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The garden of Eden

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Cornwall » Par Friday 11 June 2010 The Eden Project & Fowey

sunny 20 °C

What can I tell you about the Eden Project that you don’t know already?

Did you know that it covers the area of 35 football pitches? Did you know that all the water draining into this former clay pit averages 20,000 bathfuls a day and is harvested to irrigate the plants and flush the loos? You did? Well, we didn’t - until today!

This is a fantastic architectural and horticultural feat that cost over £140 million (£56 million of it from lottery funding) to realise Tim Smit’s optimistic dream. Today, it’s a charity geared to entertaining and educating the public in matters of the environment and its sustainability. And, boy, don’t they do it well?

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For those who’ve never seen the Eden Project, I should perhaps explain that this marvel was once an exhausted, steep-sided clay pit 60 metres deep, with no soil, 15 metres below the water table. It was carved into a flat-bottomed bowl, the sides were landscaped and 83,000 tonnes of soil made from recycled waste were added.

Next came what are called the ‘biomes’ - huge golf-ball-like structures that are really vast greenhouses. They’re made of steel hexagons, pentagons and triangles with transparent foil windows made of ETFE - that’s Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene copolymer for those not familiar with the acronym. They are officially the biggest conservatories in the world - The ‘Guinness Book of Records’ says so!

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The climate in each of the biomes is automatically controlled - in the Rainforest one it’s darn hot, there's lots of flowing water, and the daytime humidity is around 60% wouldn’t relish being in there at night, when it’s 90%! It’s cooler and drier in the Mediterranean biome, to which we retreated after sweating it out in the other one. Both biomes contain a wonderful array of flower, foliage and vegetable plants, all beautifully and creatively presented.

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Most of Eden is actually a spacious and well-planted 'outdoor biome'. Flowerless gardens and areas displaying crops that feed the world, educational gardens demonstrating pollination, tea planting, eco-engineering, and the like, and colourful gardens from around the globe are all there.

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Inside and out, there are innovative and informative sculptures - a giant bee, male and female scarecrows, the 'Weee man' made from the 33 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment that an average person in the UK throws away in their lifetime, and a wild Bacchanal among the grape vines illustrating how things have changed in our world (as they did when Dionysus, aka Bacchus, changed from growing vines as vegetables to drinking the fermented juice of their fruits).

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Comfort and convenience for visitors have both been carefully considered with plenty of informative notices, water drinking fountains in the Rainforest biome, lots of places to buy drinks and food (great Cornish pasties), ingenious cut-throughs for kids along the winding paths, and even a tractor-hauled ‘land train’ to carry you to and from the car parks. The tractor, of course, runs on bio-fuel.

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We spent a very enjoyable five hours here and still didn’t see everything but, on this very hot and sunny day, we were exhausted and so made our way to Fowey for a look round and a cuppa.

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Fowey is an historic port at the mouth of the eponymous River that once served the tin trade, was a refuge for 17th-century sailing merchantmen, later smugglers, and in more recent times a departure point for American forces on ‘D’ Day. Now, it’s used mainly by pleasure craft, although the deep waters allow cargo ships to load china clay at the docks up the river beyond the town. And it was the river to which we ventured on a short sightseeing trip by boat.

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With a stiff sea breeze blowing away the cobwebs, we floated upstream to the former home of authoress Daphne du Maurier (pictured below) and the docks, then back down to the sea and the ancient fortifications at St Catherine’s Point.

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Along the way, the boatman pointed out a massive and very grand residence, Point Neptune House, at the entrance to Readymoney Cove (far right in the picture below). It belongs to comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry - and it’s bigger than most Premier Inns! Which one of them will receive the house in their divorce settlement, I wonder?

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After a stroll around the town, we stopped at a quaint, low-ceilinged teashop for a pot of tea and a very generous slice of Victoria sponge. We needed it; indeed, after such a busy day, we deserved it.

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Posted by Keep Smiling 09:21 Archived in England Tagged england cornwall eden_project

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