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With its cutting-edge architecture housing the world’s largest greenhouse, the Eden Project is the perfect place to marvel at some of the world’s most exotic plants. On the South Coast of Mid-Cornwall, it’s an experience that you shouldn’t miss during your next stay at one of our 5-star cottages in Cornwall.
Since opening to the public in March 2001, the Eden Project has firmly cemented itself as one of Cornwall’s top family attractions to visit. Designed by Grimshaw architects, the iconic two domes protrude over the Cornish landscape and have attracted millions of visitors from around the world.
The concept behind the Eden Project started in 1995 after Tim Smit’s restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan was completed. Constructed within a clay pit on the outskirts of St. Austell, the domes managed to fill the 50m deep eyesore that had been left behind due to the local china clay industry.
The geodesic architecture, formed primarily out of hexagons, is built up to 50m high, and spans over 22,540m. Each of the two domes is made of ethylene tertrafluoroethylene copolymer (ETFE), which is not only 99% lighter than glass but also allows each panel to self-clean, ensuring that the outside of each dome remains dirt free.
The ETFE material within the panels allows each of the Eden Project Biomes to maintain the correct climate. Several sheets of the ETFE are welded together with enough space in between each layer for air to be pumped in. The insulation that this provides can vary due to the weather outside, therefore the amount of air being pumped between the sheets can differ.
The Grimshaw architects decided on a combination of this material and the dome shape due to its ability to mesh into the pre-existing Cornish landscape. Altogether, 625 hexagons, 16 pentagons and 190 triangles make up the structure of the south-facing domes, allowing the Biomes to make the most of the sun.
With the design finalised, and with a special drainage system in place, the build of the domes began and later allowed the Eden Project’s doors to be opened to the public in 2001. Since then, the attraction has since seen 6,000 to 14,000 visitors a day.
The formation of two domes allows visitors the chance to experience two different climates within each of them – the Mediterranean and the Rainforest. Biome one is home to the Eden Project’s Rainforest collection and contains over 1000 varieties of plants, maintained at temperatures ranging from 18-35°C. The world’s largest indoor rainforest showcases some of the planet’s most tropical plants and educates visitors on their place in the everyday landscape.
Inside the Biome, a giant waterfall creates the high level of humidity required to mimic the Tropics. Whilst adventuring around in the South-east Asian climate, take a tree-top trek across the extraordinary Canopy Walkway that hangs above the stunning landscape or visit the Rain Shack where you can discover the science behind why rainforests are so wet.
Once you’ve experienced all the Rainforest Biome has to offer, step into the Eden Project’s learning zone, The Core. It is in here that you can learn about the relationship between plants and humans and get to grips with the reality of climate change. Take a roam around the Eden BLUE marine litter exhibit, where the family can be educated on plastic pollution in the ocean or take a look at the Plant Engine, a machine that demonstrates how important ecosystems are.
It’s after your short walk through the Core that you will enter the second dome, the Mediterranean Biome. Experience a slightly cooler climate whilst you journey through the Californian, Western Australian and Mediterranean landscape. In here, visitors can find themselves wandering through the perfume garden before admiring The Rites of Dionysus sculpture, created by Tim Shaw.
Foodies can find themselves sat out on the terrace, sampling sensational Mediterranean food in the centre of the Biome. With dishes such as authentic Spanish paella and Cornish Fruit Pannacotta, you’ll be spoilt for choice whilst reclining amongst the Olive trees.
But there’s more to the Eden Project than the Biomes. Outside, meander through the third climate to view the ornamental flowers and vegetables that follow the miles of paths surrounding the domes. With over 20 acres of gardens and over 3,000 varieties of plants, the colourful displays can take up to 2 hours to view. Climbing frames and an adventure playground ship is nestled between tea bushes, allowing younger members of the family to soak up information whilst having a bit of fun working off their energy!
With such a wide variety of things on offer, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll use your time at the Eden Project. With the new Weather Maker section of the Rainforest Biome having just recently opened in March, there’s never been a better time to get exploring. On your next stop with us, why not put an educational spin on one of your activities?
If visiting the Eden Project has sparked your interest, why not have a look at our other blog posts for more suggestions on activities to do whilst in Cornwall to get the most out of your next holiday?
Image credit: Pam Brophy