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Lake and Sackler Crossing

Kew's main lake lies along an east-west axis on the western side of the Gardens in the Arboretum.
Lake and Sackler Crossing

About the Lake

Director Sir William Hooker commissioned the Lake to provide an 'open flow of water through a portion of the Pleasure Grounds'. It was created in 1856 in an area being excavated to provide gravel for terracing the new Temperate House. Surplus gravel was used to fashion four islands in the lake. 

After William’s son Joseph took over as director, he extended the lake and softened its edges with new vegetation, saying he was 'trying to make our very ugly lake an ornamental piece of water with a gang of 50–60 navvies'.

About Sackler Crossing

In 2006, Kew installed the first ever bridge across the lake. Named the Sackler Crossing, in honour of philanthropists Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler whose donation made it possible, it was designed by the architect John Pawson and is located just west of the lake’s most easterly island.


The striking black granite walkway carries visitors low over the water along a curving path that mimics the lake’s rounded banks. Its walls are a series of vertical, flat bronze posts. On approaching the bridge, these give the appearance of forming a solid wall but when viewed sideways on they appear almost invisible. This is akin to the ways in which water can appear both solid and fluid.

The bridge forms part of a new route around the Gardens designed to give access to areas seldom visited. This takes visitors from the Marianne North Gallery through the Temperate House and Evolution House to the lake and then onwards towards the Japanese Minka House, Bamboo Garden and Brentford Gate. These attractions have often been neglected by visitors in the past but, thanks to the crossing, are now more easily accessible.

Things to look out for

The four islands have been planted to provide vibrant colours in autumn, which are emphasized by their reflection in the lake. Chinese tupelo trees (Nyssa sinensis), cloned from specimens in Windsor Great Park turn deep red, while black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) trees from North America, turn red, orange and yellow.

On the lake’s north side, swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) have been planted alongside willows (Salix) and dogwoods (Cornus). The lake and its surrounds are inhabited by wildlife such as the red-crested pochard, tufted duck, widgeon and mandarin duck.

The Sackler Crossing embraces the ideals of two landscape designers who both played a leading role in shaping Kew. The first is William Kent, who built some of Kew’s earliest follies. He felt objects and buildings should be stumbled upon as if by accident. The second is ‘Capability’ Brown, who favoured undulating curves and the “sinuous line of grace”, as represented in the Sackler Crossing’s shape.

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