|The Eden Project covers an area equivalent to 35 football pitches|
When news of Cornwall's ambitious new Eden Project began to appear in newspapers and on television screens in the late 1990s, it sparked considerable public interest, although many said that the ambitious £140 million venture, funded partially by the Millennium Commission, was doomed to fail. The visitor centre opened in 2000 so the public could see what all the fuss was about while the former china clay pit was being converted into a horticultural Mecca. In March 2001 the whole site opened and in its first year of operation, more than two million visitors walked through the door.
|There are eight different sized biomes at Eden, constructed of steel and EFTE windows|
Eden is unique. It was the brainchild of Tim Smit who spent many years restoring the nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan. It comprises eight interlinked biomes of various different sizes - huge transparent greenhouses made of Ethylenetetrafluorothylenecopolymer (EFTE for those of us who flinch at the spelling and pronunciation). They are non stick, self-cleaning and transmit UV light. But most importantly, they provide an ideal environment for the specially-selected plants and crops growing inside, none of which would normally survive the English climate.
|Visitors climbing the steps to the aerial platform in the Rainforest Biome|
Head for the Rainforest Biome if you want a real adventure and climb the steps (above) to the suspended aerial platform near the top of the dome for a bird's eye view of the crops and plants below including tropical exotics like chocolate, coffee, rubber and spices. Definitely not for the feint-hearted as it gets more hot and humid the higher you climb. But well worth it when you get the chance to look down on the huge variety of plants growing beneath you.
|The aerial platform is new to the Rainforest biome - giving a bird's eye view of what's growing below|
The Mediterranean Biome is very different in character - far less steamy for starters and filled with native plants from wild landscapes in the Mediterranean, South Africa and California. It is here you can expect to see proteas in flower when the season is right and have the chance to explore the relationship between man and the landscape, as he has learned to cultivate crops that flourish in a warm, temperate climate.
Eden is an experience, designed to educate and engage visitors in the plant world. Its mission is "to promote the understanding and responsible management of the vital relationship between plants, people and resources leading to a sustainable future for all." It certainly makes for an interesting day out, and although admission charges are high (£23.50 for adults and £13.50 for children) your entrance fee covers you for re-admission for a year, so well worth the price if you are able to return throughout the seasons. If you can buy your tickets online, you'll save 15%.
|Expect to see many exotic plants in the Mediterranean Biome at Eden|