Paxton Gate is a difficult place to describe – let’s start by calling it a shop for curiosities and unusual things from the natural world. One of the first things you notice when walking in is probably the animal heads mounted on the wall, ranging from huge bison and moose heads to delicate deer and reedbuck shoulder mounts. There are cases filled with smaller taxidermy specimens – birds, fish, reptiles, and other animal skeletons, all of which are for sale. I found the collected and carefully encased insects especially intriguing. It feels like the place a museum of natural history curator might go shopping.
Once you get past the first initial sense of awe, there is still a lot more to see; the store also sells plants, notably the carnivorous variety, as well as the tools and supplies necessary to grow them; of note are a set of beautiful Japanese bonsai shaping shears. Books on a huge variety of topics line the walls, including gardening guides and natural world picture books. They also offer classes – topics include creating a carnivorous bog terrarium and DIY taxidermy.
If you happen to be wandering on Valencia, my suggestion is to give yourself at least an hour to wander through Paxton Gate, including the model gardens in the back- you are very likely to find something that captures your fancy, or that would make for a unique and interesting gift.