It there are two things I love, it has to be plants and cats. Combined together and you have a very happy Sarah. Valencia Botanical Gardens was just the space for me to get my fix!
Valencia Botanical Gardens
While Jit was at his conference, I had plenty of time to wander and explore. As much as he loves cats, I am sure he’s happy for me to hunt them out alone. Saying that, I did take him to meet the ones at the Valencia Botanical Gardens because they were so lovely. The plants and buildings were amazing too.
The entrance to the garden is through an archway for the university. It isn’t very inspiring as the information signs are pretty old-looking. There is an entry fee to help maintain the gardens, but is really cheap at 2,5 €. I paid at the window, with my rusty high school Spanish and made my way to the entrance.
Walking through the archway, I could feel the cool air, even though it was a really warm day. From the busy streets of Valencia into an urban oasis. Towering trees swaying in the breeze and drawing you deeper into the garden. What I had originally thought to be a small botanical garden was turning out to be much more.
Valencia Botanical Gardens, known as El Botanic, was founded in 1567 and were used to cultivate medicinal plants. As with many gardens, Valencia Botanical Gardens fell into abandon until the university started a restoration project between 1987-2000.
Currently, as well as being a wonderful place for visitors, the garden is used for the study of rare and interesting plants and as a home to a clowder of cats.
Gardens by distinction
As I meandered the many paths through the gardens, trying to make patterns on my GPS tracking, I realised that the garden was set out in sectional themes. From medicinal plants and tropical to ones which I was surprised to find enjoyed cooler climes.
this was quite the revelation as it got me thinking about some more tropical style pants for our garden here in Manchester. I am lucky that I am able to grow quite a few tropical-looking plants, but keeping my options open for more is always a plus. I did wonder how they would keep the cool loving plants happy in such a warm part of Spain though.
The Shade House
Whereas we, in the UK, have to consider heaters for our greenhouses, here they thought about a shade house. Somewhere to give reprieve to the shade loving plants away from the intense sunlight. I was curious how this would work as the roof seemed to be open to the elements. You would think it would be like an open window on a summer’s day, letting in the warm air instead of keeping it out.
From the moment I walked from the bright sunlight, I felt the effect of the slatted roof. Zipping my fleece up a little bit so that I could enjoy the space at a more comfortable temperature, I set about learning about the impressive space.
Designed and built in 1897 to house the plants from the tropical greenhouse in the summer months, you realise what a feat of engineering it was. It is in a (bizarrely) neo-classical style with the pillars at the front. Although a slightly weird choice of influence, it somehow works, even with the modern slatted roof.
It is incredible how the slats create enough flowing air to cool the space while also letting in plenty of sunlight for the plants to prosper. I thought it would be a great idea for a garden room at our house, until I remembered the rain!
Warming up with the cats
Feeling sufficiently cooled, I used it as my excuse to go in search of some more cats. I could surely warm my hands up by stroking their warm, sun-drenched fur for a while.
At every turn in the garden, you will find a feline friend to pet. I would imagine that they moved in when the garden was dilapidated and forgotten. A haven for stray and feral cats. I did notice signs asking people not to feed them, which made me realise that they were actually very cared for strays. This was confirmed at a later visit when I met the people feeding them and read about a vet treating them to make sure they were healthy. What a fab place for the cats to live, I thought to myself. Their main job is to snuggle with visitors and probably keep the mouse population down.
All the cats
It is a good thing that I wasn’t in a rush as I found myself to be in my element! My excuse to warm my hands was waning and I was now just sharing some time with as many cats as I could. An added bonus for me when I am away from my own furry crew.
While hunting out cats to stroke, I did make sure to keep an eye on the plants as well. It was part of the reason I was there! And with the size of many of them, it wasn’t hard to be drawn towards them!
Many of the National Trust gardens we visit have dropped down cactus houses and I was pleased to find one here in the Valencia Botanical Garden too. There were a few, in fact, interconnected and burrowed into the ground to keep the lower part cooler and to create the perfect environment for the succulent and spiny specimens.
The thick solid walls act as an insulator in the winter and to keep the heat out in the summer. It was far warmer than the shade house, that is for sure!
Time well spent
Without even realising I noticed that I had been there for a few hours and walked for three miles! I think that is credit to the garden and the fact that they had cats there to keep me roaming just that little bit more. No, honestly, it really is a place where you can get absorbed. It is amazing to think that the space is nestled within a bustling city.
After doing the rounds one last time (winding my way through to make a funny pattern on my GPS tracking) to say my farewells to all the cats, it was time to leave. I had already decided that I would return the next day to show Jit. Such a lovely place and not just because of the cats…well, not only because of them!
I think that one of the best things about botanical gardens in general is the amazing expertise to make them have year round interest. I have been to many throughout the year and each time offers a different experience and colour palette. Whenever you are visiting Valencia, I urge you to make your way over to the Valencia Botanical Gardens! Cats and plants is a sure-fire way to have a great day!
Have you visited the Valencia Botanical Garden cats? Which are your favourite botanical gardens?
Carrer de Quart, 80, 46008 València, Valencia, Spain