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Eden Project (Cornwall)
Member Name: carlz2001uk
Eden Project (Cornwall)
Date: 13/04/12, updated on 14/04/12 (201 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful, educational, fun, theres a rainforest! Annual Pass. Food.
Disadvantages: Expect to walk walk walk and be very tired!
We didn't intend to visit the Eden Project before we arrived in Cornwall but having no idea of where things are etc, as we live 6 hours away, I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that the Eden Project was only around 35 minutes away from where we were staying in Looe. As my daughter has a 3 week long project to complete for after the holidays about plants, we decided to head out for the day and see what the attraction was all about.
On the way to the Eden Project, I kept expecting to see the domes (or 'biomes' as I have since found out is the correct term), and it wasn't until we got to the welcome signs that I realised the attraction is actually set in an old quarry. It is impressive to see and we were 'wowing' and 'oohhing' before we had even got out of the car! The car parks are all easily sign posted with different coloured zones, and we were quickly guided into spaces by some attendants. A quick walk to the attraction (no more than 5 minutes) is made pain free for parents with young children who are desperate to get to the attraction, as there are beautiful borders full of bright coloured flowers and heathers to occupy the children on the short walk, plus the odd hop scotch panted on the path here and there means you reach the first building in no time. Here you will pass the most photographed part of the attraction which is actually a life size horse made from drift wood which is beautiful. Passing this will take you to the entrance where you can collect pre booked tickets (you save 10% if you book online or 15% if you pre book and specify a date), however we couldn't do this as we couldn't get an internet connection on our phones. We paid for 2 adults and a child and our youngest daughter was free to get in as she was under 5 (always a bonus!). It is also worth bearing in mind that this ticket will allow you free entry for a year. While we won't get any use from this as we live so far away, it will be handy for families who could make the journey in an hour or so.
Leaving this main area will take you through to the outside area and this is when you are blown away by the sheer size of the biomes, and this is when we caught sight of the beautiful gardens and different areas. Literally everywhere you look there is something new to see. This is an ideal photo opportunity to have the biomes behind you in a picture and there is a viewing point. The kids loved this part as there were spy holes cut out of the wood at various different heights. Making your way to the biomes will take you around 5-6 minutes walking, however it took us over an hour as we were exploring the wonderful grounds which had colour and beauty everywhere you looked. Gardeners were taking much care in making the grounds so beautiful however it is very much a hands on place. Although you wouldn't expect that you could trample through a bed of tulips, you can walk around paths and even into bushes and in between small trees where you will find chairs made out of tree stumps or mazes perfect for little ones (and big ones!) to explore. Expect to see sculptures and recycling everywhere. There is so much thought and attention that has gone in to every single detail of the attraction and the fact it is a charity is so impressive. In this outside area directly in front of the biomes, you will meet the WEEE man (although you can't fail to miss him the moment you step foot outside) who has been made from old electrical items that have been discarded. He is extremely tall (I would guess at around 30 foot) and looks quite like a Transformer actually! Another photo opportunity here! He is also educational as the sculpture uses waste equivalent to what one person will throw away in electrical items over their lifetime, and for young children who are less aware of waste, this is a good starting point to begin an explanation.
Entering the first biome, the Rainforest, was amazing. The change in climate the moment you step in is certainly impressive, but here you see the height of the domes and realise they are full of enormous trees and plants. Walking along you see many beautiful plants and flowers, as well as bananas and papaya growing. You will hear birds tweeting and a waterfall flowing. We had dressed relatively cool, despite it being only April, I had anticipated having to shed layers of clothing once inside the biomes, and so we had dressed in t-shirts and cardigans, but the cardigans didn't last long! The longer you stay in the dome, and the higher you get (it gradually seems to wind round higher and higher), the hotter you get. There are warning signs explaining that if you need to get some fresh air you need to turn around as you are around 30 minutes from the exit. I found this particularly helpful with young children, knowing which way I needed to go should I need to get out quickly, although there are staff wandering around all over should you need one quickly. There are emergency exits dotted around but these are obviously for emergencies! We had been in the dome for around 30 minutes when we realised we could get on to a viewing platform which is suspended above the rainforest 30 metres in the air! We checked the children we happy to go up, and after reading a consent form (high blood pressure sufferers, pregnant women, etc, should avoid this part) we were off. We knew the stairs up to it would be tough for the children but what we didn't realise was that it was suspended from the roof and because of this it wobbled as you walked on it! This wasn't terrifying but it didn't make me feel too safe (and I've jumped off a dam before so I'm not easily spooked by heights etc!). The stairs and the viewing platform is see through so you can look below your feet or look through the viewing points at eye level to see the rainforest below. This really is spectacular and if you are making the trip, it is simply something you Have to see if you are able!
The second biome is certainly impressive but it definitely takes second place to the Rainforest biome. The second one is the Mediterranean biome and it's climate is much cooler than the first. The moment we stepped in we could smell paella, and could see an authentic terrace in front of us with a bar area and an open area where a chef was preparing fresh paella. Guests could sit in the large sitting area and catch a bite to eat but we chose to walk on. This biome is much more open rather than the very much guided Rainforest one, and you can deviate from the paths to explore the wonderful sculptures. Here you can expect to see lemon trees, Clementine trees and Olive trees growing everywhere you look and the smells from the lovely flowers is just beautiful. This biome is much more tranquil and we sat on a lovely bench watching the girls explore the rocks and flowers growing (there is no worry of the children exploring and touching the plants, it is almost expected) while we watched the world go by for 10 minutes. Here we managed to unexpectedly sit in on storytelling with a rather quirky old gent with a strong Cornish accent (the first we had in fact heard since arriving!) and joined in on a sing along, before we continued on our 'adventure' (as the girls kept calling it!).
An indoor walkway attached the 2 biomes together and beneath the walkway is the large restaurant area. This just heightened my whole experience and made me love the place all the more. As parents, we have done most attractions and 90% of the time find food is processed, over priced and generally just not very nice in these places.... However, here it couldn't be any further from being like this. We leant over the railings and could see rows and rows of benches followed by kitchen areas where chefs were openly preparing food for sale. The food they were preparing looked delicious and I could see one chef making croissants and folding the pastry, one chef making some amazing looking cakes, and one chef preparing some savoury Danishes full of fresh rocket, asparagus, etc. I nearly leapt over the railings I was so excited to see such delicious and fresh looking food! The eating hall was a fabulous concept and very much in keeping with the general ethos of the place. The benches were all recycled using metal girders and reclaimed wood, with cups hanging above you in neat rows and fresh jugs of water and milk freely dotted around the tables. Prices were reasonable and definitely worth it. The food was just as it looked (delicious and fresh), and wine and beer was available to buy. Generally this area catered for everyone and looking outside you could see rows and rows of herbs, garlic, onions etc growing, so you knew exactly where most of the produce had come from. In this area you will also find a small gift shop selling an assortment of stuff, an information point, toilets and a free cloakroom.
After we had left the biomes, we made our way outside again to explore the rest of the outside area as we had only seen around half of it. It is worthwhile pointing out here that the Eden Project is not just an indoor attraction as we thought it was and so planning to visit here on a rainy day isn't the best idea as you will only get to see half of the attraction. Continuing on our adventure we saw a giant wasp (around 15 foot tall), explored a bamboo maze, and played tug of war with a giant metal sculpture of a man (this was really fun). We were getting tired at this point so didn't get to ride on the tractor which pulls along tourists in much the same way a train would with carriages. We had been exploring the outside area for another hour by this point so decided to make our way to the final indoor area which looked like a giant hedgehog but is actually known as The Core. Outside of this area is a small play area for the children and has a slide which you climb on from outside of the building which takes them inside (we had to drag them off this, they loved it!). Once inside you will see a wall of flying chairs which have been made with local artists and school children. You will have the option to sit in and pretend to drive a Smart car (the kids love this one) and it explains to them all about C02 emissions; but their favourite part of the core is the floor to ceiling wall of fridge doors which are just full of alphabet magnets which you can use to write anything you want (obviously most opt for their names). This is another opportunity for a funky photo. After our second mammoth explore of the outside, we were ready for another coffee and sit down and you can take yourselves up to the first floor café which sells cakes, Panini's and fresh drinks. After we had left here we decided to call it a day as we had been walking for around 5 hours. It is easy to see why the attraction has been made an annual ticket as you struggle to see everything in one visit. I read in various places around the attraction, that you should visit at different times of the year as the attraction is constantly changing.
No attraction is complete without the 'exit through the gift shop' however I really enjoyed this gift shop! Yes it is fairly steep in price for the majority of things, but rather than the usual over priced junk which get shoved to the bottom of a drawer, the things for sale here are interesting, useful, and mean something. Everything is ether recycled, has been made locally or is fair-trade. There is a small garden centre, where you have the opportunity to take home a little bit of the Eden Project for your own garden. There are chocolates, homemade breads and ciders, jewellery and clothing, books, as well as more unusual items such as a hand bag made entirely from ring pulls from drinks cans. I treat myself to some lovely rosehip face moisturiser and some glittery flower chocolates, while my husband opted for the cider, and the girls went for scrap books and hair bobbles! The variety is excellent and there will be the perfect gift for everyone.
Facilities around the attraction are excellent and one thing I initially noticed when we went to the bathroom was that the toilets were rather unclean. However, this wasn't the case, and after reading a sign, I realised that the water was all taken from collected rain water on site in order to reduce costs and the downfall was that it caused discolouration! The site never failed to amaze me - even in the toilets!!
Disabled access is excellent and the only place that I can think that wouldn't be accessible for a wheelchair users would be the viewing point above the rainforest.
Adults £23 (£19 if you cycle, walk or take public transport to the attraction)
Concessions (Over 60s and students) £16.50 (£12.50 if you cycle, walk or take public transport to the attraction)
Children aged 5- 16 £9.50 (Free if you cycle, etc)
1 Carer will gain entry for free (1 per disabled guest)
Entrance includes free entry to the car park.
Open every day except 24th and 25th December. Entry times vary but as a general rule they are open from 9.30am to 6pm with the last ticket sales being at 4.30pm.
Recommended? YES YES YES! GO. NOW!!!!!!!!! There really isn't anything left to say about this place, other than that you have to go. Given that it is so amazing is one thing, but that it is a charity means that the money they raise can go towards worthwhile causes and the constant improvement and upkeep of the site (there are over a million plants and flowers on site!!!!). Don't forget to gift aid your visit if you are a UK tax payer!
(P.S. Sorry this review is far far too long, but this is a condensed version of everything I had to include!)
Summary: 5 stars
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