In the Garden of Eden

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by frangliz on July 14, 2013

Having been disappointed that I wasn’t able to visit the Eden Project during my first trip to Cornwall in 2012, I was delighted when another opportunity came up in 2013. The Icelandic band Sigur Ros were playing at the Eden Sessions at the end of June, so I was able to combine a tour of the Eden Project with an amazing gig. Tickets for the Eden Sessions were £40 including the booking fee, and admission to the Eden Project itself was included, which represented excellent value.

I visited with both my sons and my elder son’s partner, and we drove from St Austell to the Eden Project in the morning. Having parked and made a note of which car park we were in, we could have taken a bus down to the ticket office. However, we were told that it was only a four-minute walk so we didn’t think it was worth taking the bus. The ticket office was fairly busy, but as we already had our tickets for the concert we were able to go straight to a designated queue and didn’t have to wait long at all to be given a wristband.

We decided to take the long, winding path to the biomes, making our way through the delightful outdoor area. I hadn’t realised there would be so much to see outside the biomes. The variety of plants and flowers was enchanting, and there were displays that related to Cornwall itself. You could have a go at mechanical hog roasting or play pipes made out of local wood.

When we reached the biomes we stopped for a drink and snack in the café, sitting on benches at a communal table. I took advantage of the ladies’ toilets being nearby; it’s a bit of a shock at first to see how brown they are inside, but this is because rainwater is collected and used to flush them.

The rainforest biome is the bigger of the two and was the one we visited first. It is extremely hot and humid inside, but this does build up quite gradually as you follow the path that gently climbs higher and higher. We took our time, stopping to photograph the exotic flowers every so often. The whole atmosphere was quite overwhelming, with trees towering above and the occasional pond, stream or mini waterfall. There’s even a reconstruction of a dwelling from Malaysia which you can go inside. When you reach the highest point of the path, there’s a refreshing waterfall that makes the heat and humidity a little more bearable.

Back in normal temperatures, we returned to the café for some lunch. We each chose something different: lentil soup with crusty bread, mackerel crostini with beetroot and cream cheese, quiche lorraine and mushroom frittata, all served with new potatoes and salad. Cold drinks were the order of the day after the heat of the rainforest biome.

The Mediterranean biome is the smaller of the two; it’s not as spectacular but it is beautiful. As part of the Eden Sessions, bands were already performing in the biome and it was a pleasure to be able to listen to the music while admiring the plants. Some of the flowers are displayed according to their uses, such as for making perfume, and there’s an impressive array of chilli plants with labels showing how hot each one is. An area of the biome is set aside as a café, so you can sit and have drink in delightful surroundings.

The Eden Sessions’ main stage is set in front of a circular area which is used for an ice rink in the winter. Around it is a gentle grassy slope where you can sit; the capacity is apparently six thousand people. It is a magical setting for music, and we were impressed by the quality of the sound. The only problem was that when Sigur Ros appeared people at the foot of the slope began to stand up, so those behind them were obliged to do so too if they wanted a view of the stage. But I think everyone put their annoyance aside and became spellbound by the music and the light show which ended with the biomes being lit up too.

It was a day I shall never forget, one of the most memorable of my life. I would urge anyone visiting Cornwall to try to make time for the Eden Project, although I would recommend buying tickets in advance to avoid queuing. If the weather is unkind you may not enjoy the outdoor area as much, but at least you are guaranteed being able to appreciate the biomes to the full. Even since my visit, I’ve heard that butterflies have been released into the rainforest biome, and there are now aerial walkways there as well. Improvements are constantly being made, and I hope I will have the chance to go back there one day.
Eden Project
Village of Bodelva
Saint Austell, Cornwall, PL24 2SG
44 (0) 1726 811 911

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