The Broad Walk
The Broad Walk was originally laid out by William Andrews Nesfield in 1845-6, along with the Pagoda and Syon Vistas. Today, this trio of walkways remains an enduring structure in Kew’s evolving landscape.
Nesfield originally planted deodara cedars (Cedrus deodara) and hybrid rhododendrons along the Broad Walk’s flanks. The latter choice may have been influenced by Kew’s Director, Sir William Jackson Hooker. His son Joseph, who eventually succeeded William as director, spent several years in the 1840s collecting rhododendrons in the Himalayan mountains and sending back specimens to Kew.
Pollution and the Gardens’ dry soil killed all but two of Nesfield’s cedars, so they were quickly replaced at the start of the 20th century by Atlantic cedars (Cedrus atlantica). These also failed and were replaced with North American tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera). These were raised from seed and also fared badly, growing in a variety of shapes and sizes.
In 2000, Kew removed all but two of the tulip trees and replanted the Broad Walk with 16 semi-mature Atlantic cedars. These are similar to deodaras in shape but, coming from Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, can tolerate Kew’s dry conditions.
During the 19th century, William Barron invented a horse-drawn machine for transplanting trees up to 20 metres in height. Kew used a restored Barron’s Tree Transplanter to move trees during its replanting programme in 2000. Kew has the only remaining machine in the world.
Things to look out for
On the eastern side of the Broad Walk, between the Orangery and Palm House, is a magnificent weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’). Where its vast drooping boughs have touched the ground, new trunks have sprung up, creating the effect of a vast green cavern. It was planted in 1846 by Sir William Hooker as part of his major development of the Gardens.
Halfway down the Broad Walk, on the eastern side between the Orangery and Lake, is a semi-circular path that loops around a Caucasian elm (Zelkova carpinifolia). When Nesfield was developing his planting plan, an existing Turkey oak interrupted his uniform rows of cedars. Rather than sacrifice it, Nesfield made a feature of it by adding the looping path around it. He added a symmetrical path on the western side of the Broad Walk, although this was removed in 1928.