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The fourth day of our action packed week out there in Cornwall had us heading to the Eden Project. It has got to be one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Most visitors who come down to Cornwall for a few days will spend a day enjoying those now iconic Biomes. We came here on our last trip to the South West just months after it had opened. It was very impressive but felt very new, and we said we would come back every few years to watch it grow. Unfortunately we haven’t managed to come back to Cornwall until this trip. Now the young Eden Project was already a teenager and we were keen to see what had developed over the intervening 14 years and record it in our own inimitable Access Out There way.
For those of you who haven’t been to the Eden Project yet (what has been stopping you?!) head for St Austell and follow the brown signs from there. When you arrive, the sheer scale of the car parking indicates the popularity of attraction. There are a lot of disabled parking spaces – drive down the long approach road where there are places to park left and right, but keep going and going and the last parking area, closest to the visitor centre is exclusively for blue badge holders. The parking areas are named after fruit, the blue badge parking is in Apple1, Apple2 and Banana ( yes really ). There are simply loads of spaces, and the car park is tarmac and the paths throughout the site are a dream for Titania and anyone like her. The main issue that people with wheels, or other mobility problems will have here is the gradients. The Biomes have been built down in an old China Clay pit and you need to get down there and eventually back up when you want to leave. Anyway this actually doesn’t present too much of a problem as there are options to assist you. There is a really good accessibility guide on the Eden Project website
www.edenproject.com/visit/before-you-visit/accessibility-guide if you are intending to go out there to visit.
We acquired our tickets at the visitor ticket counters of which there seemed to be a large number; this was clearly set up for being able to cope with large numbers of visitors at peak times. Fortunately an early October day with weather which could be called changeable (if you want to be kind to it) turned out not to be a peak time. Nevertheless there were quite a lot of people around – but not too many for Titania, who is sensitive to that sort of thing!
From the visitor centre a wide path winds down towards the Biomes. A land-train is available to take you down if this is a problem. The path had interesting information boards dotted along it, and we could stop and view the outside gardens from up here, spotting the large models bee and beetle and other sculptures which were amongst the foliage. It didn’t take us long to get to the biomes. Here our party needed to split. Gypsy wasn’t allowed in and so she took Jim for a walk round the outside gardens and to find a coffee while the rest of us went for our Rainforest adventure. Gypsy and Jim were destined to get drenched when the downpour came some twenty minutes later ...
The Rainforest Biome was hot and humid especially after having come in from a decidedly unsettled day outside. Moving through it we were transported into the tropics, albeit with tarmac paths, labels on some of the plants, and notice boards, and quite a lot of other people! (Apart from all that we could have been there!) As we wound around the paths we travelled through Africa, Asia, South America, and tropical islands, the forest plants gradually transforming with the different areas.
A stream runs through the biome, and to get closer to the waterfall we worked our way up a slightly steeper gradient. Outside, it poured down and the drumming of the rain on the biome roof, dripping water inside and the rushing of the waterfall really added to the atmosphere.
Most paths were accessible, if slightly uphill (and therefore later downhill) in some places. The Canopy Walkway was well worth the push. There were some paths with steps but these could be avoided. Generally it was an easy and wonderful place to wander around. Along the way we found village huts, canoes and learnt about rainforest crops, while enjoying occasionally seeing tropical partridges wandering among the plants.
After some time we reluctantly left the rainforest and crossed through the link area which connects the two Biomes. The Mediterranean Biome was also very warm but a less humid atmosphere. The planting and environment here took us through the Mediterranean, South Africa and California. Here too the paths were fairly easy to traverse, though an inviting set of steps went off to the left, unfortunately a no go for Titania. Before those steps was a perfume garden filled with plants there to excite the senses with their fragrances. Beyond this we ventured through the Mediterranean, olives and rosemary around us, and then palms and vines. From there citrus trees led us on to South Africa with aloes and many of the plants which seem to be making their way into our own gardens nowadays though probably not the varieties we saw here. From there to America – cacti, grasses and some prickly looking shrubs.
The path had gradually wound up hill, and then gently sloped back down again towards the entrance. A narrow cobbled path off left tempted us from the main easy path. Titania coped well with it but only because she was equipped with her FreeWheel. Back near the entrance to the Biome was the Med Terrace restaurant, tempting though it was we needed to find somewhere to eat where Gypsy could join us and so we left the Biomes.
A trip down the lift in the link area between the Biomes enabled us to find somewhere for a late lunch. The Eden Kitchen had a wide range of dishes and we ate outside but still protected from the elements with easy access for Titania and Gypsy happy under the table. Then, with blue sky tempting us out, we ventured into the Outside gardens. We stayed pretty much on the level ground not venturing up the winding paths, and within easy reach of the buildings because this temporary blue patch of sky wasn’t fooling anybody. As a result of this risk aversion we probably didn’t see much of what the gardens had to offer. On a better day we’d recommend a more thorough exploration as despite our brief foray we found plenty of plants which intrigued and delighted us. As it began to rain again we found ourselves near the Core Building. Here we found a large hall with strange interactive exhibits including a large remarkable “Heath Robinson” contraption which was essentially a nut cracker! The centrepiece was the Plant Engine which was demonstrating the interdependencies of ecosystems. There was a lot there to get us thinking, and it was a great place for kids if you had them with you.
We left the Core a little more educated than we went in. The clouds were more threatening so we decided to call it a day and head for the exit. We found, by turning left out of the building that there was convenient lift which would take away most of the uphill effort required to leave the site. The glass sides gave us a good view of the Project laid out before us. The path from the lift led us past the zip wire flying folk (the longest and fastest in England apparently - we decided not to try this ourselves – Titania wasn’t keen!), over a bridge and then up a path to the visitor centre. There is a large shop there selling a wide range of goodies, a lot of them with a definite eco slant to them as you would expect. After our browse through the shelves we went back to the car and the end of our Eden Project adventure.
Our day out there at the Eden Project had been fun. The weather had played a part in the day adding to the atmosphere of the Rainforest and getting Gypsy and Jim a bit damp, but brightening up enough to get a flavour of the outside gardens. Overall we had had a great day out there.
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Richard & Di
24th October 2016