford OBE, RA (1893-1976)
Portland stone, 1956.
The red dragon was used as a badge by Owen Tudor. His grandson, Henry VII, took it as a token of his supposed descent from Cadwalader, the last of the line of Maelgwn, Kings of Gwynedd. The beast holds a shield bearing a leopard in each quarter; this was the coat of arms of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales. There were ten statues like this, each was a copy of a plaster sculptor displayed at the entrance to Westminster Abbey at the 1953 coronation.

The Botanical Brasserie

A Koi Carp swimming in the lake (above)

Inside the Palm House

Costus Barbartus, sometimes called Spiral Ginger, is native to Costa Rica.

It was possible to climb up to the roof of the Palm House. Satoshi took this photo of me from that vantage point.

Another view from the top of the Palm House

Like our accommodation, Kew Gardens was a location for "plane spotting".

'Silver Jubilee'

'Dame Judi Dench'

'The Lady Gardener'

'Hyde Hall'

Inside the Waterlily House

"Red Hot Cat's Tail"
Acalypha hispida

These flowers were clearly very tasty!

Inside the Temperate House

Again, it was possible to climb up some stairs to ge a higher vantage point.

The Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens has one advantage over others I have experienced - lift access to the top!

It was a lovely experience too!

The Temperate House viewed from the Treetop Walkway

From the gardens, we travelled to the President Hotel for dinner at "Faulty Towers". This was a three-course meal accompanied by entertainment in the form of three of the characters from the TV series "Fawlty Tower", namely Basil and Sybil Fawlty, and Manuel, the hapless waiter from Barcelona. Scenes from several of the episodes were revisited such as the cook getting drunk, Basil winning some money on the races and Manuel's pet rat. The three actors were excellent and had the mannerisms of the characters they portrayed "down pat". It was thoroughly entertaining and great fun!


Manuel trying to place a napkin on a guest's lap

"Helping" a guest with his dinner!


This photo was taken by another diner at our table.

< Back   Forward >

Back to Calendar