I’ve been wanting to go to the Eden Project for years just because of some awesome looking photos I saw on the internet. If you don’t know what this project is, you should read more about it. It’s brilliant. Massive bio-domes in an old clay quarry in Cornwall. It’s being done as an experiment with funding from the National Lottery so I felt like I already owned a bit of it. As far as I can tell, the experiment is to see if it can actually be done. Turns out – it can. I love when people get together and try to do something just out of a desire for knowledge and to see what can be achieved. It makes me feel good about humanity for a change.
To get there, you need to take a train to St Austell. From there you will hopefully find a shuttle bus waiting that will take you to the project. Sadly it is just a bus not a large replica moon buggy as I’d secretly been hoping. To get in you have to pay £16, plus the bus, plus the train and then back again. I’d recommend getting a return ticket to the project including all travel. You’ll save a fortune and don’t have to queue anywhere. I’m not designed to queue as I’m far too self important.
Once you get off the bus you’ll find yourself in a car park. It will be named after a piece of fruit just to remind you damned eco-friendly everything is. As you walk down to the project, you will get an occasional glimpse of the project. It was around this point that I started to get quite excited.
We walked down the hill and found ourselves at the entrance building. There’s a huge shop selling lots of Eden Project merchandise and eco stuff and hippy things like herbal teas and seeds. There’s also a cafe and the main entrance where you’ll need to show your ticket. Then you are through. Looking across a small nicely manicured valley at the two main domes. They are unbelievably cool, like something out of a science fiction movie circa 1970.
We walked down the hill through the predictablypleasant gardens. There was one building that was shut as it was going through a transformation from an ice rink to a display area for weird plants which was a shame as I would have enjoyed either of them. Or both together – skating through huge man-eating plants would be exciting. It also doubles as a stage and they have held numerous gigs and parties here which must be pretty incredible. If you feel like you are walking through a sci-fi set from from the past, there are certain random things that might add to this. Giant mutant bees for example…
I would have included some robotic triffids, but that’s just me. As you get closer to the domes the scale of the things really starts to impress. Look at the little people!
As you can see each biosphere comprises of three domes stuck together. (Or is it that each bio-dome consists of three spheres stuck together?) There are two huge biospheres in total and they are linked by a building that has restaurants and toilets and so on. The biggest biosphere is the tropical one. It was a cold and windy Cornish day so we eagerly headed for the tropical zone. My wife and I were both born in the tropics and we missed being uncomfortably hot and clammy. On entering the dome it was pleasantly warm and full of people taking off jackets and doing minor wardrobe adjustments. There is a recreation of an old fashioned steamboat hull surrounded by old crates. As if you are a landing party on some African shore in the early 1900s or so. Which is a pretty nice touch. They should have gone one step further and hired a Tarzan look-a-like to swing through the trees but you can’t have everything.
Then you see the interior of the dome. It is immense. I started to wonder which bit I would live in if society suddenly crumbled outside and we were all stuck in the dome for the next decade.
There was a path that wound up through the jungle. Dotted around were added things of interest – unique or weird plants with accompanying explanations, a Malaysian long-hut, a small clearing in an African village, tribal wall murals, random gardeners talking and displaying unique items such as the world’s biggest seed from the Seychelles. Happily, the seed is also quite rudely shaped which is always fun when it comes to seeds and fruit. Apparently this seed is remarkably tasty and nutritious but the killjoys wouldn’t let us sample it because of rarity or something. They could have faked it and we’d be none the wiser. Fill a mould with creme caramel and melon or something. I do realise that it is these thoughts that would ensure me never getting a job anywhere serious, but it would be more fun.
After all this excitement you barely notice that you have been travelling gradually upwards. It soon becomes apparent however, when you notice the levels of sweat dribbling down your arse. By the time you get to the top it is 35 Celsius and unbelievably humid. It was like being in Bangkok in the summer but without there being a chilled beer in an air-conditioned bar in easy reach. Which is a shame as having a bar there would have been fucking brilliant.
The descent is quicker than the ascent and you are soon back at the start. There are lots of other things to see that I haven’t mentioned here – such as unique plants, colourful flowers, and lots of educational things like the history of rubber or where coffee comes from. I just don’t want to ruin it all for you. Plus I can’t be bothered. We decided to cut through the restaurant area and go straight to the Mediterranean bio-dome. This was a pleasant place and a bit like being in the Med. Which isn’t a surprise I guess. The temperature was quite pleasant – like spring in Spain. It wasn’t as huge or impressive as the main tropical dome but it was well done. Lots of pretty flowers and all that crap. Here are some now:
Enough? Ok good. Actually my favourite bit was an area that had been filled with an artistic statue recreation of beings worshipping Bacchus, the Greek god of fertility and wine. Surely one of the sweetest jobs if you happen to be a god. These photos are better than flowers:
He’s also the god of rabbit heads on sticks apparently:
How cool is this god? I may be an atheist but if I was to pick a fictional deity with magic powers to blindly worship, then Bacchus is the one I’d go for. Why pick one that smites you all the time? Why choose an afterlife where you have to sing hymns and live according to stringent rules? Let’s face it, there will be no drink and drug fuelled orgies in any normal heaven. None. I’m not saying every night but you’re there for eternity God’s sake, it will get boring without hedonism. Anyway, I digress.
The Mediterranean dome was nice and pleasant after the heat of the tropical zone. I highly recommend doing it in that order.
By this point we were starving. As we walked back into the area between the zones and the aforementioned restaurants, we saw that there was a Mediterranean kitchen near us. Brilliant idea, I thought. They must have Mediterranean food this end and ‘tropical food’ at the other. We eagerly hurried to the restaurant adjacent to the tropic zone hoping for a Thai curry or fried Amazonian piranhas or something. Washed down with some delightful African elephant juice or Papa New Guinea punch. But no. It was Cornish pasties and sandwiches and bottles of coke. Which was a shame.
After a traditional Mediterranean dish of pepperoni pizza and Peroni beer, we left the main domes and headed for the final building. It was full of kids and displays and information about the project. On the ground floor there was loads of activities and displays and stuff. It was pretty interesting but the kids started to annoy me. Bless them and all that but fuck they are noisy. There was also an art gallery by an artist commissioned to paint the project from its infancy. Which was pretty good, if a little pricey.
The were two things I was impressed by in this final bit. One was a huge machine, like something you’d find in a Victorian factory that was massive and child-labour intensive and made pipe cleaners. It had a handle that you could wind and make it all work and judging by the kids eagerly waiting their turn – still used child labour. Fortunately, at 37 and 6 foot 1, I was bigger than they were and was able to push them aside and have a go. It was pretty interesting to see it all in action. Here’s yet another photo:
The second good thing was a video that showed how they decided to build a gigantic stone seed to symbolise the birth of the project. They searched for two years to find a massive chunk of stone. The stone was huge and when carved, weighed 70 tonnes. Which is quite a lot. It was then lowered into a special chamber where you can wander around and have thousands of photos taken and touch it for some reason. It was pretty inspiring and the effort to get it there symbolises the kind of effort that went into the project as a whole. Here is, you guessed it, a photo:
So there you go. After that it was a walk to the initial building, the purchase of coffee and an Eden Project T-shirt.
It was here that we had a problem. The Project prides itself on eco-friendliness and encourages cycling and recycling and all that crap. But if you don’t have a car, the transport is shite. We had to wait ages for a bus. Then, when we got to the train station, we had to wait 2 hours for a train. I know we are from London where a 5 minute wait for transport is tedious but this was ridiculous. Anyway, gripe over but it is something that they should look at.
I really liked the Eden Project. I like the idea, the fact that people are willing to get together just to see if something can be achieved, how it’s funded, the way it has all been put together. Apart from the transport it was well worth the trip. It wasn’t quite what my sub-conscious was hoping for, but my sub-conscious is permanently imagining doomsday scenarios and cool ‘end of humanity’ survival stories. Plus I grew up on 70s and 80s Sci Fi where everyone lived in places like this and I think I was hoping for cheesy robots and gardeners with jet-packs and hot chicks in lycra with lip-gloss. All of which was lacking.
We thoroughly enjoyed the place and I can now tick it off my life to-do list. Hopefully they will listen to my suggestions above and the place will be perfect. If you are in Cornwall it is an essential visit. Go and support them. We might all be living in these domes in 50 years. Sadly though, probably not.