Hidden in an old china clay pit near St Austell in Cornwall are three enormous interlinked geodesic domes, like the secret greenhouse hideaway of a villainous horticulturist from a Bond film*: the Eden Project. Describing itself variously as the world’s largest conservatory, an exciting educational playground, and an inspiring environmental resource, the Eden Project is a huge garden, both outdoors and inside, which highlights our human interconnectivity with the natural world.
A walk into the Eden project is a walk round the world, through the flower gardens gardens, farms, and forests of every continent. Every corner gives something new to marvel at. The hot, steamy rainforest biome is my favourite part of the gardens. Jewel-bright butterflies skip through the layers of vegetation, and in the very centre, a waterfall cascades down a rocky wall into a tropical pool. We climbed to the viewing platform at the very top of the dome, for a canopy level view of the jungle. At the bottom we grabbed a baobab smoothie from the shack. In between, a conveyor of bananas poses provocative questions about fair trade, and a bright Brazilian banger of a truck, laden with oil cans, encourages you to think about biofuels.
As an environmental education specialist, I was in heaven with the insightful interpretation that accompanied the beautiful array of plants; thought-provoking without being overbearing, and informative without preaching at the reader. Because we can’t get by without plants: from the grains, fruit and vegetables that we eat; to modern essentials like sugar, coffee, cocoa and tobacco; cotton, linen and hemp for fabrics; to algae producing atmospheric oxygen essential to life. Then, on top of all that, there’s the beauty, peace and balance that flowers and trees bring to improve the quality of our lives.
Ad because of that, I think that the Eden Project is a pretty vital place to visit. Entry is expensive, at £23.50 for an adult (although advance booking online saves you a few pounds, and considerable discounts are available for students and the unemployed) but making a gift-aid donation upgrades your entry to an annual pass. The reminder of your place within the web of nature is priceless.
*The huge biomes were actually a setting for Die Another Day, although the location in the movie was meant to be a ice palace in Iceland.