Wednesday 9 January 2013

Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall

We love visiting the Eden Project, and was really surprised when I realised I've not reviewed any of our visits, as we have been about 4 times since it opened in 2001.

I'm not sure why but for some Eden is a bit like Marmite you love it or hate it, you get it or you don't. We love it, my brother doesn't, but we did mange to get him to join us when we visited between Christmas and New Year, and I think he even enjoyed himself.
It was quite a revelation visiting out of season, we weren't sure how busy it would be but turns out amazingly quiet and it was blissful. We have usually gone in the summer months and followed the flow of people round the biomes. It's an excellent day out what ever the time of year but having that extra time to explore and back track was nice. It also meant the Biomes (big domes in picture below) were cooler, a big plus with younger and older people.

Eden is built in a disused china clay quarry, and can't be seen from the approach. Once you are parked up, paid and through the door you can look down on the site and biomes. We love taking the winding footpaths down the hill with something different on every turn to look at and little steps for the kids to go down, where Charlotte would shout "I beat you" at every turn. There are sculptures to look at and spot, how many cows can you see, the giant bee etc. Even the gardens have themes, from finding out what goes into your painkillers, to an exotic kitchen garden.

Once your are at the bottom you can walk around the 2 biomes, you enter on a walk way above the cafes with the Mediterranean biome to your right and the rainforest to your left. The mediterranean one is the coolest and can feel peaceful and tranquil. You walk in and it feels like you have landed in Spain and a smell of citrus fruits greets you from the orange trees. There are boards to explain the different areas of the med you are visiting and the various plants from that region. A popular area is the chilli plantation, so many varieties each with a heat rating.
The rainforest biome is a lot warmer with a waterfall, bridges to cross, banana, cocoa, sugar and coffee plants to show children. There is a mini-paddy field of rice and a Malaysian hut. Something we haven't done before, we walked up the rainforest lookout. A wonderful view from a platform suspended from the ceiling taking you above the tree tops. Its high and daddy does struggle with vertigo but managed it ok, poor Charlotte was gripping my hand so tight it went red.

We stopped in the cafe between the biomes for lunch, selection of sandwiches, pasties, hot meals and wonderful cakes, with excellent lunch bags for kids.

We headed back through the gardens and past some of the temporary "whats on" items. While we were there was an excellent ice rink which looked like so much fun but half the family can't skate so we skipped that and a Arctic gnome art installation. We then arrived at the education centre  with lots of hands on things for the children, and adults. A video about how Eden was born and above is a lovely little cafe. Outside is a garden to explore and then take the glass lift to the top for a kids play area (or whilst we were there to see the reindeer) then across the bridge and a short walk back up to the where you started.

New in 2012 was the SkyWire, which I was kind of interested in going on but was not running the day we went, secretly I think I'm pleased... looked very high up and long! Adults and children over 7 can have a go at rock climbing.

There was a wonderful story telling session going on in the Mediterranean Biome with singing and a few actions that had the kids and parents gripped for 20 mins. As it was Christmas time it was about an Inuit fable being told which was fascinating. This is what Eden is good at, bringing something different and unique but making it inclusive for all.

The whole site, even though on a steep slope, is accessible. The footpaths are wide. There is a land train to take you from the visitor centre to the biomes, and one from the car park to the entrance. There are some steps in the Rainforest Biome with an alternative walkway for those with pushchairs or wheelchairs. Even a chill out room for those getting a little warm (we have used this in the summer).

Eden is a place we are happy to go to again and again, your ticket will give you free entry for a year which is great if you live local or visit the area often.

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