Eden Project, St Austell
One of the most iconic landmarks in Cornwall, the Eden Project is a one-of-its-kind attraction built inside a former china clay mining pit near St Austell. Millions of visitors from all over the world come to Eden every year, to experience the unique wonder of its biomes and to learn a little more about the natural world.
THE HISTORY OF EDEN
The Eden Project is the creation of Dutch-born Tim Smit, who worked on restoring the nearby Lost Gardens of Heligan before dreaming up the magnificent Biomes of Eden. Working alongside architects and other industry professionals, Smit began building the skeleton of the Eden Project in 1998. By 2000, the team had secured enough funding to match the Millennium Commission grant they needed to continue building and developing, and so-called ‘sky monkeys’ were employed to fit the giant hexagonal ‘pillows’ to the Biome structures.
By late 2000, the first trees were being planted in the Rainforest Biome and the seeds of over 1,000 different rainforest species were being cultivated and shipped in.
Eden was ready for public viewing just six months later, when in March 2001, the very first visitors stepped into what was nicknamed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. A huge success right from the start, Eden welcomed over a million visitors in just its first three months of opening!
The Eden Sessions (Eden’s music festivals) began in the summer of 2002, and have starred all sorts of A-list performers including Elton John, Amy Winehouse and Muse.
Today the Eden Project’s focus is on education, to help future generations understand, appreciate and care for the natural world around us.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE AND DO?
The most famous thing about Eden is of course its gigantic biomes; the Rainforest Biome and the Mediterranean Biome. Experience life in tropical South America or Southeast Asia in the hot and humid Rainforest Biome, complete with a canopy walk, Malaysian hut and paddy field, a full-size waterfall, banana trees and even the odd roul-roul partridge!
The Mediterranean Biome depicts life in places such as South Africa and California, with olive and cork trees, vines, lupins, aloe veras, giant citrons and a mosaic pathway known affectionately as Liquid Gold. This Biome is also home to a lovely Terrace Restaurant – dining at which makes you feel just like you’re on holiday in a country far away from the UK!
Guided tours of the Biomes are available, either as part of a group or privately.
Eden is also home to over 20 acres of outdoor gardens - where there are pathways to explore, allotments, a giant wooden ship, the WEEE Man (a giant robot structure made entirely of the amount of waste electrical equipment each family goes through in a lifetime) and for children, The Nest climbing frame, the Sense of Play Garden and the Discovery Trail.
The Core is a fantastic indoor hub where you can learn all about ecosystems and climate change, with a Plant Engine, giant nutcracker, a ‘Making of Eden’ film and a soft play area for under 5s.
For older kids, and more adventurous adults, there are three thrilling recent additions at Eden… SkyWire, The Drop and Gravity. SkyWire is England’s longest zip wire and those brave enough to have a go soar over the whole of Eden at speeds of up to 60mph! The Drop is a three-storey free-fall jump on to a giant airbag followed by a 20 metre drop off the edge of a cliff… and Gravity is a giant swing which drops you from 65 feet in the air, also on the edge of a cliff…
After all that exploring, you’ll probably need a bite to eat and a bit of a rest! The Eden Kitchen Restaurant offers delicious, homemade and nutritious meals, snacks and cakes – and as the kitchen itself is open, you can also watch the Chef prepare your lunch!
Finally, on your way out, don’t forget to visit the fabulous gift shop near the exit. Not your usual gift shop, this place sells all sorts of things from books to clothing, chocolate and coffee to kitchenware, plants and toys.