Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens

What a great way to spend a the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens. We left the snow capped mountains of Cumbria on a sunny day and it seemed a bit odd to be heading to the city, as we are country folk who love being outside. However, no need to worry I had a fantastic weekend spending my time looking at natural history Birthday treat from my partner Steve.

First stop was the Natural History Museum and whilst everybody else seems to head for the dinosaurs, the first thing I did was go and stand next to my hero Charles Darwin!

We basically spent the day getting lost around the museum and admiring as many as possible of the 80,000 species that are housed here. Even if they were all on display, you could spend a week here and probably not see them all. There are amazing examples of taxidermy and very well preserved mammals and birds.

The other fascinating thing is not only the amount of fossils but also the size of some of them as displayed below...

Upstairs there is a fantastic display that takes you through geological time, looking at how life has evolved and diversified. 

We spent an hour or so in the cocoon which is highly recommended, lots to see here and plenty of information on current research being carried out by the Natural History Museum scientists. I could have stayed there all day looking at the exhibits. It was also quite quiet and calming compared to the dinosaur area!

I had booked for us to go on a Behind the Scenes tour, basically looking at pickled specimens! Our tour guide was a lovely Australian lady who told us a bit about the history of the museum itself, which was built for its purpose which is reflected in the intricate stone carvings of animals and plants all over the interior and exterior walls. We then had a look at a few specimens before heading down into the area where the general public are not generally allowed

There is row upon row of specimens and we spent most of our time looking at fish and marine species. The largest specimen being the giant squid. It was also a privilege to see close up some of the specimens that were brought back by Charles Darwin himself on the Beagle.

Another highlight of the day was to stand next to a Coelacanth, thought to be extinct but recently rediscovered. Okay maybe not a highlight for everyone but it was for me, having studied the ceolacanth as part of my degree.

So that is just a brief snippet of a whole day at the Natural Histroy Museum, after which we were exhausted and ready for a rest before heading off to Kew Gardens...

The first thing that struck me at Kew was depsite being winter, the amount of colour on display. Kew is great to visit any time of year as it has many glasshouses kept in appropriate conditions to house the species that live there.

For me the water lillies and carnivorous plants were a favourite. There were some large species on display. And some relatives of the sundew that I recognised.
However the cacti and succulents were also hard to beat! I loved the little pebble shaped ones and the big barrel ones!

Finally we had a wander around outside before heading off. For me what a great way to spend a weekend just absorbing yourself in the vast diversity of species that we have on this planet!

If you are thinking of visiting have a look at:

Natural History Museum 

Kew Gardens

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