There is something pretty spectacular about the Eden Project in Autumn and Winter. The paths winding their way to the biomes are littered with copper coloured leaves, and the early dusks fill the biomes with a warming, homely glow.
If you’re lucky enough to qualify for a locals pass, you’re entitled to free entry to Eden all year round with a one-off payment. I’ve definitely been making the most of mine, visiting three times in as many weeks and on each visit there is always something different to see. Each walk around the tropical or mediterranean biome reveals a different flower or plant I hadn’t noticed the week before. Over the last few weeks, plants in the biomes have started blooming, even though our native plants are starting to lose the fight against the cooler weather. The manmade structures inside are also changing. The Eden Project are expanding their Rainforest Canopy Walkway, and each time I’ve been a different section has been open giving the most incredible views over a tropical rainforest.
The heat, smells and towering trees of the world’s largest indoor rainforest are a heady intoxication that makes it easy to forget that Cornwall is on the other side of the thick plastic hexagons that surround you. Paths lead you through the forests of tropical islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and South America. A waterfall cascades down through the biome, a pool of water reflects the palms, ferns and plants that surround it.
As you make your way through the biome different structures and sculptures give context to the continents you pass through. A fully furnished kampang, garden and paddy field, show how a typical South East Asian home might look, and highlights the importance of plants for each culture. The garden of the Malaysian house, houses everything a family might need to keep the entirely self sufficient, from crops to building materials, and medicines to produce for selling at market. Areas of the biome also reflect on the Western world’s love of importing goods and the effect this has on the rainforest.
Traditional West African totems by Ghanian sculptor El Anatsui make an appearance among the plants. Sustainability is at the heart of everything the Eden Project strive for, and the sculptures were carved from reclaimed timber from Falmouth docks after it was part destroyed by fire.
As you walk around the biome, you realise how many things we take for granted originate in these dense, tropical locations. Cocoa beans, coffee, rubber plants, nuts, spices and fruits, including bananas and mangoes can all be found in the rainforest biome.
There is so much to see and take in in the rainforest biome, from the forest canopy to ground level. Little fungi thrive on the warm, damp conditions and colonies of them can be found nestled in the undergrowth, sprouting up wherever they find the perfect nook.
Eden have introduced a mix of animals to help keep pest levels downs. The incredibly cute roul roul partridges wander their way around the rainforest biome, crossing paths and darting into shrubs. There are rumours of lizards and tree frogs, but these, so far, have remained ellusive!
The temperate biome is noticeably cooler and drier than the rainforest biome, and is home to an incredible array of succulents, cacti and vegetation.
The entrance to the biome is shrouded in bright pink flowers. A cobbled floor leads on to the outside of a whitewashed building surrounded by terracotta – you’re definitely not in the jungle anymore. A mosaic pathway starts your journey through the Mediterranean, South Africa, South West Australia, Chile and California.
Fruits and vegetables grow in abundance. Citrus trees and olives groves fill the biome with bold bursts of orange and green. There are rows of brightly coloured chilli peppers and vegetables and the scent of fresh herbs fills the air.
In amongst the palms lies a traditional Mediterranean restaurant. With white washed walls, terracotta tiles and strings of bare bulbs, it’s like a scene from Mama Mia!
And as the sun starts to set, the biome is bathed in a warmth of golden light.
It’s so much more than a collection of plants. It’s a really educational experience, and, if you consider an area of primary forest the size of the rainforest biome is destroyed every 10 seconds, the Eden Project is a reminder of the fragility of the planet.
Walking from South Africa through to Asia, with a sidestep to the med is enough to satisfy my wanderlust…for another week at least.