Family day out: Eden Project, Cornwall
In an ugly, waterlogged hole in the ground in Cornwall, magic has taken place. Visiting the Eden Project today, you’d never guess that 20 years ago it was a worked-out china clay pit or that the project survived months of ceaseless rain.
Glittering in the sunshine, the bubbled biomes – or igloos, according to my daughter – house an entirely different world: step into one and you’re in the hot humid rainforest, another is a shortcut to the Mediterranean, so convincing that I have to remind myself we didn’t accidentally teleport to Greece.
Visiting has been on my list for 15 years, since the doors to the ‘8th wonder of the world’ opened. But despite a string of trips to Cornwall, including one last year with my daughter, I never quite managed to find time to stop off. Until this year.
Travelling back from Gwel An Mor, we had almost the whole day to explore – and even then, I felt like we could have done with more time.
A sudden burst of early Spring sunshine meant the flowers had begun to bloom outside the biomes, with a riot of colour inside the warmer domes where we spent most of our time.
With my easily bored (and particularly contrary) three-year-old alongside, there was always something to discover. Wandering down the zigzag slopes, she scampered along rope short cuts and through willow play tunnels, eyeing up the displays on life on earth and keeping a wary distance from the giant bee sculpture.
Having read a few other posts, I’d also thought ahead to dress her (and me) in layers as well. Fortunately, as the rainforest temperatures were a good preparation for our trip to Burma…
Easily my favourite of the two, Minnie darted off to snatch up fallen leaves (very crossly discovering these had to stay behind when we left) and play hide and seek around the lush plants as I managed to snatch a few moments to snap away at some of the incredible tropical flowers and learn a little more about life, including human and animal, in this environment.
Up in the walkway, you’re as close as you can be to a bird’s eye view of the canopy as well.
Back down to reality with a bump as we headed into the link building for lunch: a fussy three-year-old and limited kid-friendly options on the day, plus a Cornish pasty stand which ran out of pasties twice before I could buy one – thankfully some good cake helped saved the day.
And then into the Mediterranean biome, where even the imitation olives helped remind me of holidays galore – the white buildings and honey stone, piles of citrus fruit and scented herbs transporting me back in time and miles away. I’m sure I could hear cicadas…
We’d timed it to get there for the storytelling session, where Minnie and another small visitor sized each other up, tentatively shared the wooden ‘throne’ nearby, then chased each other round as the tale began: ‘Once upon a time’.
With half an eye and ear on my small tearaway, ensuring her enthusiasm didn’t result in catastrophe for the nearby tulips, even the technical problems with the mic couldn’t take away from the ancient tale. How many people must have settled down to be enthralled by stories in a sunny square like this, I wonder.
Dragging her away proved a lot harder but suddenly the afternoon was disappearing, and along with it my plans to head to the educational exhibits in the Core and the outdoor play area.
It’s incredible to think how long you could spend exploring here. I couldn’t even begin to list the number of plants and flowers we saw during our visit, and I’ve no doubt there are far many I didn’t discover along the way. Around every corner there seemed to be something else to catch the attention: a sculpture, a piece of information, even a decorative mosaic floor.
And whether you’re a three-year-old searching for monkeys in the trees, a fascinated thirty-something with the opposite of green fingers or a dedicated horticulturalist, the experience tailors itself to you – while any age will appreciate the beauty of the colours. How many old holes in the ground can boast that?
Need to know
Opening times vary throughout the year – you can also park (for free) at the many car parks before the ticket desks and biomes open. Check here for the full details.
Adult tickets cost £25, child tickets £14, with under-fives going free. If you book online, you can save 10%, and there are also family tickets available.
The Eden Project has events for families and children throughout the year, especially during school holidays, plus a discovery trail to download.
There are various restaurants and cafes across the site, but if you visit out of school holidays or during low season, not all will be open. And if you want a Cornish pasty, it’s worth ordering while they’re cooking – be prepared to wait!
Disclosure: My entry was courtesy of the Eden Project, with assistance from Visit Cornwall. All opinions and lack of gardening knowledge are my own.
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