The Eden Project
The Eden Project is, to quote the Eden Project Guide, a 'living theatre of plants'. It is located in the former China Clay pit at Bodelva, near St. Austell in Cornwall.
The Eden Project is owned by the Eden Trust, a limited company and a registered charity (No. 1093070).
Its full address is: Eden Project, Bodelva, St. Austell, Cornwall. PL24 2SG.
The birth of an Idea
The initial idea that was to become the Eden Project was formulated by a group of like-minded individuals in the 1990's. According to Tim Smit, the aim was to "create a place like nothing anyone had seen before - a place that explored human dependence on plants and the natural world: A place that might just make a difference".
The designers and architects led by Nicholas Grimshaw were consulted in 1995 and plans developed over the following year to make that dream a reality.
The first turf was cut on 15th October 1998.
The Eden Project was planned and designed to regenerate an old disused China Clay pit at Bodelva, north of St. Austell.
Clearing Bodelva Clay Pit
The 60 metre deep pit had an area equal to 35 football pitches. It contained waste clay material and no soil. This would take a monumental effort to transform.
Firstly, the pit had to be reshaped into a dish-like shape with its sides re-profiled, made safe and landscaped. 17 metres of material was skimmed off the top and placed in the bottom to achieve this.
Over 1.8 million tonnes of waste had to be moved and 85,000 tonnes of soil created, with the help of Reading University, from a mix of mineral, organic and domestic waste.
This process took over 6 months to complete.
The Eden Project was based in an old China Clay pit to 'show that regeneration was possible'.
Eden sits sustainably in an otherwise disused clay pit and is 'carbon neutral' in the environment. The aim to 'live lightly on the planet'.
Well over a million plants make up the displays within Eden. Some plants are well known to us and are used every day, others are less common and are exhibited to tell a story about that particular species or environment.
Were any plants taken from the Wild? The answer a resounding NO. Plants came from botanic gardens, research stations or were grown from seed in the Eden nursery.
The next task was to build an eye catching range of buildings - something that promoted the environment and took its inspiration from nature.
This amphitheatre was then seeded with the widest range of plants possible to educate visitors about the myriad uses of the plant world.
Opening its Doors
Suitably sustainable utilities and amenities had to be constructed to deal with the human element.
Finally a team of dedicated individuals were gathered from all walks of life, each with a passion to promote and grow Eden to its full potential.
The Eden Project opened its doors on 17th March 2001.
Eden prides itself on its sustainability. Eden runs off Green Tariff electricity and the site utilises photovoltaic (solar) panels, wind turbines, a special underground water system and runs a Biomass boiler burning locally sourced wood. The Link, Biomes and Foundation buildings use a carbon neutral fuel to heat them.
Humid Tropics Biome
The Humid Tropics Biome is home to over a thousand plant species native to the Tropics. Areas are dedicated to West Africa, Malaysia and Tropical South America.
Plants featured include rubber trees, chewing gum trees, cola trees, palms, coffee and sugar plants, tropical fruits, bananas, pineapples and mangoes.
Near the exit lie the Spice and Nuts Sections, completing your visit to the Humid Tropics Biome.
The Humid Tropics Biome is 240 metres long, 110 metres wide and 50 metres high.
NOTE: There are exit points and a cool room sited in the West Africa section if the Humid Tropics Biome experience literally does 'take your breath away!
Warm Temperate Biome
The Warm Temperate Biome is home to plants from the temperate regions of the planet, such as the Mediterranean Basin, South Africa and California.
Smaller than the Humid Tropics Biome, at 140 metres long and 35 metres high, plants featured include grape vines, fruits and herbs, cork oaks, olives, tobacco and prickly pear.
Near the exit is a section dedicated to the use of plants as perfumes.
NOTE: The Warm Temperate Biome has a far more seasonal display than the Humid Tropics Biome so exhibits may change throughout the year.
The Third Biome
Many visitors are puzzled and ask where the Third Biome is! The Third Biome is better described as the Outdoor Biome.
This area features plant exhibits from a range of locations, with sections dedicated to ferns and mosses (in the flowerless garden), plants that feed the world as crops, plants used in brewing tea as well as beer, plants used for oils, dyes, fibre and rope as well as hemp.
Another section is dedicated to plants used in eco-engineering - using plants to bind soil together and restrict erosion in sensitive areas.
The Outdoor Biome is also home to Eden Play, where the youngsters can let off steam!
Take a Tour
The Eden Project is a group of buildings dedicated to showing a range of plants from across the world in their natural environment.
The Visitor Centre is located at overlooking the site and contains cafés, toilets, the Eden Shop, Plant Sales and information points.
Travelling down the slope by a number of different routes takes you to one of the three biomes - Humid Tropics, Warm Temperate or Outdoor.
Also on site are the Eden Stage used by performing artists in the Summer Eden Sessions and 'The Core' - an exhibition and learning centre with a giant 70 tonne stone sculpture: 'The Seed' in its centre.
Plants and Animals
Plants wherever they are sited are cared for by a dedicated team of gardeners - some with abseiling credentials!
Animals within Eden include lizards, frogs and birds as well as insects and even the humble earthworm. The insects help to pollinate the plants and provide food for animals further up the food chain. The lizards, frogs and birds work within the biomes as biological controls.
Earthworms help to dig and fertilize the soils throughout the site.
Getting to Eden
The Eden Project, at Bodelva near St. Austell, is well signposted from both the A30 from Exeter and the A391/390 from Plymouth.
If coming from outside Cornwall, take the M5 southbound to Exeter, where the motorway splits.
Take the A30 and continue until you reach the Innis Downs junction (A391) from which Eden is well signposted.
There is ample parking at Eden. From the car parks, you can either walk down to the visitor entrance and ticket desks or take a free park and ride bus.
Unfortunately, no overnight parking is permitted.
Visitors arriving under their own power, by bicycle or on foot have an added incentive of getting a discounted ticket.