Located in an abandoned quarry near St. Austell in Cornwall, the Eden Project is one of the wonders of the Modern World. With over 100,000 plants, representing 5000 species, it is also home to many kinds of wildlife. Since the impressive Biomes are beneath the level of the surrounding countryside, the massive structures cannot be seen from any distance, instead they loom up from their hidden base as you journey along the approach road. Built into the side of the old quarry walls, the two main geodesic buildings look like a collection of giant flies eyes nestling in the ground, or massive golf balls embedded in the earth.
The idea and vision of one man, Tim Smit, the Eden Project opened to the public in March 2001 and has seen nearly 2 million visitors in it's first year. The magnificent Biomes are made from galvanised tubular steel glazed with hundreds of hexagonal EFTE foil elements, each one 9m across.
The Biome on the left as you look out from the Visitors Centre contains the Humid Tropics Zone. The larger of the two structures, it measures 100m by 200m and is 55m high. Covering over 15,000 metres square, it is the largest greenhouse in the world. It's companion, the Warm Temperate Biome, covers over 6,500 metres square, and contains climactic conditions similar to Mediterranean regions like South Africa, California and the Med itself.
On entering the Humid Tropics Biome, through a series of doors, you are immediately struck by the immense size of the area contained by the structure, then by the humidity and heat. If you wear spectacles you will find yourselves continuously wiping away the sheen of moisture on your glasses, and fellow photographers must allow about 30 minutes for their lenses to clear of condensation before taking pictures.
The roof towers high above you, and rock walls can be glimpsed through the abundant collection of flora and fauna. The roar of water indicates that a rock pool is hidden behind some fronds, and tiny birds flitter through the trees. The smells that assault you are exquisite, fresh and flavourful. It's like being magically transported thousands of miles into the tropical rain forest, apart from the hordes of people following your every step!
All around you are the most colourful of plants, shrubs and trees, including bananas, coconuts, rubber, teak and mahogany. Occasionally a flash of colour catches your eye as one of the birds or butterflies sails through the foliage. The Biome is also home to a number of insects and lizards.
The pathway winds its crooked way gently up the side of the rock face, past the waterfall, until you are high above the ground. The spray from the waterfall as you cross the narrow bridge is very refreshing.
You could almost imagine you were in Dr. Shatterhand's 'Garden of Death' ('You Only Live Twice' by Ian Fleming), with deadly piranha and barracuda ready to devour anything that falls into the pool, and poisonous leaves giving the kiss of death to anyone who carelessly brushes past them. An inspired choice as a key location in the new Bond film 'Die Another Day', this Biome will be magically transported to Iceland, becoming the lair of chief villain Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens).
PART 2: CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE WARM TEMPERATE BIOME
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