02 January, 2014

Eden Project in Cornwall

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

I first read about the Eden Project in the New Scientist when it was an off the wall idea. Ever since, I have dreamt of seeing it. In 2009 my birthday present to me was a day there. One item ticked off my bucket list.

At the Eden Project in July 2009

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has’ - Margaret Mead

Geodesic domes at the Eden Project

We stayed in St Austell and took the bus to (the) Eden (Project). It sounds bizarre, and it looks bizarre when you come upon it. Even when you are expecting the geodesic domes. They are simply breathtaking. You could fit the Tower of London into the Rainforest Biome, just to give you an idea of their sheer size!

Garbage man sculpture at the Eden Project

“Eden is about optimism and the possibility of change. Come here and remember our connection to nature and our dependence on it for all we need. The art, artefact and artifice are there to remind us, to make us humble at the miracle of living systems that provide for us. We called ourselves Homo sapiens – the wise hominid. Are we worthy of the name?” Tim Smit

Bee sculpture at the Eden Project
with the Ungardener dressed for July in Cornwall 

In the early 90s Tim Smit (and friends) restored the lost gardens of Heligan, then moved on to create the Eden Project. Start with a clay pit – just another abandoned mine, which looks like a bomb site, an abomination against nature. By 2001 we could have visited a new Eden. The Biomes are built with hexagons, as the bees build their honeycomb “maximum strength, minimum materials.” Eden practices extreme recycling, even the 83,000 tons of soil has been made of recycled waste. They reduce food miles by using as much “grown in Cornwall” as possible – which in turn has helped to revitalise the Cornish economy.

Anyone know the name
of this wildflower
on a Cornish heath?

There are three biomes, and the one that drew me all the way to Cornwall was the mediterranean. So I’ll keep the best till last. The Outdoor Biome covers the temperate climate plants, neither too hot nor too cold, too dry nor too humid – where people are comfortable too. Since it only rained once – that’s all day, we whizzed around the outside bit. Then nipped into an obliging rain forest to thaw out and dry our sodden clothes! Typical July weather for my birthday – but in Cape Town we call that winter.

I lingered at the Cornish heath to look at the wildflowers my mother would remember from her childhood. Anyone know what this Cornish wildflower is?

Cornish heath at the Eden Project

Directions and opening times for the Eden Project in Cornwall, near St Austell
Continue with us to the Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project

(Originally published on Elephant's Eye

To loyal readers who have been with me since Eden was fresh
and I began blogging in June 2009,
to readers who have joined me on the journey,
and to those who discover me in 2014.
Thank you for reading, commenting, your help and encouragement.
2013 was a year in a thousand pieces for me.
May 2014 bring you, and us, all things good!

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer 
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red. Those are my links.
To read or leave comments,
either click the word Comments below, or click this post's title)


  1. Ahhhh - to visit the Eden Project! I'm a tad green... LOL

    All the best to you, too, Diana, for 2014.

  2. All the best wishes to you and yours for 2014 Diana. I hope you can start your new garden soon. The Eden Project has been on my bucket list for years. But even for us it is a long journey. One day...

    1. grateful that a friend prompted us to go to Heligan as well, while we were in Cornwall!

  3. Buckminster Fuller spent time in California, up and down the coast including Big Sur.
    His brilliant domes, invented with the idea of making the most/best possible living space for multitudes, dot some landscape here. And Yosemite. And they are amazing to be inside, a kind of
    air-glow, an atmosphere of their own. They're very cheap to buy as kits, as housing goes, and have elaborate set-ups with kitchen and bath and washer dryers and decks. One major California advantage is that they are not considered permanent housing and it drops of zillions of permit requirements as a result. We are over-done here in that department. The Eden Project is fabuluous. Congratulations on getting there, and thank you so much for bringing it to all here.

  4. The English weather is always unpridictable we were at Eden during the second week of September and the weather was HOT and sunny! I'd recommend everyone to visit especially those not particularly interested in gardens. It is almost worth the visit just for the amazing food!

    1. mmm I remember a delicious vegetarian lunch!
      But the restaurant was bursting with hordes of people.

  5. I had no idea the domes are so big.

  6. That gigantic bee is positively breathtaking! What a wonderful trip that must have been. I have heard about the Eden project but had no idea the domes were quite so big. Best wishes to you Diana and may you have a wonderful new year ahead of you.

  7. What an interesting place! I remember hearing about it, but your description gave me a new perspective. Thanks for taking us along on the trip!

  8. What a fascinating place! I didn't realize how big the domes were, either, just by looking at the pictures. I wonder how their approach to recycling has filtered down to the Cornwall community.

    1. I may follow that idea up to refresh Part 2

  9. I am familiar with the Eden project -- a wonderful place to visit. I was in Cornwall two years ago. Loved your spin on it. P. x

  10. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog, Diana. I am flattered and amazed that someone as far away as South Africa knows my garden so well. Of course, I like the way you give areas of your garden names, that's why I do it. Would you please send me the link to Ben's blog? Couldn't find it. Thanks. P. x

    1. anyone else read Our Friend Ben?

    2. No deleted spam comments, Diana. I give up -- gremlins for sure! Thanks for the link. P. x

  11. I was not familiar with the Eden Project but am fascinated and look forward to the other parts...Happy New Year and may you have wonderful journeys!!

  12. The wildflower is very unusual looking - are those pink blooms coming out of it, or are they in the background? I've never seen anything like it before.

    Chuckled over the clothing for Cornwall in July. We visited the Eden Project and Heligan one June and it was decidedly chilly! I was a bit disappointed with the Eden P but I think it was the sheer amount of people there, even though we got there early in the morning. Heligan was busy too but more my kind of thing. Glad you had the opportunity to visit.

    1. We got to the Mediterranean Biome, literally, as they opened the doors. Outside in the rain, we had to ourselves.

  13. Diana, time I got a bucket list on the go, and now I am something like 370 miles nearer the Eden Project than I was a few weeks ago.

  14. I have heard of the Eden project; we can learn a lot about ecology and conservation from it, but I never imagined that it would be such a fascinating place to visit with a giant garbage man and bee sculpture! The domes are breathtaking. The rainforest within must be awe-inspiring.

  15. I've heard of it but, to be honest, don't know too much about it. But just imagine if we could do something like that here in SA.

  16. A truly inspirational place and Tim Smit is a mind - glowingly creative person to have envisaged the concept. We visited way back in its infancy when the planting was mostly in, but immature, so we had to use some imagination (not a bad thing!). We did the Eden project one day and Heligan the next and there was a sort of symmetry there. One was a new concept being brought to fruition, whilst the other was restoring an old concept of a garden which had been lost.
    from Jane Scorer on 3rd January http://hoehoegrow.blogspot.com/
    (was a broken link to her blog, so I'm replacing her comment here)