Cornwall’s Eden Project has always been on my travel to do list but for some reason I’ve never got round to it.So when this year’s Eden Sessions were announced with a certain singer one of the headline acts it was the perfect opportunity to visit.
I should probably put a disclaimer here…I know nothing about plants, in fact I don’t even have a garden so if you are looking for a full in-depth review it’s probably better to get on google or visit the Eden Project website. In fact, maybe I should rename this blog post to ‘how to see the best of the Eden Project while queuing for the show’. Joking aside, while the gig was the main reason for the visit I did manage to see all things on my hit list so this is my story of the bits I saw there.
The Eden Sessions
The Eden Sessions is a summer series of concerts held in the middle of the Eden Project. Your ticket for the show is also your entry to the site. You swap your ticket for a wristband and this gives you access in and out of the site for the day of the show and following day. This is amazing value, particularly for those have travelled from from afar, as an adult day ticket is £27.50
Even though the show isn’t until the evening, your Eden Sessions ticket gives you access to the site as soon as it opens. As you enter the Eden Project you are greeted with a view over the site with the two bubble like biomes dominating the skyline.Wandering along the paths that slope up, down and around the lush green landscape and colourful gardens it’s hard to believe this was once a clay mine.
Exploring the Rainforest
Top of my things to do here was visiting the Rainforest Biome, the largest indoor rainforest in the world.Here you experience four rainforest environments– Tropical Islands Southeast Asia, West Africa and Tropical South America.
The first thing you notice when you walk in is the heat. For those of us from the UK (or colder climates), it’s the same feeling you get when you walk out of the airport when visiting a hot country. The heat just hits you. Like walking into a wall.
The Rainforest Lookout
As a hot sunny day was ahead the staff on the door advised us to make the rainforest lookout our first stop. It would be the coolest part of the day up there and it was likely be closed later as it would be too hot and humid for comfort.
The climb through the biome to the lookout starts gentle however, you quickly start to feel the effort increase as the humidity rises. With huge trees towering above you and the sounds of the rainforest (or maybe I was just imagining that!) you do start to feel a little enclosed and that you are in a rainforest and not a giant greenhouse!
Just before reaching the start of the stairs to the lookout platform you pass a heat and monitoring system.At that point it was showing the recent temperature as 36 degrees celsius with 60% humidity.Let me tell you that is HOT and SWEATY.
Before heading up to the lookout there is a short safety briefing and you are asked to confirm you have no conditions such as vertigo or similar medical conditions that may prevent you going up to the lookout. You are also asked to put any away loose items such a sunglasses. If they fall off while on the lookout they could give someone on the ground quite a shock.
The lookout is reached by a metal mesh staircase. It’s not too steep but is see through so don’t look down if you don’t like that kind of thing. Also, as it is basically suspended from the top of the the biome it does wobble a bit. There was only six of us going up at this time so later in the day when it is busier I imagine it could be a bit more precarious. So if you are not that adventurous, try to visit at a quiet time of the day.That said it all feels very secure and well worth steeling your nerves to get to get to top.
Once you reach the lookout you are rewarded with a bird’s eye view over the rain forest canopy. In fact you are so high up, it feels like you could almost touch the top of the biome. One of the Eden staff is on hand up there to answer any questions and make sure everyone is ok. The view is great but the heat up there is stifling, almost 40 degrees celsius for us, so you won’t want to stay up there too long.
Once back on the rainforest floor we headed to the waterfall which flows down from the top of the biome in the South American rainforest area. Given we were sweaty messes at this point the light spray was a welcome relief!
The Canopy Walkway
Walking around the treetops with views across the biomes, the Canopy Walkway teaches you just how important the rainforests are.
The Weather Maker exhibit, which takes you on an immersive journey explaining how rainforests are weather makers and climate regulators, was a particular highlight. Here the Cloud Bridge invites you to walk through ‘clouds’ to get a sense of how rainforests reflect sunlight and help cool the planet. They come on at intervals so if they are off as you are walking over the bridge and suddenly come on you could get quite a surprise. They are pretty powerful and you do lose visibility if you are the middle of them so make sure you hold on to the rope either side.
You can also walk across a 23 meter rope bridge (hold on it’s very bouncy) between two of the tallest trees – kind of makes you feel like a winner of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
The Mediterranean Biome
After the heat of the rainforest, the cooler temperature of the Mediterranean Biome gave us the chance to cool down a little. The huge indoor garden replicates the landscapes of the Mediterranean, South Africa, California and Western Australia and houses over 1,000 different types of plants.
Having spent a fair bit of time in Australia, the Western Australia garden was of particularly interest to me. Eden have collaborated with Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Perth to design this garden which includes Grass trees, Everlastings and red and green Kangaroo paw.It really made me feel like I was back in Australia for a few steps.
A nice touch to this garden was the path which featured art work from leading Aboriginal artist Dr Richard Walley.
The Outdoor Gardens
June is actually a great time to visit as the outdoor gardens were in full bloom so the timing could not have been better. With over 20 acres of gardens to explore, there is something for everyone. Colourful flowers, crops used for fuel, medicine and food, a huge kids climbing frame and plenty of places to just sit and soak up the view and atmosphere.
There is also a giant bee sculpture created as a reminder of how important pollinating insets, including bees, are to flowers and us.
I’m not going to turn this into a music blog but couldn’t not mention the gig. The Eden Project is a brilliant venue to watch a show. The stage is in the natural amphitheatre just in front of the biomes which look amazing when lit up during the show. There are plenty of great viewing points including a relaxed viewing area for those with physical or mental needs who want to watch from a slightly less crowded area.
It’s like festival except with better (though still slightly expensive) food and proper toilets.And the best bit?Your gig ticket is your entrance to the Eden Project for the day of the show and the following day.Given the price of a day ticket that is great value. So if you get the chance to see a show there, go for it!
How I did it
Want to visit the Eden Project? Here’s how I did it…
As I was on limited time I flew between Gatwick and Newquay.Flybe currently offer this route (as of June 2018). Flight time was around 40 minutes, barely enough time for a refreshment. Price was around £80.Accommodation
The only accommodation on site is the YHA Eden Project. Shipping containers have been converted into rooms equipped with everything you need. They are much better and more comfortable than they sound. With one small double bed and a bunkbed they have full air conditioning, a TV and a (very small) bathroom. There was two of us sharing and though it was a tight squeeze it was fine for a couple of nights.Any more than two adults then you want to make sure you know them well or it could be an interesting few nights.
If camping is more your thing there is also a year round campsite.
If you do stay here or in the campsite make sure you bring some food and drinks. The hostel has a licensed bar and offers a snack menu in it’s reception which is only open between 8-10am and again from 5-10pm. There was no extended opening hours for the The Eden Session we went to.The communal kitchen facilities are still available so bring your own post gig snacks.
The price for two nights was around £190. However, this did include the night of the Eden session which was probably a premium. It also gets booked up fast so if you are going for a show, book it as soon as (or before) you get your tickets.
The site is huge and the carparks/YHA can be some distance away however there is a free park and ride bus.
Visit the Eden Project website for more information to help plan your visit and find out about about their work.