GLT editor Keeley Rodgers on the highlights of our fam trip to Kew Gardens and The Poppy Factory in Richmond. 

No matter how many times you visit, the London borough of Richmond upon Thames is always full of delights and surprises. It’s no wonder that it has long been a favourite retreat for Royalty over the years. Our group of readers went along for the day to sample what it has to offer visitors. 

And it was quite apt that our trip marked the first day of English Tourism Week, showcasing the many attractions the country has to offer.

“For me this fam visit was essential as I had already made a provisional booking for my group. Not only did I enjoy the day, but I gained a great deal of insight into what the venues, and also Richmond had to offer.”

Sue Povey, Out and About with Sue

A taster tour of Kew Gardens

Starting our day with a visit to the wonderful Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, there was something for everyone. Splitting into different groups, we each had a knowledgeable and entertaining guide showcasing some of the many highlights around the gardens, which were beginning to spring into life all around us. The sun even made a welcome appearance, brightening up the morning even more.

GTO Marian Durbidge (right) and her colleague at Kew Gardens during the Richmond Reader Club

The group enjoyed a tour of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, travelling from the tropics to the deserts and enjoying the impressive display of cacti.

“I never would have learnt so much just from wandering around”, one of the group organisers said to me. That’s the appeal of having a guided tour, especially for groups, there’s no need to do lots of prep, just get your group there and the fabulous team do the rest.

“We particularly enjoyed the guided tour of Kew and learnt so much more than we would have done on our own. It is always good to meet like-minded GTOs and share ideas.”

Margaret and David Thorpe, Knole U3A

The group I joined were treated to the most spectacular display of jade vine which was in flower in the Princess of Wales Conservatory before an intriguing talk about the carnivorous plants and their remarkable adaptations.

The colourful jade vines at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

We were in for a treat as the colourful jade vines were in flower at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Native to the rainforests of the Philippines, habitat destruction threatens this species in the wild. 

We also had a whistle-stop visit of the iconic Palm House at the heart of Kew Gardens, transported into the wonder of the rainforest and some very impressive plants and the stories behind them.

Many of the group commented on how impressed they were with their guide around the gardens, and also said that whatever time of year you visit, there is always something different to see. 

The group outside the Palm House at Kew Gardens during the Richmond Reader Club trip.

The group outside the Palm House at Kew Gardens. The Reader Club trip coincided with the first day of English Tourism Week.

There’s always time for tea and cake and this trip was no exception – we were well looked after by the staff in the Orangery, before a short bus journey (number 65 in case you were wondering) to our next stop… The Poppy Factory.

“It was lovely to go to Kew in the spring and it lived up to expectations with the daffodils, hyacinths, camellias and magnolias. The guides were great and informed us about the wonderful selection of trees that are planted there.”

Marian Durbidge, Herts Theatre Club

Fascinating history of The Poppy Factory

Thankfully, after working up an appetite during the morning, the wonderful team at The Poppy Factory had us covered with a great lunch upon arrival – complete with delicious poppy cupcakes which went down especially well with the group.

Host David Beaumont gave a fascinating talk at The Poppy Factory for the Richmond Reader Club trip.

Host David Beaumont gave a fascinating talk about the origins and history of The Poppy Factory including the three special people whose actions led to the poppy becoming a symbol of remembrance around the world.

“We wouldn’t be here today, talking about the history of poppies if it wasn’t for three special people”, host David Beaumont told our group. His entertaining and informative talk captured each and every one of us; the story of how the poppy became such an iconic symbol of remembrance is very moving. Groups can find out all about the history, and the people involved, during their visit.

“The highlight for me was the Poppy Factory… the experience was most informative and the speaker was excellent.”

Valerie Marianni, Pembury U3A

Workers at The Poppy Factory now make around 100,000 wreaths as well as 250 Royal and special wreaths every year, some of which are displayed around the factory. We were able to have a go ourselves – both at making the single poppies (using a very simple yet cleverly designed ‘block’) and at the wreaths with some members of the group almost getting signed up as workers as they were so good!

Special poppy cakes for the Richmond Reader Club trip

The poppy cakes went down particularly well with our group - washed down beautifully with a cuppa in poppy cups!

“The Poppy factory was a very informative visit.  So much to learn and the guide was excellent. I hope to bring our History Society for a visit. I always visit venues before booking, to check out coach parking, toilet and catering facilities.”

Penny Hodgson, Shamley Green Village Tours

The factory is full of history and stories, particularly of the impact it has had on so many, employing veterans with mental and physical health conditions since it was formed in 1922. It’s well set up for group visits with plenty of space, a welcoming area and facilties 

GTOs have a go at making wreaths at The Poppy Factory during the Richmond Reader Club trip

The concentration as GTOs have a go at making their own wreaths - workers at The Poppy Factory make around 100,000 wreaths each year so our group had a bit of a way to go!

Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the day, hosted by Angela Ivey at Visit Richmond, with GTOs commenting on the great guides at Kew and the excellent talk at The Poppy Factory in particular. It also provided a great opportunity to network with other group travel organisers with many saying they picked up lots of ideas and are planning to return with their groups.

Feedback from Visit Richmond

Angela Ivey from Visit Richmond said: “I loved every minute of our day and it was great to meet so many group tour operators and have the opportunity to showcase Richmond upon Thames.

“Thank you to Keeley from Group Leisure & Travel magazine, Kew Gardens and The Poppy Factory for everything that they did to ensure that we all had a fab-u-lous familiarisation trip and day out!”

Our thanks to Angela Ivey who hosted the Visit Richmond Reader Club trip with the help of the team at Kew Gardens and The Poppy Factory.

You can contact Angela to discuss ideas for your group visit to Richmond by emailing Find out more at