Home to over a million plants and more than five thousand different species from around the world, the iconic “biomes” (gigantic greenhouses) at the Eden Project are the focus of the UK’s premier green attraction. Built on the site of a former clay quarry, the Rainforest Biome houses plants from tropical islands, Malaysia, West Africa and South America, while the smaller biome displays citrus, olives, herbs and vines from the Mediterranean, the rich variety of proteas and aloes from southern Africa, drifts of colourful Californian poppies and lupins, and shrubs of the chaparral. Visitors are guided along the walkways by species labels and explanatory notes that describe how the plants are used for medicine, food and biofuel, and how a vision of a sustainable future is pinned to their survival.
Each year over a million people visit the Eden Project, many of whom arrive by bike, bus or train. It is by far the most successful visitor attraction in the southwest of England, largely thanks to the vision of chief executive Tim Smit (the man behind the Lost Gardens of Heligan) and also the ideas and labour of over five hundred staff, most of whom come from the local area.
On most days throughout the summer the Eden Project hosts attractions and events including theatre, workshops, art displays, gardening talks, children’s events and music festivals. All the facilities are managed with sustainability in mind. The food in the cafés is local and organic; food waste is composted and used in the gardens; rainwater is harvested and used to irrigate the plants and flush the loos; and you get a discount if you arrive on foot or by bicycle.
The nearest train station is St Austell, from where there’s a shuttle bus to the Eden Project. Admission is free for children under 15. www.edenproject.com; +44 (0) 1726 811 911. Green places to stay nearby include Cornish Tipi Holidays and Cornish Yurt Holidays, Higher Lank Farm and Trelowarren.