Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter at England's Eden

We spent the Easter holiday in Cornwall. Whilst many parts of Britain had snow over the Easter weekend it was sunny, but cold, at the Eden Project near St Austell. Actually we did see a very brief flurry of fine snow at one point on Saturday afternoon and it was very windy. We stayed with our son and his family at Carlyon Bay Hotel just outside St Austell overlooking the sea.

The Eden Project was first opened in 2001 and we’ve been meaning to go there ever since then. Their website says, “Eden is all about man's relationship with and dependence upon plants. Much of our food, our clothes, our shelter and our medicines come from the plant world. Without plants there would be no oxygen for us to breathe, no life on earth.”



It has been constructed in what was a clay pit and the view is most impressive as you approach the deep, steep-sided, flat-bottomed bowl containing the hugh domes. They are the biggest greenhouses in the world, called Biomes. From the entrance in the Visitor Centre we walked down towards the Biomes looking first at the Outdoor Biome following the winding path down the hillside passing areas planted with crops, and daffodils and spring bulbs. As it was Easter there was an Easter Egg hunt to follow with clues hidden throughout the site. We tried to follow the trail, but the clues were too hard for us adults, let alone the children, although we did solve a few. There is a giant bee, the magical land of Myth and Folklore, and a willow maze looking bare at this time of year.

As it is Eden I wasn’t surprised to find Eve there, but she wasn’t quite what I expected. She is a large reclining statue, her face made up of small mosaic mirrors and moss is just beginning to grow on her body. Eventually she will all be covered in moss – a green woman. I didn’t see Adam.


There is a grotesque piece of artwork – the WEEE Man, a reminder that the Project is an educational charity aiming to show the need for environmental awareness and sustainability. WEEE Man is a three-tonne, seven-metre tall robotic figure, made up of old washing machines, computer mice, TVs and a vast array of other electrical goods. WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The sculpture is made up of the amount the average UK citizen will throw away in their lifetime – really horrific.


The Rainforest Biome is my favourite. It covers an area of 15,590 square metres (1.55 hectares), is 55 metres high, 100 metres wide and 200 metres long and it’s high enough to hold the Tower of London or eleven double-decker buses piled on top of one another. As we went in people were rapidly taking off coats and jumpers because of the heat. It is truly most impressive and it’s steamy, hot and humid. You can see what it is like living in Malaysia,

West Africa and South America as you walk through and up the biome passing waterfalls and tropical plants. I saw the biggest, smelliest flower in the world, the Titum Arum, although it had gone beyond its best, as it had flowered. By the time I took this photo my camera had steamed up!


The Mediterranean Biome was much cooler, but surprised me as there were displays of plants and scenes from South Africa and California, not just the Med.

As it is spring and in England, the main displays were of spring bulbs, being mainly tulips – such beautiful colours. I thought the best part of this section was the display of the Rites of Dionysus.

Dionysus was the Greek God of wine and its intoxicating power. I think these statues illustrate nature in its wild, untamed state, clearly capturing the frenzy induced by the music and wine. I liked the stark contrast between the displays of flowers and these sculptures standing on the bare earth.

There was an Ice Skating Rink, a “Simply Delicious Marquee” where the children decorated cupcakes, and a storytelling tent where we were entertained by the "Spice Man", with his tales of sailing the seas and the uses of spices in days gone by.

Then there is the “Core” shaped like a sunflower, which houses exhibitions, paintings and an enormous nutcracker.

The children had goes at turning the wheel of this massive metal structure. As the handle is turned a big steel ball is raised up to the top of the machine, where it is tipped down a chute, spiralling down to a hammer at the bottom, which then strikes the nut. It was mesmerising to watch.

The centrepiece of the Core is a giant 70 tonne granite sculpture of a seed made of silver-grey Cornish granite estimated to be 300 million years old.

Called “Seed” it was carved out of a boulder extracted from the De Lank Quarry, in Cornwall. There are 1,800 nodes on its surface in Fibonacci spirals, representing the extraordinary growth pattern found in sunflowers, pinecones and daisies. The Seed is four metres in height and three metres wide at its widest point. I wasn’t sure that I liked it – it’s so strange seeing a seed so large and solid; somehow it looked too sterile, but the age of the granite is awesome!

The Eden Project is a remarkable experience, well worth a visit. If we lived nearer I would like to go more often, spending just a few hours each visit rather than a whole day, which was exhausting, but most enjoyable and educational. I can't believe that I didn't buy any books from the Visitor Centre - that must be a first. There are a number of books listed on the Eden Project website, so I'll browse through these to see which ones I would like.

9 comments:

Lisa said...

This looks absolutely fascinating. I'm so glad everyone shares their wonderful photos and knowledge gleaned from trips such as this. I would love to visit this some time, but for now I must live vicariously through the rest of you!

Gentle Reader said...

Sounds like a wonderful holiday! Love the pictures. Thank you so much for sharing :)

Danielle said...

What a lovely hotel and The Eden Project is so interesting, too. I think the WEEE man is kind of cool, though it's frightening to think of how much trash of this sort a household generates! Thanks for shring the photos!

stefanie said...

I would so love to visit Eden someday. I remember reading about it when it was being built. As to California being included in the Mediterranean biome. if the biomes are climate centered which it seems they might be, California has a Mediterranean climate. Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos!

BooksPlease said...

Lisa, I love seeing photos of different places - it's one of the joys of blogging.

Gentle Reader, it was a lovely holiday - such a welcome break from the daily routine.

Danielle, the WEEE man is fascinating and makes a dramatic point I think.

Stefanie, yes the biomes are climate centred and I had never realised that California had a Mediterranean climate before!

Susan said...

thanks for sharing your photos and trip - I remember hearing about the Eden Project, and occasionally come across a reference to it,but this is the first time I've seen photographs of it. It sounds really interesting and ahead of its time and i'm very glad it is surviving. The hotel and views look pretty good, too!

kimbofo said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.

Your pics are wonderful. I loved the Eden Project when we visited a month or so ago.

I think I missed seeing Eve -- where was she??

I posted a pic of WEEE man on my normal (non-book) blog. I thought he was amazing! http://kimbofo.typepad.com

BooksPlease said...

Kimbofo, thank you.

Eve is in the Outdoor Biodome near the Industrial Flame Plant in the Plants In Myth section. It's to replace Eve in the Apple Orchard. It looks as though it's new - I couldn't find any details on the Eden website. There is a handwritten attached to a tree near Eve explaining that they are going to see what grows on her over time. At present there is just a small amount of moss on her hip.

I just stood and stared at the WEEE Man for ages!

Tara said...

Wow - this place looks amazing. You have featured so many interesting places to visit that are near you. I'm quite envious!