St Austell Bay as seen from the bell tents at YHA Eden Project
l had made my way down to the Visitor Centre for 10 o’ clock from the Youth Hostel Association Eden Project property, where, emerging from the bell tent in which I had spent the night, I had looked out over St Austell Bay. It had not occurred to me that I would see the sea here – I had not on my previous visit – and this was a useful reminder that in the South West, as in the British Isles as a whole, the coast and tidal waters are never far away. After a light breakfast, I went through the doors and began making my way down from the Centre, which sits high up on what I think is the southern side of the pit. Standing against the opposite side of the pit were the two biomes – each made up of four domes, the colour of the sky, joined, it seemed, much as large soap bubbles of different sizes join one another, but so as to enclose in each a single space – the Rainforest Biome to the left, and Mediterranean Biome to the right. Part of the way down, I came upon a mounted print of a photograph of roughly the same aspect, taken in 1999, before construction had got underway : the pit at the time, which, though, being of the same size and shape, was recognisable, was quite barren – a large crater of grey, off-white, and beige material – presumably rich in the clay that was extracted here – roughly arranged in uneven terraces and heaps, lower toward the centre. Now, some 18 years later, it was largely verdant.
I made straight for the Rainforest Biome via the Link building connecting the two. The tallest of the four domes constituting this structure is some 50 metres high with the biome covering about 16,000 square metres of terrain. It being an enclosed space, the climate, temperature and humidity can be controlled precisely, with the temperature ranging between an upper limit of 35 degrees and a lower limit of 16 degrees Celsius, and humidity between 90 and 60 per cent. It is this, obviously, which allows for the 1,000 odd varieties of tropical plants growing throughout the space. A rain-fed waterfall bisects the biome, and hard paths snake their way anti-clockwise through the undergrowth, across the water, and then up through the canopy across a fairly long rope bridge, and high up, onto the sides of the rock wall, and near the water’s source, before descending again to complete the circuit. There are a variety of installations along the paths.