17 January 2017

Cornwall: The Eden Project

I’m sure there are many people who will disagree with my opinion but I found the Eden Project rather disappointing.

I know my visit was in mid winter so we weren’t able to enjoy the riot of colour the gardens must display in full summer but you could still see the structure of the planting, walk the paths, read the signs (well, mostly – some had faded into illegibility or were missing).

I also understand that for those people who have not been lucky enough to travel to tropical places the lush growth of the exotic trees in the Rainforest Biome must seem like a verdant paradise but I am fortunate to have travelled and lived in places where such growth is the norm. I certainly admire the project’s achievement in creating such a lush garden in an old clay pit but it’s been over 25 years since that Biome was finished and it is a controlled environment so you would expect the plants to grow well, just as they do in any greenhouse.

Except for the blasts of colour from the after-dark laser light show, the Mediterranean Biome was looking very dull and barren, with a large area cleared for seating and white-flowering plant displays that I suspect are part of the venue being hired out for weddings and other similar events. (I read a review online where someone complained that they had been charged the full entrance price to Eden only to find the Rainforest Biome was closed for a wedding. I would’ve been angry about that too!)

The Mediterranean Biome did contain some very nice sculptural works that I enjoyed seeing, though I’m not sure a sculpture of two followers of Dionysus tearing apart a live animal is something I’d like to explain to the many children visiting this place with their families.

The Core had some interesting exhibits and displays, with the star for me being the giant nut-cracking machine – I could watch things like that for hours, as could others, apparently. But I also found many of the displays quite static and not as interactive or interesting as the website suggests. Some things were not working, panels on exhibits were broken, and this was the same throughout this project – this version of Eden was generally shabby, tatty and poorly maintained.

I could perhaps forgive that shabbiness if the Eden Project didn’t charge adults a £25 entrance fee. That’s steep, especially when compared, for example, to the world-renowned botanic gardens at Kew, which costs £15. I know that Kew is also government funded but then it does have the largest collection of plants and fungi in the world and it supports world-class scientists and scientific research so it should receive government support.

I get the feeling that the Eden Project is trying to be all things to all people. The website describes such things as The Big Lunch neighbourhood get-together’, ‘Hothouse: our creative leadership programme’ and ‘The Crunch: Food and Drink Initiative’ on the same level as the ‘Redwood conservation project’ and the ‘Eden Deep Geothermal Project’. And they have founded or are involved in projects all around the world, ‘’Manchester Peace Park, Kosovo’, ‘Global school gardening’ in Kenya, and ‘Supporting harvesters through baobab’ in Malawi. I’m sure these are all worthy projects but I do wonder if the project shouldn’t pull back a little and ensure that its site is up to scratch and its visitors get value for their money.

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