eden

The secret of Eden

Eden - Temperate Biome

Just various flowers and such like. It would be great if I had a big super garden like this, and it would be full of sweet scented plants and herbs and flowers. As I was saying to Sarah I would like a verandah, some jacaranda, and a lot of other things ending in ‘-anda’ such as a gander, or a panda.

Eden - Tropical Biome

It is astonishingly hot and humid coming into the Tropical Biome, like walking into a warm sweaty sock, and within a few minutes of steep climbing through the jungle, you start to think maybe Britain’s boring mild climate isn’t so bad after all. I have no doubt that the real jungle is much, much worse, and there isn’t a magnificently stocked organic cafeteria a few hundred yards away. Still once you have got to the top there is a wonderfully refreshing waterfall, which becomes a stream running all the way down through the forest to a pool at the bottom.

It is a common photographers’ trick to shoot moving water with a slow shutter, to give this nice motion blur effect. This was taken at 1/20th sec, but as you can see it is extremely difficult in full sunlight to keep the exposure from being much too hot. A neutral density filter (or a pair of sunglasses over the lens) would probably help here.

Eden is not a botanical garden but what they call ‘a living theatre of plants and people’, where they try to show what plants mean to us and how they shape our world. All through the Tropical Biome are displays about the plant products that we take for granted such as rubber, sugar, Coca-Cola, bananas, chewing gum, rice ekcetera (though the world’s most valuable commodity is mysteriously absent; perhaps local councillors balked at the plans for the ‘Up Your Nose: Cocaine Past, Present and Future’ exhibition featuring huge bales of Peruvian flake and fronted by the vivacious Daniella Westbrook), and as you come into the biome it is as though you’ve just landed at the docks and are looking around excitedly at your surroundings, full of traveller’s excitemint at a new paradise to explore, and about to be taken for a bloody fortune by a grinning local taxi driver.

It is not surprising that inside the world’s largest conservatory there should be some pretty tall plants. This palm is massive and I saw in the DVD that it had to be brought on the same low-loader that they use for transporting the Space Shuttles, and it nearly did not make it in through the doors. It would be funny if it was removal men and they just crammed it in saying ‘Don’t worry luv we’re professionals’ and ripped off all the branches, broke a window and some irreplaceable china, and then pissed off to sit in their cab smoking roll-ups and reading the Daily Mirror.

The biome is awfully cunningly laid out, so that the paths and stairways double back on one another and wind up and down through the jungle so that you seem to be walking for miles, through oceanic islands, Malaysia, West Africa, and Amazonia, although it is actually only about three acres. Still it is big enough to fit the Tower of London inside according to the Eden Project web site, although I am not sure how they know. Perhaps they borrowed the Tower of London one drunken night and drove it to Cornwall on the low-loader. It is like the next stage on from waking up badly hung over with a policeman’s helmet in the bed.

This cheerful truck represents the sugar industry, or something, although it looks more like the hippy bus to Marrakesh or some vehicle that Cheech and Chong might drive, made entirely out of panels pressed from gold-quality hashish. Do you think when they transport great shiploads of sugar across the world that Customs officers have to sample every bag just in case they’ve slipped a couple of tons of heroin in there? It is an entertaining thought.

Eden, June 2006

A child running about like a nutcase in the temperate biome. This is a super place as it is like a giant Mediterranean villa garden, full of exotic flowers and sweet herbs and citrus fruits, and a mini perfume factory and bits of California and South Africa, and a motorbike, and all sorts. It is great. I wish it was my garden and I could sit out there enjoying a cool breeze from the computerised ventilators and chomping on a fresh oringe.

I suppose everyone takes a picture of this but it does not matter. It is a horse made entirely out of cork and driftwood, which is impressive as it’s nowhere near the beach, or an Oddbins. What is really nice about the Eden Project is it is not just plants and surrounding environmental milieu, but scattered with pieces of intresting giant art such as a massive bee, or a cork horse, or a bronze man with a big round face ekcetera.

Similarly this is a piece of ‘artomata’ made by Tim Hunkin, of ‘Secret Life of Machines’ fame and a god to every geeky British male over about 30. It is called ‘Plant Takeaway’ and the idea is to demonstrate how importint plants are in our everyday lives. At the beginning it is as you see, and then everything that is made from plant products disappears like the table and furniture and all the food, and then the people’s clothes fall off because they are made from plant fibres, and finally they collapse and die because there would be no oxygen without plants. Note the stripey cat which is my favourite bit.

It is compulsory of course to have a picture of the biomes themselves, and they are the most fantastic things in terms of sheer engineering that I’ve ever seen. If you watch the DVD about how Eden was built in the first place, it was a colossal project just to turn a flooded, unstable quarry pit into a suitable place to put up these huge structures. They had to drive great bolts into the pit walls and bolster them with thousands of tons of concrete to keep everything from collapsing. Then they had to put up the largest scaffolding structure ever built, in order to construct the actual biomes. You do not realise until you get down into the pit on a level with them just how big these buildings are: more than 50 metres high, fashioned from tubular steel and high-tech plastic, and weighing only slightly more than the air inside.

Your correspondent relaxing in the tropical biome having found a blissfully cool spot near the waterfall. There was a super bird up there which I do not know what it is, but it walked all around me bold as brass chomping up bits of unconsidered trifles, and I tried to get some pictures of it, but every time he either scuttled away or some people wandered into shot and spoiled it. It is nice that they have actual birds flying around.