The Eden Project: a tribute to plants and the beauty of life
As some of you may know if you follow our #itsawildlife or personal Instagram, we are currently travelling around the UK in a retro campervan, exploring some beautiful wild places and experiencing wildlife. Why, you may ask? Well, that’s a long story which we might keep for another day.
But for now, let’s talk about the Eden Project, which is a unique place we visited whilst in Cornwall, southern England.
So, what is the Eden Project?
The Eden Project describe itself as many things: an educational charity, an eco-attraction, a social enterprise and a global movement of a powerful vision for demonstrating the power and importance of plants for our society.
Some of the 1-star reviews describe the Eden Project as nothing more than a “garden centre”. But the Eden Project is so much more than that.
It’s all about restoration. The Cornwall site began 20 years ago with the transformation of an old china clay pit into a series of “exhibits” – a bit like a “growing” museum – alive with collections of plants, grouped by their climatic requirements.
The reality of the Eden Project is walking through a series of plant-filled landscapes: some are outside because they feature local plant species, while others are encapsulated within “biomes” or climate-controlled biomes. On our visit experienced the Mediterranean and the rainforest biome.
The Mediterranean biome featured Gondwana-style plants from south Africa, southern Australia and south America, as well as architectural features in a southern European style (beautiful tiled walls, and large decorated pots with citrus and olive trees), typical of Greek-style terraces.
When we walked in, the air was filled with bird song – as local birds and insects are able to move through to make use of the habitat created.
The rainforest biome was both warm and humid, and filled with dense jungles, climbing vines and even a waterfall! Many of the plants we know and use for food, medicine and gardening in the western world are originally from rainforests and are signed along the walkways.
And to top it off, several pairs of Raul Raul (Rollulus rouloul), a rotund, ground-dwelling partridge native to the lowland rainforests of south-east Asia, can be found fossicking in the soil and running around in the biome! While the females have a beautiful olive-green sheen to their back, the males sport a bright red Mohican (pictured above).
This Cornwall site was the first of what has now become a series of sites, showcasing the possibility of restoration, the importance of plants and the cultural connections we hold to plants and the natural world.
The project was a powerful way to connect the products we love and rely on in “modern life” with their plant origins. At the Eden Project, we experienced the plants behind many fruits and vegetables, coffee, chocolate, teas, herbs and spices.
And the original Cornwall site is now one of 14 “Edens” advertised on their website. There are sites in Europe, Central and South America, China, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
For us, visiting the Eden Project was an incredible experience. Not only was it fun to spend the day experiencing the colourful, bursting plant life and walk amongst the different biomes – but the conservation components were so clear and powerful.
The project demonstrates that restoration is possible and reminds us how important it is.
For me, I just loved the reminder – of how important plants are for people. And the opportunity to simply enjoy and explore. I felt like a little kid at the zoo again, but with the appreciation of an adult – of the cost, the time, the logistics and the risk that a project like this would have required to get it to the stage we experienced it at.
The whole project reminded me of how much I love plants… and how light and alive you can feel when emersed in a beautiful, nature-focused environment.
Would I recommend a visit? Absolutely!
While the Eden Project is a great environment constructed to help us appreciate plants and the natural world, it is not the only place we can do that. As you know, we can be grateful and appreciate nature anywhere and everywhere: in our gardens, in the bush, down the beach.
From the smallest details to the big picture: to appreciate that the earth was simply a lump of rocks and minerals until billions of tiny cyanobacteria began transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen over literally millions and millions of years and evolving into the diversity of incredible multicellular life that covers the planet.
The Eden Project helped me to take a moment to revel in the incredible power driving diversity, adaptation and resilience of life on earth but also reflect on the fragility and fineness of the natural balance we risk disrupting beyond repair.
Of course, you don’t need to visit Project Eden to have these thoughts… but it was certainly a beautiful place to go and think about them!
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