Sunday 10 May 2009

The Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall

The project caught my mother’s eye when she first heard Tim Smit give a lecture in Penzance about his dream – his proposal for an amazing garden project in Cornwall. The wheels started to turn .. researching, planning and design, funding, a place for it to be built .. enlisting the help of friends, consultants, business partners etc ..

The Eden Project was born .. and we were hooked into following its annual incremental explosion of growth .. plants, buildings, ideas .... and so from the late 1990s we have been visiting together, or separately and watched his bigger dream of a theatre of living plants and people take place .. which just happened to be being created in an abandoned china clay pit!

Can you see the bee in the picture? There are wonderful sculptural, artistic touches everywhere ...

In 1987 this charismatic maverick of the world – he’d read Archaeology and Anthropology at university, worked for ten years in the music industry as composer/producer in both rock music and opera – moved his family to Cornwall where he and John Nelson together ‘discovered’ and then restored the 12th century Lost Gardens of Heligan (post sometime soon).

Eden began as a dream in 1995 and opened its doors to the public in 2000, since when more than 8 million people have come to see what was once a sterile kaolin pit turned into a cradle of life containing world-class horticulture and startling architecture symbolic of human endeavour.

Eden has contributed over £800 million into the Cornish economy. It is also proud of its success in changing people’s perception of the potential for and the application of science, by communicating and interpreting scientific concepts through the use of art, drama and storytelling as well as living up to its mission to take a pivotal role in local regeneration. It demonstrates once and for all that sustainability is not about sandals and nut cutlets, it is about good business practice and the citizenship values of the future.

Set out below are the first two paragraphs of an excellent article, written by Richard Cree, which appeared in the January 2009 Director magazine:

Unconventional, passionate and visionary... Tim Smit, the inspiration behind the Eden Project, has never played the corporate game. Here he talks about the rise of social enterprise, renewable energy and where the blames lies for the financial crisis.

Despite its integration into mainstream politics, there's still something about environmentalists that suggests sandal-wearing cranks, trying to save the planet through knitting and lentils. Tim Smit, founder and chief executive of the Eden Project, seems to enjoy the non-conformist stereotype. Within a 45-minute conversation, the brains behind Cornwall's eco-tourism success story claims that banking non-executive directors "should be facing criminal charges" and that the big four accountancy firms should be "facing charges of treason".

There are two covered biomes at the bottom of the pit – the Rainforest Biome, which is the largest greenhouse in the world, contains over 1,000 plant species covers 1.559 hectares (3.9 acres) and measures 180’ (55m) high, 328’ (100m wide) and 656’ (200m) long.

It is used for tropical plants, such as fruiting banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo and is kept at a tropical temperature. The fast-growing trees race up to the light. Climbers hitch a ride and orchids and ferns live high in the tree tops as do bats, birds, frogs, ants etc all part of the necessary bio system.

The Mediterranean Biome covers 0.654 hectares (1.6 acres) and measures 115 feet (35 m) high, 213 feet (65 m) wide and 443 feet (135 m) long. It houses familiar warm temperate and arid plants such as olives and grape vines, beneficial insects, lizards etc and various sculptures.
The Outdoor Biome (which is not covered) represents the temperate regions of the world with plants such as tea, lavender, hops, hemp and sunflowers.

There’s a theatre and an arena for staging various exhibitions, concerts, plays, while “The Core” is a new exhibition and learning centre. The Core takes it inspiration from the tree, with its central trunk and canopy roof that harvests the sun; and its form from nature’s fundamental growth blueprint. Opposing spirals are based on Fibonacci’s sequence: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 ... where every number is the sum of the previous two. Check out a pine cone, pineapple or sunflower .. they all follow the Fibonacci principle.

You approach the biomes from the fruit labelled car parks – apple, orange, banana etc - up high on the southern edge of the pit .. walk down (or there are plenty of people to help in all manner of ways .. little buggies, wheel chairs, mini buses etc) .. to the visitor centre – and as you walk through, completely hidden from you, this amazing panoramic vision greets you!

From here you can gaze at the biomes and when ready start wending your way down a twisting path through planted sides of the pits (or again there’s a little train to get you to the bottom). It is a staggering achievement, full of promise of more to come, they are always collaborating locally, within the UK and around the world to improve peoples’ lives .. working towards sustainability, while saving numerous plants from extinction .. eg protected species such as the rare Coco-De-Mer: see my post from the Seychelles.

Dear Mr Postman thank you for coming today - this is my mother's first day back at the Nursing Centre, Kestrel House, and she'll be pleased to hear about our visits to The Eden Project, as we had such interesting times. She will be much amused by a phrase in the Guide to the Eden project .. during it’s “Why we’re here (in a nutshell)” description, which says: "Yes, we want to live lightly on the planet, but with champagne in our veins" ... her favour tipple now-a-days is champers!! Sadly she’s nil by mouth ... it’s not easy ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Daphne @ Joyful Days said...

Hilary, I love this post. Largely because I've been to Cornwall a few times and wish I lived there. At that time I hadn't heard of the Eden project, can you imagine? So I haven't visited this wonderful place yet. Definitely on my to-do list next time I'm there.

Sorry to hear your mum is nil by mouth. Very tough on everyone. I remember my dad's last drink - hot chocolate. His satisfaction after two sips was so simple and touching. We don't appreciate the simple pleasures in life until they are taken from us or our loved ones. Take care, you two.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Daphne .. thanks for agreeing with us .. we're Cornish at heart .. Mum lived there as a child .. and we've been down every year of our lives. Glad to hear Eden will be on your list next time .. it's an incredible place.

Yes - Mum has been nil by mouth for 18 months .. which is dreadful .. we'd started giving her thick liquid this year .. but Kestrel managed to hash that up too .. so I just don't know what's happening .. living by the day. She's still settling back .. it'll take a few days for her brain to settle ..

Anyway .. we're plodding on .. it's not easy trying to explain she can't have her lemon! & only I end up doing it .. still that's life for now ..

Thanks for the empathy and thumbs up ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, you and your mother take care. Wishing you both the best. This is a great post. Thank you for sharing it with us. It sounds like a wonderful place to see. The photos are great. Have a good day.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Peter Baca said...


Your Eden Project post was very interesting! It is a great idea...the tours are also very informative. It is good that the children can helps them to build the future.

I will have to visit one day! Hope you had a wonderful mother's day with your mom!

Best Regards

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Unknown said...

Hi Hilary,

Such a beautiful post. I love your pictures, too. I am happy to learn that there are somebody who try to preserve wild nature and rebuild Garden of Eden.

Thank you for your sharing.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna
Thansk for visiting - it is a magical place to visit .. when you've been driving 5 hours .. it's a good walk and a lovely place just to chill out in and see what's changed, what new plants are there .. one time I went and the jade vine was out - it was lovely!

Great to see you -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete . yes it's well worth a visit .. and the education facilities are amazing - glad you enjoyed the tours .. Yes - do add it to your list!

I hope we're back to a routine with my Ma .. things seem to be more settled - our mother's day was back in March!!

Go well - thanks for visiting
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Nice place! I wish I could be there too and see it for myself :-) Eden is really a fitting name, seems like paradise on Earth.

Liara Covert said...

This story gently reminds readers that futuristic projects exist in the present moment. Eden may remind some people of the biosphere II and similar, projects. They are historically conceived by NASA-like individuals to explore self-sustaining living and terraforming for Earth and living on other planets. Check this out:

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary
Thanks for sharing, and I am glad to hear that yoru mom is doing well.
Have a wonderful week.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than no Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jocelyn .. it is a lovely place - wonderfully creative and helping others.

Thanks for coming over ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. I will another day .. just spent the day in the hospital with my Ma ..

Thanks for commenting though - you're always so thoughtful with your views ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. thanks for enjoying the post .. life is not so good for my Ma .. but I will have a good week & see you later on ..

Looking forward to it
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. thanks for visiting .. and for enjoying the Garden of Eden!

I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Juliet du Preez said...

Hi Hilary

I had completely forgotten about this project. So wonderful to have mention of it. I'm going to scout around for some further news and pictures.

Thank you

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet .. how great to see you here are you? It is amazing how it grows and progresses .. I hope you find some more info .. YouTube will have some too ..

If you Google Tim Smit .. quite a lot comes up ..

Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for coming across here ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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