The premise of the Eden Project is that it began and continues to be utilised as an experiment. Built in a disused clay pit, which the majority of planners and developers would have considered waste ground, the experiment began to see whether this ground could be revitalised and turned into something special. They certainly achieved that with 9 million visitors since it first opened in 2001. The Eden Project uses the amazing facilities to experiment with new plants, educating other nations about building sustainable eco systems and developing more ethical methods of farming. The guide book states that “it is an experiment in social change and communication, by going your eyes are opened and you become more aware, they want you to report these findings have your ideas provoked and potentially change a nation.”
A bold and tall task for any exhibit and an attraction that cannot be missed if your in or going to Cornwall. this article aims to give you a taste of the experience and some tips on how to make the most of your visit.
Located in the South West of England in the county of Cornwall, about 10 minutes off the A30 at and A391 near Bodmin. The Eden Project is well sign posted, a necessity due to its remote location. Several bus companies offer return tickets and entry to the site as a package. There is ample car parking space with a free bus that picks you up and drops you off. Just remember to make a note of where you parked your car. You can walk and cycle and if you do you get a discounted entry (see below). Frankly due to the isolated location I am not too sure they get many people attempt to arrive in this way but the incentive is there.
*Cost and booking*
Most UK attractions off an online discount however the Eden Project does not. In hindsight the entrance fee is perfectly acceptable and does get used for incredible projects that will benefit generations to come. For adults it is £16 each, for walkers/cyclists its £12 and for children its £5 and £8 for students. There is a minor discount of £1 if you buy online. All in all it does have the potential to be a pricey day out. However your day entry buys you annual membership so if you live in the area you can return again and again which is a fantastic idea!
*The first glimpse*
You arrive on the car park bus and walk under a canopy. The majority of the site is located outside so it is important to come prepared for the unpredictable UK weather. In ideal circumstances you would visit on a beautiful summer day, however the canopy keeps you covered and you reach the huge ticketing area that is also combined with the shop. As well as tickets the guide book costs £5 and was a great source of information.
Stepping outside nothing can prepare you for the first glimpse. The gathering crowd will be totally transfixed by the view. Seeing the biomes on TV does not do it justice they are huge. They lunge out of the clay cliffs like some kind of alien life form and are just so different to anything you’ll ever see. An incredible feat of engineering and mesmerising to look, a work of modern art. You are stood on a platform giving you a great view over the whole site with the biomes themselves taking up about half of the total area. As you would expect the array of plants below you is spectacular and we spotted a little train that was taking people under cover to the various areas. Obviously the train is popular especially in wet weather but a more scenic route is through the Zigzag path and straight for the Rainforest Biome.
There are two with the larger being the rainforest biome. It could fit the tower of London inside it is so large and some of the trees are several hundred metres high, the ‘sky monkeys’ or professional abseilers if you prefer have the enviable task of pruning it all from the roof!
The biome is an exploration around the world and countries that have this climate to examine the types of plants and resources we gain from there, the farming methods we use and how our habits are creating a negative and possibly unrecoverable effect on our environment. To begin with the exhibits are light hearted, there is a decent amount of information boards as you enter and the path is a one way system that is easy to follow. Be prepared because the rainforest biome is at rainforest temperature and rainforest humidity. At first it is decidedly pleasant and but after about ten minutes it begins to feel oppressive and uncomfortable. There are several ‘escape’ routes throughout the course of the biome and a cool room at the top but by being prepared and wearing layers so you can strip down and taking in water you can enjoy the experiance. It takes about an hour and a half.
There is a waterfall that runs from the top of the biome and brings water throughout the biome and the best bit is when the path takes you right up to (there is a lower path which is suggested for people with mobility difficulties as after the waterfall there is plenty of steps but again this is well signed) the waterfall and gives you a nice refreshing drenching! One the way out you come across features on rubber, bananas (there is a smoothie café selling banana and coconut iced smoothies for a £1, delicious!) sugar, coffee and soya and examining the damage it causes to our landscape. Some of the exhibits are very poignant and hard hitting, for example they have a patch of excavated and damaged earth which amidst the abundance of plant life is quite a contrast and states that this is land after Soya harvesting.
The Mediterranean biome is a lot smaller and much more temperate. This area is not as interesting but features olive trees and tobacco plants as well as learning about flowers and scents. On certain days, especially during the summer they stage events within the biome.
The food here is special! Locally sourced if not grown in the biome, all organic, all low carbon footprint and the choices are fantastic. The natural concern is that it will be extortionate but for a proper lunch with organic free range chicken, biome grown veg and a large plate of Cornish potatoes it would set you back £5.80. A simple jacket potato with homemade coleslaw for £3.95 from the café. There is also a vegetarian and vegan café based in the The Core and a sit down Mediterranean restaurant next to the Mediterranean biome. A Cornish pasty shop serving up what can only be described as giant pasties and the tastiest looking chips you will ever behold. The main eating area is very communal and has a lovely bustling atmosphere to it with something to suit everyone.
Children can pick up a booklet and stamp pages as they tick off items when they have read and seen them, this was a good way to engage them as generally speaking it could be a boring day for them wandering through a hot house. The Core, which is the education hub seemed to offer lots of hands on attractions for them. Eden project also runs some amazing events through the summer holidays like den building and such an inspiring location would make a great different day out.
*The lasting legacy*
The following figures and facts come from the guidebook. The Eden Projects effects are far reaching not only because they have taken a useless piece of land and made it into a profitable attraction but because it inspires. The guidebook states that they host 10,000 students each year in their further education programmes looking at environmental principles, sustainable architecture and construction and much more. All your entry fees pays for this work and the charity work that they undertake abroad.
On a much more real tangible level the Eden project is exploring new avenues within its projects to see if by using other crops we can regenerate land damaged by over production and by letting you and me know the things we ca do to help such as making sure our products are sustainably grown. For me it is a must see for everyone.
The environmental message is not patronising or in your face you can skim through it all if you chose and just enjoy the plants and large abundant shop at the end of it! The marketing strap line is ‘you make your own Eden,” why not discover yours this year?