The Eden Project is a top Cornwall visitor attraction attracting close to a million visitors a year. Situated about 6 miles from Fowey, it comprises a collection of large, pod-like biomes that are home to a diverse range of plant species.
So why is the Eden Project such a popular place to visit? Read on as we now take a closer look at this massively popular eco tourism attraction.
Eden Project Development
The Eden Project is located on the site of an old 19th century clay pit that had been in operation since the 1820s. By the mid 1990s however, it had reached the end of its economic life and lay derelict. All that remained was an enormous water-logged hollow around 60 metres deep.
The disused pit caught the attention of Dutch businessman and environmentalist, Tim Smit who was looking for a large outdoor space to exhibit the world’s most important plant species.
Smit had already played a major role in the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan in nearby Mevagissey and realised that his new project required considerably more floor space.
Encouraged by what he saw, Smit commissioned the services of Grimshaw Architects who conceived a radical geodesic design based on the Montreal Biosphere. After securing funding through loans and sponsorships as well as a grant from the Millennium Commission, work began in 1998 with the project completed just three years later.
Eden Project Design
The Eden Project’s interconnected biomes cover 2.2 hectares each and feature their own carefully adjusted temperature to mimic the world’s various climates.
These iconic bubble-like pods are made from Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene (EFTE) foil – a strong, lightweight material that’s also an excellent insulator.
The foil is shaped into air-inflated pillows which form part of an expansive frame of hexagonal cells that are supported by tubular steel. The bubble shape enables the actual structures to adapt to the uneven, constantly shifting ground upon which they’ve been built.
During development, an enormous temporary scaffold was assembled that allowed a team of professional abseilers to put the large EFTE pillows in place. Upon completion, the domes became self-supporting although a continuous supply of air was required to keep the pillows inflated.
Nevertheless, as testament to the durability and sustainability of their design, the biomes have withstood the elements extremely well and have become effective habitats for a diverse range of plant species.
The Rainforest Biome
The Rainforest Biome is the biggest indoor rainforest in the world and consists of four separate environments: Southeast Asia, South America, Tropical Islands and Tropical South America.
Kept at humid temperatures of between 18 – 35 °C, it houses a rich array of exotic plant and tree species such as orchids, oil palms, banana trees and cacao trees.
Numerous features have been added over the years to enhance this vast indoor habitat including a waterfall, an African totem sculpture and a traditional Malaysian home complete with vegetable garden.
One of the best ways to truly appreciate the Rainforest Biome is via a canopy walkway and rope bridge which stretches for some 23 metres among the treetops.
More than 1000 plant species from the Mediterranean, South Africa, Western Australia and California can be seen in the Mediterranean Biome.
With slightly cooler temperatures of 9 – 25 °C, the extensive range of plants is presented through a series of gardens that focus on each of the above regions.
So you can expect to see giant South African Proteas, Australia’s famed Grass Tree, Kangaroo Paws and Red Boronias.
The environs of California are also covered with a variety of cacti and wildflowers while the Mediterranean garden, with its gold-gilded mosaic path, showcases an aromatic collection of olive trees, vines and herbs.
The Core Building
The Core Building is effectively the Eden Project’s central hub and was built in 2005 using sustainable materials. Inside is a science lab which allows visitors to use microscopes to view fungi, microbes and DNA.
The lab serves as an excellent companion to the Invisible Worlds Exhibition which expands on its demonstrations and workshops through a variety of interactive exhibits, films and displays.
Eden Project Outdoor Gardens
The actual Eden Project site comprises 20 acres of beautifully-kept outdoor gardens, allotments and landscapes that are adorned with more than 3000 species of plants and ornamental flowers.
A number of paths wend their way through the grounds, past lavender plantations, clay sculptures and wildflowers, with some leading to secluded areas in which to unwind and contemplate the idyllic surroundings.
The Eden Project caters well for young people, with a collection of rustic outdoor activities found throughout, including a climbing frame, an oak trunk play area, a play garden and a den-building service which provides free materials to help youngsters build hideouts and garden dens. There are also two soft play areas for rainy days, one of which is next to the Core Cafe.
Food and Drink
Food and refreshments are served from the Eden Kitchen, Core Cafe and Med Terrace. A variety of cuisines are available as well as light snacks such as Cornish pasties, sandwiches, wraps and sausage rolls.
And as one might expect, most dietary requirements are accommodated with vegetarian and gluten-free options readily available.
Visitors less fussy about their gastronomic intake will probably enjoy the Eden Grill which is open during the school holidays. There’s also a coffee shop serving ‘ethically sourced’ coffee, pastries and cakes as well as a bar selling coconut milk, banana smoothies and rum cocktails.
The Hangloose Adventure Park
Those looking to take a break from being educated about sustainability, diversity and inclusivity, should try the Hangloose Adventure Park.
This relatively new attraction offers high-adrenalin, guilt-free fun and features one of the UK’s longest and fastest zip wire and a Vertigo Swing – both offer some spectacular views of the entire Eden Project complex.
Among the other highlights are an aerial assault course, a base jump and a freefall jump in which visitors take a leap of faith off a 10-metre cliff edge.
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