Eden Project, Cornwall, England - a Visionary, Green, Global Garden.
A Hole in the Ground
It's mind boggling what you can do with an enormous hole in the ground.
Welcome to the Eden Project, a remarkable place of conservation, a meaningful celebration of the environment, a calm sanctuary of caring and respect for the planet.
In The Beginning
It all began with local man Tim Smit. As he drove around the narrow lanes near St Austell, Cornwall, he kept seeing a vast white quarry; flood-prone, barren and an eyesore.
With extraordinary vision he made plans to change it. In March 2001 the vision became reality. The Eden Project was launched.
In the beginning, the plans almost didn’t come to fruition. Tim Smit sketched plans on a scrap of paper and started talking to local government.
Only in 2000 when the British Government’s Millennium cash came in did the ball keep rolling.
Today the Eden Trust is a registered charity.
It all Happens…
Tim Smit knew what would be involved in the transformation - he had already rejuvenated the neglected Lost Gardens of Heligan, a few kilometres down the road.
At that time it was the biggest garden restoration in history, uncovering plants and structures that had been overgrown for 70 years.
The advantages of the Eden site were that the old china clay pit faced the sun, had a crater big enough for 35 soccer grounds and was within minutes of other tourist attractions.
Enter the big construction folk, who, to form the base of the biomes moved 1.8 million tonnes of rock and soil. A world record in compost was created – 85,000 tonnes.
Lost Garden of Heligan also rejuvenated in Cornwall
About the Biomes
The Eden Project houses the world’s largest greenhouses or geodesic biomes. It’s a bit of a shock when you first see them, giant futuristic golf ball-looking things that appear to be floating on the landscape.
Now, the biomes are home to around one million plants, of thousands of species from around the world. The objective is dedicated to explaining human dependence on plants, to celebrate what nature gives while respecting all that sustains us.
In a fast living, fast food, pre packaged, technological world, it's easy to become blasé about nature. Here's an opportunity to reconnect, to comprehend the link between plants, people and resources.
Visitors are flocking to experience it.
Each biome illustrates how plants are essential to animal and human life. To reinforce the message Eden uses exhibitions, art, story telling, workshops, lectures, and events.
You can discover what a world without plants would be like. The logistics are clear, if our future isn't green we don't have one.
Inside the Tropical Biome
The focus of the largest biome is the Humid Tropics. Here you'll see how in the Amazon rainforest water travels upwards inside trees, makes clouds, rains back down and is once again taken back up by trees. It goes through this cycle seven times before it reaches the sea.
Among the towering plants from the tropics are balsa, teak, mahogany, banana, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo.
There's a Malaysian stilt house surrounded by garden and chickens. A reminder of how other cultures use natural resources to survive.
Look around, you’ll see a gushing waterfall, bananas growing, spices and nuts,
Discover the beans that supply cocoa and chocolate.
Want a walk among the treetops? Easy, there’s a canopy walkway.
Rubber trees are prominent, a product used for many things from tyres to condoms.
A Rainforest Balloon hoists the gardeners to the highest canopies. African totem sculptures dot the landscape.
It’s easy to feel slightly woozy in the warm fug of a tropical atmosphere, if this happens there are no worries.
“This way, Madam, into the cool room,” said a polite young man to an elderly lady. A chill out in the refrigerated rest and recovery room worked wonders before she tackled the jungle again.
Its not often you need a cool room in England, but here is a corner of the West Country that is forever humid.
Another biome is Warm Temperature. It recreates the natural landscape of California, the Mediterranean and South Africa. The humid and warm biomes form the backdrop to the temperate panorama called Outdoor Biome.
Visitors follow paths through the biomes where interactive displays, talks and sketches inform them about individual plants and their uses.
For those with a particular interest there are trails with themes, plants with medicinal uses, plants and sport, plants significant to the Asian culture.
The roles of plants as renewable fuel are examined.
To enhance the walkways many sculptors and builders were commissioned to create art works to complement the life of plants.
One impressive sculpture is named Seed carved from a single piece of granite.
The Seed at Eden
Assembling the Biomes
Assembling the Biomes
Amazingly, the huge domes arrived at Eden as flat-pack kits with assembly instructions. (The mind boggles at my house where assemble translates as trauma - dare I mention bunk beds?)
Imagine erecting just one dome, covering 3.9 acres, 180ft high, 328ft wide and 656 ft long.
The panes of the biome are created from a triple layer of thin UV-transparent film. Each piece of film and frame was individually numbered and painstakingly fitted into place like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Architects computed with the help of 22 abseilers.
The biomes also capture solar energy by day and radiate it from a heat bank at night.
There’s Much More
Visitors of all ages can discover more about natural products through chocolate days, tea tasting, dyeing workshops, listen-touch-smell-taste aspects.
Yes, it's educational. Yes, it's fun, designed to excite everyone’s passion to learn.
Eden is kid friendly, disability friendly. And you can relax and have a cuppa or a meal.
There are coffee bars and the main restaurant links to the biomes and can seat 500.
Outside 24 acres of garden provide the setting for the commissioned sculptures that complement the plants.
Grasswoman - Eden Project
Visiting the Eden Project
Despite being 115 miles from London, Eden has become a tourist attraction, up there with the Tower of London and the London Eye.
An astonishing achievement considering environment and turnstile are not necessarily compatible.
Holiday firms now group the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project into three-day packages.
Visitors may spend hours of steady walking, although land-trains are available to ease the feet and transport people from the biomes to the visitor centre.
There are many car parks and it's wise to note exactly which one you are in, especially if you're driving a beige nondescript hire car (I can vouch for this!.)
There's a gift shop with a welcome difference. Once again Smit insisted that all products on sale be either local, inspired by art exhibits in the biomes, or imported on a fair-trade basis from around the world.
A day at the Eden Project is unforgettable. It fills you with hope – hope that forests can be restored, salinity can be reversed, deserts made fertile.
I just hope I visit again soon.
A Final Question
Yo may ask - now it is established and thriving why it is still called the Eden Project? The answer is clear, Eden will always progress, always look for new and innovative issues and remain a project forever.