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by GB from Devizes
Devizes, United Kingdom
November 24, 2005
In 1987, a London-based record producer by the name of Tim Smit moved to Cornwall to escape the high-pressure world in the capital. He was keen to make a name for himself in new fields and, being a life-long devotee of both Cornwall and horticulture, wanted to devise something to bring tourism and prosperity to this poor area of southwest England. Tim was instrumental in restoring the Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey, and following this triumph, he decided to explore the possibility of a site where the relationships between humans and plants could be explored on a grand scale.
There were two major problems: first, a suitable site large enough to accommodate Tim’s vision, and second, the money required to fulfill his dream. Tim encouraged two well-known horticulturists, Phillip McMillam Browse and Peter Thoday, to join his “think tank” and succeeded in organising a £25,000 grant from the local council.
Architects were found and presented with the formidable challenge of creating the “eighth wonder of the world.” They took up the challenge and designs started to flourish. Two of Britain’s largest civil engineering contractors were brought in and offered to lend the project a significant amount of money, only repayable if the scheme proved a success.
The Millennium Fund recognised the fantastic work that was in its infancy here and eventually coughed up an initial grant of £37.5 million pounds. Now they needed a site upon which to build this wondrous spectacle.
Cornwall was once the china clay capital of the world, with the area around St Austell riddled with pits and workings, some more than 200 years old. There was a pit that had just reached the end of its useful life at Bodelva, about 3miles north of St Austell. It was 200 feet deep and well over a mile in circumference, and enclosed in an area of 35 football pitches. After negotiations, this was acquired from English China Clays, who had no further use for the pit, which had no level ground, was full of water, had no soil, and was overrun with gorse and weeds.
Work began in earnest to clear the site, requiring round-the-clock work by a team of bulldozers and giant dumper trucks to shift more than 1.8 million tonnes of earth and rock after the estimated 43 million gallons of water were pumped out.
Further grants were obtained, allowing whole sections of the pit to be shaved off, in-filled, ballasted, and secured. This all took 3 years, using the most ecologically sound materials available at the time. About 18,000 gallons of water per hour drain naturally into the pit from the surrounding countryside. This was channelled and harnessed to provide all the water the finished project would require. Some 2,000 rock anchors at up to 11m long were driven into the pit walls to stabilise them, after which came some 85,000 tonnes of soil made from recycled waste.
A final design for the biomes had been agreed between the various parties. This comprised a two-layer steel curved space frame, known as the “hex-tri-hex,” with an outer layer of hexagons, the largest of which would measure 11m across, and the occasional pentagon, plus the inner layer of hexagons and triangles bolted together in a similar fashion to a child’s construction kit. The transparent foil windows were made from three layers of ETFE, an ethylene-based co-polymer that when inflated would form a 2m-deep pillow. ETFE has a life span of 25-plus years, transmits UV light, is nonstick and self-cleaning, and weighs less than 1% of the equivalent area of glass. The construction lasted for 3 years, with the project opening its doors to the first fare-paying visitors in 2000. It rapidly became the premier tourist facility in Cornwall, then the southwest, and then southern England. People had never seen or experienced anything remotely similar. It was truly a fascinating and mind-blowing spectacle set in such unique surroundings. Eden set its sights realistically and expected to receive three quarters of a million visitors during its inaugural year; in fact, more than 3 million passed through, way beyond any expectancy or prediction. That figure continues to climb and shows no sign of easing up. It has, without a doubt, been a stunning success story. Future developments include using the Arena to stage concerts; the development of The Food Theatre; the covering of some of the exterior routes, making all-weather walking tours more enjoyable; and, last but not least, further biomes, the next of which is planned to be the Desert. Eden will grow and blossom, just as its very own exhibits do, enabling it to represent in the most modern of ways mankind’s indelible link and dependency upon plants of all descriptions.
August 12, 2004
Photographers: Your compound lenses are going to fog up inside if the air temperature outside was cooler. To rectify this problem, wrap the lens with your hand for about 10 minutes to warm it up. Better to do this before entering the biome. Keep the lens cap on to avoid the misters directly. Wear layered clothing, as it gets hotter as you go up, so remove layers as you go. Bring, lots of film, I easily went through a rolls of 36 Fujichrome 100. Better to bring some 200 or 400 ASA or go digital. It is dark in the jungle!
Jungle trees race up to the light, some growing several metres a year. Climbers hitch a ride while orchids and ferns, live high in the living skyscrapers. Different rainforest species share certain characteristics because they have evolved to cope with the hot, steamy conditions. Large, shiny leaves with ‘gutters’ and ‘drip’ tips designed to shed excess water. Plant leaves with purple undersides act as reflectors to bounce back the 2% of light that filters through to the forest floor.
Beginning with the Tropical Islands, the Mangrove swamps that link land and sea are presented with the use of a large pond feed by a meandering stream. Going up in elevation and passing by bamboo we reach Malaysia. Here there is a full size house and garden based on a village in Sabah, Malaysia. Beyond the rice paddy, the path widens at a stunning Bo tree where Buddha meditated to find enlightenment. Still higher, past the rushing waterfall, is West Africa. Here are crops like coffee and cacao that need shade grow beneath trees. On the left-hand slope along the contours are maize, sorghum and other crops to stabilize the soil. From the top of the waterfall some 50 feet below is the giant Amazonian water lily with its rimmed circular leaves some measuring more than 5 feet.
Entering the Mediterranean basin of the Warm Temperate Biome, there is immediate relief of cooler and drier air. Juniper, wild olive, laurel, myrtle and tree heather scents are in the breeze and seeing the white washed Pablo walls with hanging baskets of flowers, Spanish tiles and clay potted plants remind us of our previous trip to Spain.
Continuing down and around the bend is Little Karoo with its muted grey foliage that gives South Africa its scent. Stunning lilies, orchids and irises do well in the nutrient-poor soil.
Crossing the equator we now find ourselves in the California chaparral with scrub oak and toyon also known as "California Holly" and "Christmas Berry". Nearby is an amazing cork oak wood pasture with sculpted pigs and piglets.
Past the clementines, grapefruit and lemons is a wild Bacchanal amongst the orderly rows of grape vines. The fields of peppers, tomatoes and sunflowers are impressive in their quantities.
All in all, the Eden Project is a must see and smell.
From journal Summer in Cornwall
Leaving the car behind in the Grapes lot and taking a bus to ticket office and gift shop complex one has views of the sheer size of this project at the many vantage points at the outer pit rim paths. I recommend purchasing the enumerated guidebook that makes the experience even richer and maps to help not miss a section. We packed a sandwich lunch to avoid the crowds in the restaurant and there were many beautiful spots to eat along the way or at the many picnic table areas.
Beginning our descent along the zigzag pathway we experience the ancient plants; ferns, horsetails and mosses; the plants that feed the world; Maize, Wheat, Rice and Potatoes; garden flowers, plants for colours and dyes and plants for taste. Now at the Biomes link bridge entrance we continue with the West side outside displays.
Wheat, barley, yeast, and hops were doing well and were complemented by Reece Ingram’s carved traditional hop poles. Next; tea bushes, hemp, potatoes in black, orange, dark red, striped, knobbly and smooth forms, plants for rope and fibre, Steppe and Prairie plants, plants for fuel and plants in myth and folklore.
2004 was Britain’s Year of the Garden and the Hydrangeas were spectacular here and in most of Cornwall. Lavender was also present on mass along with pollinators.
Especially interesting was the Cornish heath land complete with hedges with artifacts and a winding serpentine message in the ground.
Mary Esther, Florida
September 9, 2004
The biomes are constructed of hexagons approximately 9m across. They are made of galvanized steel with layers of polymer foil. The ETFE (ethylene tetra ethylene co-polymer…what a mouthful) is transparent allowing UV light to enter and non-degradable by sunlight. Think big. Think huge!
The first biome we toured was the Humid Tropics Biome…the world’s largest greenhouse. It is home to a huge variety of rainforest plants such as banana trees, cocoa, coffee, teak, giant ferns, and mahogany from the Mediterranean regions of the world. Through the use of sophisticated computerized systems for ventilation and heating, assisted by an immense waterfall, the humid temperate conditions are optimal for growth. Visitors walk at path that climbs high into the biome. You forget you are in chilly Cornwall and imagine you have entered the tropics in South America or South Africa. Overhead misting systems simulate rainstorms. As you climb ever higher, temperatures and humidity rise. Relief stations along the way offer visitors cooling relief from the heat and humidity.
Leaving the tropics, we entered another botanical realm…the desert. In the Warm Temperature Biome, we encountered plants and climatic conditions indicative of the hot dry summers and cool wet winters of California, S.W. Australia, Chile, and parts of the Med. It was dry and dusty here. Unlike the lush, green plants of the Humid Tropic Biome, life here was made up of plants with spines. Plants that thrive in hot, dry environments.
According to guides, there are plans for a third biome that will be a cross-over between these two extremes, a semi-arid biome.
Exiting we spent another hour walking around the outdoor landscape of Eden. Composed of natural crops of Cornwall, Britain, parts of America, and Russia.
When Eden Project first opened in May 2000, first year projections "hoped" for 200,000 visitors per year. By the first birthday of Eden, 1.9 million visitors had traversed the biomes. Today, about two million visitors visit the Eden Project each year.
Important things to know about visiting the Eden project.
Located east of St. Austell, Cornwall, Eden Project is 30 miles from Plymouth and 270 miles west of London. It can be reached by car or by train from London. Purchase your ticket to Eden from any railway station. At the St. Austell station, pick up a bus to Eden and back.
Allow about four to six hours to see and savor everything. Don’t dash through the biomes. Allow some "quiet time" to savor the nuances of each very different part of our living world.
Eden is not an attraction for the traveler who needs action and excitement. A visit to the Eden Project is a living theatre of our worldwide environment. It is an awakening and an education in the important environmental issues that shape our daily lives and our future.
From journal Exploring Life in the Biomes of the Eden Project
by Mick Pearson
Halesowen, United Kingdom
October 3, 2003
Restaurants/snack bars all sell different foods, so there's plenty of choice. I enjoyed my day. Take good walking shoes!
From journal Devon and Cornwall
Was Bracknell, now travelling, United Kingdom
May 5, 2002
Bare in mind visiting times are busiest on week days when school visits are popular and the best time to go is first thing in the morning or after lunch on a weekend.
Ticket prices are around £9.80 for adults, £4 for children (5-15). The centre is open April to October from 9.30 am until 6 pm with last admission at 5 pm.
Overall I thought the price was a bit steep, but the centre has only been open a year or so and works are on-going, so it will only get better as things grow! Various events are to be staged this summer including live bands, check out the latest at the website on click here.
From journal Devon & Cornwall
Brighton, England, United Kingdom
July 6, 2011
From journal My time in Cornwall
The Core only opened this summer and has quickly become a favourite with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Eden. The Core is built to an extraordinary design. Other than the uprights, not one timber is straight in this truly iconic structure. The roof is built to the natural growth blueprint of a flower and took over 1,000 cubic meters of Swiss spruce from sustainable forests to create.
There are 335 major beams and 34 vertical uprights, all finished to the highest degrees of workmanship by master carpenters. The beams required so much “bend” to create the roof that new techniques were devised to essentially glue pieces together, both laterally and longitudinally, to enable the architects to acquire the “bending” necessary for this section of the building.
The roof itself is finished with copper, sourced from the Burgham Canyon mine in Utah and painstakingly fitted together again by local master craftsmen.
The interior is crisp and clean and has several interactive displays as well as film rooms where projectors show the conception, planning, building, and completion of Eden. The centre basically examines the roles that plants play in all our everyday lives, including medicines, fuels, building materials, filters, latex, and, of course, foodstuffs.
Recently, a plan has been devised to install what will be the largest single piece of sculpted stone since the time of the Egyptians as centrepiece to The Core. This stone, in keeping with local tradition, had to be Cornish granite. A suitable piece was found at the De Lank mine near Bodmin, where it took 4 months to cut away from the enveloping terrain with thermic lances. It was finally “released” with dynamite. It’s been estimated that the stone weighs around 170 tonnes and is at least 280 million years old.
A monster 750 tonne crane was brought in to lift the stone free, and work is ongoing as I write, with the sculpture due to take pride of place in 2006, a perfect excuse to return next year, I feel.
This part of Eden accounts for around 75% of the entire garden area and is loaded with many modern sculptures and displays throughout its walkways. From Exhibit 0.08 to 0.23, it details Plants for the Industries of the Future, Lavender, Plants and Pollinators, Cornish Crops, Beer and Brewing, Tea, The Education Centre, Eco-Engineering, Hemp, Hidden Crops from The Andes, Plants for Rope and Fibre, Steppe and Prairie, Plants for Fuel, Plants in Folklore, Biodiversity in Cornwall, and, finally, Minerals, Metals and Mines.
Nonfloral displays include the wonderful “Bombus the Bee,” a huge bumblebee constructed by Robert Bradford in vivid colours; the traditional hop-poles in the Beer and Brewing section, carved by Reece Ingram; the Hemp Fence; the Metal Giant by George Fairhurst; The “Industrial Plant” by David Kemp; the Story Pavilion; and, last but not least, the amazing WEEE Man, built entirely of household electrical items from fridges to mobile phones.
As Eden itself was engineered from an old clay pit, part of the interior has been left as it was found, with huge boulders of granite, dry stone walls, and rocky terrain, allowing the bird, insect, and reptile population that had colonised the pit after its fall into disuse to continue on as they had done, building nests, raising young, and thriving in what is now still a wild area, albeit under under close stewardship.
This part of the gardens can easily absorb you for 2 or 3 hours as you suddenly discover a pathway that you hadn’t noticed before. The sculptures and other pieces are so at one with the plants, it almost becomes an adventure playground for adults. The delight of finding a 5m-long bee around the corner or a simple xylophone constructed of Cornish slate adds to the enjoyment of this superb walk of fact-finding and discovery.
A particularly entrancing object is The Cloud Chamber. This is a slate built domed hut with a thick piece of glass embedded into a hole in its apex. This throws a reflection of the sky onto a flat stone surface inside the chamber. It is extraordinarily relaxing to sit there for 10 minutes watching the clouds scud by, although you wouldn’t have this time to yourself in high season.
There are literally miles of pathways that crisscross the gardens at Eden, known as the Outside Biome. These all radiate from the visitor centre. Being so many combinations of walk available, I will simply list the various outdoor attractions in the order that I investigated them. Every plant display, bed, or feature has its own reference number corresponding to the excellent guidebook, so it should be simple to find all there is to see.
The principal attractions of the Outdoor Biome are split into two main areas known as The Zig-Zag and The West Side. Obviously, the huge diversity and sheer numbers of varying plants makes it impossible to list all that is on show.
The Zig-Zag holds exhibits 0.02 to 0.07. Exhibit 0.02 features flowerless ancient plants such as mosses, ferns, and horsetails that predate the dinosaurs and now provide us with our coal and gas. Exhibit 0.03 contains the world’s food plants, such as maize, wheat, rice, and pulses; 0.04 describes the way that new forms of flowering plants have been cultivated over the centuries; 0.05 deals with plants that yield colours and dyes; and 0.07 with everyday vegetables, albeit planted in massive numbers in ornamental displays, just as impressive as any floral similarity.
As of yet, the Zig-Zag area contains no sculptures or displays other than its plants, and as such, probably appeals to those with a keen interest in the history of how plants have helped mankind over the centuries. Every single plant, tree, or shrub has its own small information board detailing its common and Latin names as well as where it is to be found and the growing conditions it prefers.