Results 1-10of 22 Reviews
Portsmouth, United Kingdom
July 14, 2013
From journal A Weekend in the West Country
by Joy S
Manchester, England, United Kingdom
September 17, 2012
From journal Days Out in North Cornwall
Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
July 8, 2011
From journal Exploring Cornwall
Brighton, England, United Kingdom
July 6, 2011
From journal My time in Cornwall
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
These three biomes are smaller than their Tropical counterpart but no less fascinating. They are situated to the right of the restaurant and are again accessed via sliding doors. The interior is markedly cooler than then other side, as you would expect, and the initial sensation is that of the smells of the Mediterranean: geraniums, hibiscus, bouganvillea, and wild herbs.
There are 19 principal exhibits or areas inside here, numbered from W.01 to W.19: Introduction to the Warm Temperate Regions, The Mediterranaen Basin, South Africa, California, Introduction to Crops and Civilisation, Fruits of The Mediterranean, Cork, Peppers, Alliums, Citrus, Grape Vines, Aubergines, Tobacco, Lesser Known Grains, Cut Flowers, Sunflowers, Olives, Cotton, and Perfume.
The Mediterranean exhibits are especially realistic, featuring beautiful urns of flowers, entire hillsides cloaked in maquis, olives trees and presses, and an area dealing with all types of citrus fruit. The perfumed air is simply unbelievable, a heady mixture of myrtle, sage, juniper, broom, and rosemary. I really do feel as though I am back in Greece. These wild herbs, intermixed with dwarf fan palm, prickly oak, and bay, combine to form exactly the rough maquis covering that Greek, Spanish, and Italian mountainsides are renown for.
The Californian exhibit features naturally enough all types of cactus along with scrub oak, buck bush, and toyon, all in an authentic semi-arid setting and built around a ranch house. The South African exhibit has a huge variety of its indigenous plants, representative of the richest density of plant life to be found on Earth. Heathers, lilies, orchids, and irises form the centrepiece here, growing as majestically and fully fragranced as they would do in their natural habitat.
That is precisely what Eden is about: not to try and grow these plants in an alien climate and environment and hope for the best, but to recreate exactly the soil, drainage, temperature, rainfall, and humidity conditions that cause them to thrive in their native countries.
The Temperate biomes really only take an hour to explore, unless you are a keen flower person, but some of the smaller exhibits, such as cotton and perfume, are equally fascinating. The Pepper and Chillies areas are also worthy to stop awhile. Real chillies and capsicums of every variety are growing well here and are listed according to strength on the Scovill scale.
Having seen the interior of both sets of biomes, I now set off across the gardens outside to the new Information and Education centre, known simply as “The Core.”
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.
This is a remarkable piece of architecture in its own right and serves to give the visitor a taste of what to expect once inside Eden. Before even entering the main doors, you cannot fail to be impressed with the stunning driftwood sculpture of a horse, built to full size. The wood conveys every muscle and sinew of the creature, such is the thought and skill of its sculptor.
Once inside, the centre comprises a large shop selling all manner of goods, in line, of course, with Eden’s theme of conservation and education. Products include foodstuffs, such as honey, preserves and nuts, all types of fruit juices, olive oils, herbs and spices, and coffees and teas; clothing products made with natural fibres; and a huge range of literature and DVD’s, ranging from the idea behind Eden to the plight of the world’s rain forests.
Also inside is a restaurant and washroom facilities. The second section of the visitor centre is situated between the two biomes. This features an enormous restaurant catering for several hundred people; a rest area with comfortable seating; a shop selling films, batteries, and associated camera items; and a play area for the smaller visitors. These facilities all overlook the restaurant area, positioned as they are on an enormous balcony that runs the length of the centre and forms the link between the entrances to the two biomes.
Prices are quite reasonable and the fare very appetising, which was indicated by the many people choosing to dine here. Fully illustrated guidebooks are on sale at £4 and are a must if you really want to get the utmost from the experience. The guidebook deals with every aspect of the project and is good value. If required, knowledgeable guides are available at set times during the day to accompany you around the biomes. They cost £2 per person, with the times indicated on a centrally located board.
To get the best from Eden, I would recommend spending a few minutes studying the guidebook, then plan your intended route. This way, you will benefit rather than wandering around aimlessly and probably missing some of the key exhibits.
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
May 28, 2004
A new use has been found for one of the clay pits though; an innovative and compelling development called the Eden Project has sprung up and is starting to pull in the visitors.
Opened in 2001, the Eden Project is a fantastical botanical garden designed to appeal to the short attention span generation. Let's be honest here, plants are not particularly sexy or appealing to most kids. In a former life I was a Biology teacher and remember how challenging it was to enthuse my delightful charges with a desire to understand the natural world as more than the green outdoor bits where you couldn't plug in the Playstation. The Eden Project is the field trip I needed.
As with any good hole in the ground you don't really know its there until you fall in. Once over the rim your eyes are quickly drawn to the huge geodesic domes. These are, apparently, the biggest conservatories in the world and contain two of Eden's three 'biomes'; the climactic environments that form the themes of the Project's attractions.
The journey down is via 'The Zigzag'; a path that leads you through the start of 'the Outdoor Biome'. This is a living exhibition of plants that can grow readily in this country. Like teenagers on a trip though we only had eyes for the domes. Prettily arranged lines of maize and wheat did not hold us in thrall I'm afraid.
The larger of the two Biomes is the real scene-stealer of the Project - the 'Humid Tropics Biome'. This is what we came to see; exotic giant palms and bizarre flowers; cocoa and bananas; bamboo and cassava. We visited on what was clearly a 'coach trip for the golden generation' day and the artificially high humidity was taking its toll. The tendency of the older gent in England is to wear a nice wool suit and tie on a day out with Mrs. England in something practical and tweedy. Mind you, it was a stubborn refusal to let impractical clothing get in the way that once built an empire so I shouldn't mock.
An air-conditioned link corridor provides some respite from the climactic bullying. It is also the venue of the major grazing area. The second biome, 'The Warm Temperate Biome' was next although this didn't have the drama of the tropics. It is fascinating for those who 'know' plants but for many it has a touch of the garden centre about it.
The Eden Project delivers a strong environmental message in a witty, 'unpreachy' way. I've skimmed the surface here - the whole experience is fascinating and even those turned off 'nature' may well come away enlightened.
Admission is £12.
From journal Cornwall - Camelot, Eden, and Ice Cream