Professor Kathy Willis is the director of science at London’s Kew Gardens

Club people • June 2017

My Club: the scientist

Kathy Willis
Professor Kathy Willis


As director of science at London’s Kew Gardens, Professor Kathy Willis travels the world mapping climate resilience in plants. The Silver Executive Club Member tells The Club about her travel bucket list, a food faux pas in Madagascar and why Norway stole her heart

Where do you regularly travel to for work?
I travel once or twice a month as part of my job. Since December 2016 I’ve been to Mexico, China, San Diego, Tucson, Sweden, Colombia and Norway. I spend a lot of my life on British Airways flights.

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Photo: Getty Images

Where do you love to visit?
Norway – it’s beautiful and calming. I’ve been to Bergen (pictured), mainly because I’m an honorary doctor at the University of Bergen, but have also visited Oslo. I stay at Hotel Park, which is full of antiques.

What’s your top travel tip?
As I only tend to travel for work around three days at a time, I try to stick to UK time. Otherwise it’s hopeless – you go for three or four days to China, switch to the time zone, then spend your weekend back home unable to do anything.

What kind of traveller are you?
I have three children and we tend to do outdoorsy holidays. We’ve camped in the USA and done a cycle camping trip in Brittany, but it rained for two weeks and our gear was soaking wet, so we haven’t done that again.

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Photo: Getty Images

Where do you escape the crowds in London?
Aside from Kew, I like the Barbican (pictured). It’s so interesting architecturally and you can hide away from the rush, have a coffee and browse the shops.

Which destination has surprised you most?
I was bowled over by Madagascar’s extraordinary array of plants and animals. The scientists we work with live in a house together in the capital Antananarivo. When I was there, they asked me to serve lunch, and being typically British I scooped small portions of rice onto everyone’s plate. They laughed as a huge pot of rice was brought out and plates were piled high and served up with fresh fish.

What’s the best thing about flying with British Airways?
I feel safe and the cabin crew are friendly. Now I’m a Silver Executive Club Member, the lounges are a big plus, although I’m usually late to the airport so sometimes I can only grab a coffee.

Interview by Ross Clarke

This article has been tagged Opinion, Travel Tips