REGIONAL RIDE FROM THE EDEN PROJECT AT BODELVA, CORNWALL, TO TOTNES, DEVON, AND ON TO DARTMOOR
I had chosen to begin my journey at the Eden Project, at Bodelva, in rural Cornwall, having first visited the site in the early 2000s, on an organised tour, by which time it had already become a well known visitor attraction. The Project might be described as a garden, now about 20 years old, inside a 60 metre deep crater that was, nearing the turn of the century, a derelict china clay pit. The whole site must occupy something around a square kilometre, or 100 hectares. The sight of an extensive outdoor garden in such a space is remarkable enough, but it is, of course, best known for its two greenhouses, great domes, up to 50 metres in height, composed of hexagonal steel lattices, covered in a thin plastic, positioned against the pit’s south facing rock wall. These are indoor gardens : the first, what the Project terms the ‘largest rainforest in captivity’, and the second, Mediterranean Biome, featuring flora characteristic of the many parts of the world sharing that particular climate and biota. The pit now also accommodates a Stage, Arena, and the Core – an exhibition space – all accessed via a large Visitor Centre. Visitor numbers had exceeded one million in the year 2016-17.
The Project is owned by the Eden Trust, an educational charity. Its mission is primarily to educate the public. According to the leaflet handed to me over the counter in the Visitor Centre, the Eden Project ‘connects us with each other and the living world exploring how we can work towards a better future’. In co-founder, Tim Smit’s words, it is ‘a symbol of optimism to show that ordinary people working together could do the nearly impossible …. [T]he challenges that are going to be facing us during the twenty first century will require the very best of us … and part of that need that we are going to have is to realise that we are a part of nature and not apart from nature’. Established in 1998, the Trust eventually secured funding from the Millennium Commission, the European Union, and a variety of other institutions, and the site was transformed in the course of just two or three years. Ten trustees supervise a Board of ten Executive and Non Executive Directors at the Eden Project Limited, which, with a headcount now of about 500 people, operates the site. It has become a world renowned visitor attraction.