The sounds of the Palm House at Kew Gardens

Ever since my first visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew last September, I have made sure to find time to go back regularly. It is a place that fascinates me, an oasis of green in a London borough crisscrossed by major roads and under some of Heathrow Airport flight paths. The noise of engines is never far off but the vegetation in the Gardens makes you forget about them. It is also a place to learn about the natural world, both the one on our doorstep and the one in far off places of the globe. One day I’ll write a more in-depth post about the Royal Botanic Gardens and what they mean to me. But for now I just want to share a binaural recording I did on my last visit on the 2nd of January.

A binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation for the listener of actually being in the room – see for more information – so be sure to have your headphones on before pressing play.

The Palm House is considered to be the most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure in the world. It was designed by Decimus Burton and engineered by Richard Turner to accommodate the exotic palms being collected and introduced to Europe in the early Victorian times. Today, the Palm House still serves that purpose and houses hundreds of tropical species.

Heating was an important element to the glasshouse’s design and it is what drew people in on a drizzly and damp January day. The festive period had gone and yet it was not time to go back to work or school and a few people had decided to leave their home to explore Kew Gardens.

In the grounds people were few and far between. I walked for a couple of hours around the lake and in the pinetum and only crossed path with two couples.

I never intended to visit the Palm House, its vegetation not appealing much to me, but my feet had gotten damp and cold from the grass and mud, so I decided to take refuge in the Palm House to warm them up for a bit. I wasn’t alone in this decision. The glasshouse was full of families enjoying a rest from the weather and learning about far-flung countries and their vegetation. As I wasn’t particularly interested in the plants, I simply walked along the paths and up the mezzanine walkway and made this binaural recording.


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