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Eden Project - not the way to save the planet
Eden Project (Cornwall)
Member Name: independentlady
Eden Project (Cornwall)
Date: 21/06/10, updated on 11/05/11 (461 review reads)
Advantages: see the way the World lives, something a bit different to do
Disadvantages: vastly overpriced & boring
This is a charity project owned by the Eden Trust & was set up as one of the Landmark projects to celebrate the Millennium in 2000. Most people think of it as a kind of glorified garden centre with exhibits. They use exhibits, events, workshops and educational programmes to remind people of our dependence on, and connection to the natural world.
This is located in an old exhausted 160 year old china clay quarry near St Austell in Cornwall.
Information about how it was set up etc can be found on their own website. It is too lengthy to bore you with all the details here, as the object of this exercise really is to give you my experience & opinion.
It is not an easy place to find. We set the Sat Nav but as it is a couple of years old & new roads have been built in the area since then, it showed a blank screen where it thought roads should have been & some dotted lines. 'Jane' the Sat Nav lady got thoroughly confused & sent us in different directions. It was only then that we managed to spot one of the brown tourist signposts & got back to going in the right direction. You have to drive through a housing estate (I bet the residents loved that when all the building work was going on & now they have to contend with living on a busy road full of tourists that don't know where they are going.) There are not many signposts & eventually you have to make a decision which way to go. Needless to say we took the wrong turn & ended up with huge lorries in a depot. We had to turn around while frustrated lorry drivers were trying to ignore us & enter their premises.
When we arrived at the Eden Project we drove into a huge car park where there were car park attendants herding all the cars into bays a long way from the main entrance. As we were displaying disabled badges we were waved on & arrived at our allotted place which was nearer to the main entrance. We decided to have our picnic on the grass beside the car as I knew the cafes inside would be ultra expensive. (To be honest we had been there once before & upon finding out what the entrance fee was had not paid on principle. We did however spend an exorbitant amount in their café just on things like tea & bacon rolls & some chocolate in the gift shop, and then we turned round and went home again!) Anyway to get back to our recent visit, we set out our picnic on a beautiful day, but it was spoiled by the car park buses sitting with their diesel engines running all the time very near to us. I am not quite sure why quite so many buses have to keep running backwards & forwards from the further car parking spaces to the entrance - they are mostly at least 2/3rds empty.
We eventually made our way to the pay till. We had a Gardeners World 2 for 1 entry card, which lets you into any of the gardens listed on it for a year if paying for an adult at the same time. We mentioned that as over 60 we were entitled to pay the senior price of £11.00 instead of the normal adult price of £16.00 but the lady said we would have to pay £16 if we were using the Gardeners World 2 for 1 ticket. This we did & decided to take out the Gift Aid which entitles you to come back as many times in the year as you wish. We checked with the lady that we would both be eligible to come back with our tickets. It wasn't until she had processed the card details & put the payment through that she said she didn't think we would. She also said, you'll know what to do next time - pay the £11.00 senior rate!! We had to go to a machine a bit like a cash machine & register the Gift Aid card for future use. At this point we started asking questions about the future use. To cut a long story short we were sent from, pillar to post before we got a definite answer that only the person who had paid & signed up for Gift Aid would be able to come back but the other person getting in on the Gardener's World 2 for 1 ticket, which remember allows you to come back as many times in the year as you wish (excluding July & August when it can't be used at all) would not be able to come back & use it as no one out of us as a couple would be paying the full price on that day as we already had one ticket for the year - are you following this? So not only had we paid £5 over the odds, we now learned that we couldn't go back together! It became a joke for the rest of the visit (& forever more I suspect) that my partner could go back but I couldn't. He kept saying well I can come back & have another look but you can't! I think it was a case of you have to laugh or you will cry.
We were taken round the grounds to the biomes on a land train which was probably the best bit of the visit & we were actually not charged any extra for that!
When we disembarked we didn't know where to go. We made our way to a biome only to find we had gone to the emergency exit doors which were obviously closed. We eventually found the main foyer which is over a bridge & asked in there where to go. Nowhere did we see any signposting to the biomes entrances. In fact from outside & from a distance it looks as if there are more than the two biomes.The staff at the information kiosk were not particularly friendly, as if it was too much trouble for them. Three of them were chatting to each other & we just got pointed in the right direction & handed a leaflet, without any courteousness or friendly answers to our questions. They probably didn't like it that we hadn't forked out another £5 for a booklet with map.
There are two huge biomes which are like greenhouses made of giant bubble wrap to look at.
There is the Rainforest Biome which is planted & set out to represent the humid tropical regions of the world, showing you the plants that grow there, and all the things they give us. The Rainforest Biome contains nearly 1,129 plants from the main rainforest regions: South-East Asia, West Africa, South America and the tropical oceanic islands, particularly the Seychelles and St Helena. Within this there are over twenty different displays, from a Malaysian Garden to a banana plantation.
There is a board at the entrance telling you that you should bring a water drinking bottle (a bit late when you are already inside) & that there are drinking fountains all around the biome. There was a waterfall & obviously very many plants & various huts & things set up to look like settlements & workplaces. I didn't get very far before I was overcome with the heat & humidity & we could not find the said drinking fountains. I have since found out that there are four of them dotted around but they were not obvious. Apparently there is a cooling off hut for emergencies. I didn't get as far as that before I needed to turn back to get out.
We eventually went back in to see all of it feeling more refreshed after spending an exorbitant amount in one of their shops, on a few small bottles of water to take with us. We did wonder why we had bothered, as it wasn't anything really to remember.
The other biome represents the Mediterranean area & is less humid & more pleasant to walk around. This colourful, sensory journey begins in the Mediterranean Basin, takes you across the equator to South Africa, and on to experience the grandeur of the Californian landscape. A Mediterranean climate is defined by hot, dry summers and frost-free, rainy winters. Winter and spring are the main growing seasons. There you will see some familiar plants that we have here & also the more exotic flowering plants as well as fruit & vegetables & a few statues of things like bulls. There are little benches where you can sit & watch the birds (English birds that have come in through the ventilation at the top of the dome) but never the less pleasant to watch. This biome was prettier than the Rain Forest one.
NOTE; Biomes, unlike glass, transmit UV light, so you may need your sunhat & sunglasses!
There is also a lot to walk around outside such as allotments etc., with giant furry insects made out of I don't know what & what's more we were not sure what some of them they were supposed to be but again, not very interesting.
The huge gift shop at the exit sells many plants, chocolate, boxed biscuits, honey, toys, flower pots, books etc all at a very high price. As with most places you are led through the gift shop or the café to the exit to encourage you to spend, spend, spend until the last.
Considering it is supposed to be a shining example of how we can help the planet & combat greenhouse gasses & climate change & global warming, there was an awful lot of fuel being used unnecessarily! The biomes obviously need heating, but do they need an air conditioned room in the middle? The buses run with just a few people in them, one after the other following each other & then they sit with their engines still running. The shops & cafes are all lit with electricity when some of them have huge panoramic windows. There are TV screens & models running on electricity or maybe some sort of generator but I think that still costs to run.
Suffice to say that we didn't enjoy our visit; we thought it was a waste of money & not very interesting at all. On our way out of the large gift shop at the exit we spied a box saying post your questionnaires here. We hadn't been given a questionnaire so back we went to ask for one. Once again we asked about four people before we found someone who knew the answer (well after a style, seems like most don't actually know the proper answers to anything, but just fob you off with a reply they think will do). We were told that they are only given out to selected people at particular times & we couldn't have one!
Everywhere you go, whether it be the pay tills, the security guards, the sales assistants, it seems the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing & practically no one can give you any proper answers. I know they are busy & must employ extra staff, but you should be able to get an answer to a question without getting sent from pillar to post every time.
We live in Devon but the journey back was tedious, it is in such an awkward place that it seemed to take forever, much longer than when we go right to the end of Cornwall to Penzance.
After a couple of days I sent a letter stating that as we were not given the opportunity to fill out their questionnaire, I would like to give them my comments now. The reply came this morning saying yes they only give questionnaires at specific times to do their research effectively but that we should have been offered a visitor comment form which are readily available! They also offered me a refund of the overcharged £5 if I phoned them & asked for it which I have just done.
I think the entrance fee is very exorbitant & so is everything else there.
The following week we went to Paignton Zoo. The entrance fee there was at least £6 cheaper for each person & considering they have to maintain the extensive grounds, feed the animals, build maintain the animal housing, pay vets bills & the keepers etc., I think is much more reasonable. It was also a far more entertaining & interesting day out!
If you want a good day out, I wouldn't recommend that you waste your time & money going to The Eden Project! Overall, I thought it was pretty boring & vastly overpriced with not very good service.
Update on 26/6/2010 - This morning I received a cheque for £5 with a written apology that we had been overcharged. Also a 2 disc DVD about the Eden project called Eden the inside story,which they hope I will accept with their compliments. This comes up as £13 on their website as the price sold in their shops. A result with the refund, but once again shows how grossly their products are overcharged - I certainly wouldn't have paid £13 for the DVD!
Summary: don't waste your time & money
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