Friday, 30 March 2012

The Eden Project - posting 1 (The Outside, and the Rainforest biome)

New for this year:  Star Ratings. The Eden Project scores 3.5/5

Tim Smit says he dreamed up this vision called the Eden Project whilst sitting in his garden shed. It's now 10 years old and has had so much coverage in the press, that it was on our list of must-do's when we went to Cornwall recently.

What is it? Well it has the 2 largest biomes (or conservatories!) in the world, which house an amazing collection of tropical plants. They are in an old steep sided clay pit 60 metres deep and the size of 35 football pitches. It's 15 metres below the water table and had no soil.  A challenge for the very best gardener and an intriguing use of an exhausted old quarry! (more about how they made the soil in the next posting)

We arrived by car very early on a weekday morning, and were astonished at the number of car parks; some of them so far away from the entrance that there was a frequent park and ride bus in operation. I asked at the kiosk and was told that they have 14,000 visitors a day during busy times. Avoid summer and bank holidays if you don't like crowds or aren't up to walking far.

So, a major visitor attraction with lots of positive coverage in the press. Photos are towards the end of this posting, but here's an objective visitor-eye-view first.....

...... it has an excellent cafe with fabulous food (you help yourself to what you fancy, sit down, eat it, then get up and pay. No one writes anything down or gives a receipt, and they rely on your honesty when it comes to charging you for what you eat.) The loos are numerous and clean (despite from very strangely coloured water which is to do with recycling and is in fact most hygenic, they say.) There's plenty of seating around the garden and in the cafe.  A small train runs up and down the slopes for those unable to negotiate the zigzagging paths.

There's a really wonderful shop with lots of interesting things to see and buy.  I came away with paper made from elephant dung, a felt flower on a long stalk, an apron dyed with tea, and a jar of excellent piccalilli.

The plant centre was disappointing because it didn't contain anything that I couldn't buy in my local garden centre. (I suspect plants were bought in rather than grown at the Eden Project, and are therefore much the same as anywhere else.)  I wanted to spend money, but didn't.

So why the 3.5 star rating?  Largely because of the £23 adult entry price! (you can get cheaper deals on line, but it's still a fair amount) If I'm honest, it's a £15 attraction, not a £23 one, so I thought it was overpriced.  It was also heavy on the education element; which whilst commendable, has been said so many times, that it felt rather dumbed down. Lots of school children on visits taking notes, so I guess it's a good source of revenue.  I admire Tim Smit's ideas enormously,  but the, otherwise slick, business side for attracting older, or possibly well informed, visitors  needs updating.

The Rainforest biome was very very hot and humid, and I hurried around as I couldn't stand the heat. It was nearly 40 degrees with a 70/80% humidity; because of this they closed the upper walkway so I wasn't able to see everything from on high.

The space outside the biomes is dominated by this sculpture. It's the WEEEman.  (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment)
He's made from 3.3 tonnes of waste electrical equipment, which is roughly what 1 person (yes that's you!) throws away in a lifetime.

Designed by Paul Bonomini
 Close up of it's construction

Irons, and toasters, and tellies, and computers, and kettles, and fans,...........and....I can just see a hedge trimmer at the back!

Also outside, this very large bee with grass growing out of it's back

Below: Inside one of the Rainforest biome.

The photo is of the roof of the rainforest biome and shows the walkway across the top. You have to be able to cope with heat, humidity, and heights to go up here!

 Meanwhile, on the floor of the forest, the water was running in torrents.
People were hanging their washing out to dry and growing veg in the garden.
 Below: perhaps they were doing a spot of carving whilst waiting for the fruit to ripen? (right)

 The stream runs from the very top of the biome right through to the forest floor and the noise was wonderful and the spray cooling.  Everything was so lush, but didn't remind me much of the rainforest I saw in Australia.

All the exotic fruits and seeds you could want, and not a pasty in sight...sadly.

"Rainforest is the glue that holds the climate of our planet together. Lose the forest and it will have devastating consequences for all life on Earth" (Professor Sir Ghillean Prance)

The Humid Tropic regions are located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The average temperature is 25C all year round with over 90% humidity and 1,500 mm annual rainfall. They control the earth's climate and absorb and store CO2 in their wood.  They make huge white clouds, which reflect heat, keeping the earth cool and help maintain the earth's rain cycles which in turn water our crops and feed us. They cover 5% of the earth and are home to half the world's plant and animal species.

Next posting: how they made the soil, what the biomes are made out of, and the Mediterranean biome


  1. Looks lovely mum, always think it's a shame when they put those crappy metal crash barriers around outdoor sculptures, you'd think there would be something better by now!

  2. You're right of course - they were all over the place because there was so much building work going on, but permanently around a sculpture is ugly.