Cornwall-Eden Project

The Eden Project

Bulging from an old china clay pit like a giant string of silvery frog spawn, Eden’s vast biomes have become an icon, not just of British tourism, but of sustainability. Visiting this hallowed shrine to vegetation has almost become a rite of family holidays in Cornwall – a peat-free pilgrimage that’s right up there with surfing and Stein’s fish ‘n’ chips. And it’s hardly surprising. Not only is the Eden Project immensely fun and educational for kids, but it also reconnects them with the environment, plunging them into an earthy succession of habitats, from jungle to global veggie patch.

Zig-zagging along paths below the visitor centre, most people make straight for the Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, but don’t overlook the outdoor space – it’s riddled with shortcuts, hideaways, stepping stones, spy-holes and sandpits. You might also bump into a Pollinator, one of Eden’s resident interpreters who act as guides and impromptu storytellers. Everything you need for building a den can be found in the play area, while the Mechanical Theatre uses robots, puppets and film to bring plant stories to life. And, of course, everywhere you look you’ll see real plants, growing, flowering, fruiting and generally giving your senses a thorough workout.

Brace yourself for the Rainforest Biome. Littl’uns might wilt in the hot and humid atmosphere, so take your time and make use of the water fountains scattered throughout this record-breaking greenhouse (240 m long, 110 m wide and 50 m high). As well as identifying tropical fruits and spices, you’ll find out, through imaginative displays, how rubber, chewing gum and cola drinks are derived from rainforest plants. There’s also a waterfall and jungle settlement to discover, while sharp-eyed explorers might spot a tree frog.

The Mediterranean Biome is just as mesmerising with its cork and citrus plantations, grape vines and perfume garden. There’s a lot to see at the Eden Project, but try to leave a good hour or two for tinkering about with the interactive exhibits in The Core educational centre. The elaborate nut-cracking machine is addictive!

Seasonal events include summer den-making, Hallowe’en parties and a winter wonderland of ice skating, Christmas markets, music and storytelling.

Bodelva, nr St Austell, PL24 2SG, Tel 01726-811911.
Open year round daily from 1000 (car parks open 0900 during summer school holidays).
On the door entry £16 adult, £5 child (5-15), £38 family; online tickets £15 adult, £5 child (5-15), £36 family; reduced prices for walkers or cyclists £12 adult, £24 family, children free.

Click here to visit the official website of The Eden Project.

Cycle to the Eden Project and you not only fast-track through entrance queues and get a discount on admission tickets (see left), but you also help to reduce traffic congestion and feel really good about yourself. The Clay Trails cycle route links Bugle with the Eden Project along four miles of easy, mainly level gravel track (there’s one moderate climb), passing woodland and a picnic shelter overlooking some lakes. A more challenging five-mile route between Wheal Martin and the Eden Project offers panoramic views of St Austell Bay and the clay mines. You can access both trails from National Cycle Network Route 3, which runs through Bodmin and St Austell. Really keen cyclists can follow a side trail to the China Clay Country Park.