As I searched for some long lost documents to use as sources for another blog post, one thing led to another. I stumbled across some momentos from my last trip to the United Kingdom. The artifacts caused me to wonder if another trip might be in order. What could justify placing the country back onto my bucket list? I did a quick Web search about England and came across a place that really appeals to me in many ways.
Cornwall is now back on the list because of the Eden Project. The place looks like it might be a theme park equivalent for people who love plant life. Environmentalist types would probably also be a prime demographic for such a place. The more I read about it, the Eden Project seems like an extention of the concept of the English garden, updated to the 21st Century.
The attraction is a futuristic looking place in Cornwall, England. The photos show that the site is dominated by two dome complexes. They look like something Buckminster Fuller might have dreamed up or a sci-fi movie set. The complexes are called “biomes”. Each biome is constructed from hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal plastic, inflated cell structures that have been mounted within steel frameworks.
One complex is maintained as a Mediterranean environment, the other simulates a tropical environment. The site also includes a large, open area that represents the temperate zone.
The Eden Project bills itself as an organization that is an educational charity, a social enterprise, and a tourist destination. The large displays nurture plant life in an environmentally friendly manner and is a showcase for the practice of using horticulture as a way to empower disadvantaged human populations. Many of their projects are aimed towards modeling environmental, economic, and social regeneration.
The site provides a place to perform research into methods of conservation and nurturing of plants. The project, itself began as a transformational, regenerative reuse of blighted land. Their information site say the Eden Project was built within a 160-year-old exhausted china clay quarry. It was one of the “Landmark Millennium Projects” to mark the year 2000.
The original concept was hatched by Tim Smit in the 1990s. He had become interested in the interconnectivity of people and the environment. He enlisted the help of the former director of the Royal Horticultural Society, Philip Browse, a former president of the Institute of Horticulture, and the Horticultural Director of the “Lost Gardens of Heligan”, Peter Thoday. The attraction required more than two years to build. It’s grand opening was on March 17, 2001.
Just as construction was started, rain poured down every day. Some 43,000,000 gallons of rainwater collected in the old quarry. To solve the problem, a state of the art subterranean drainage system was designed and constructed. The water from the system is used to irrigate the plants and for sanitary purposes. The rainfall provides about half of the necessary water needed to maintain the site.
The growing medium was cultivated from minerals found in local mine waste sand and composted organic matter. All of the ingredients were mixed naturally and helped along by earthworms that were introduced to dig and fertilize the new soils.
The Eden Project spokespersons say that the domed Biome climates are monitored and controlled by automation. Mist and humidity are closely regulated. Vents are opened and closed in an effort to control fungal growth. Solar heating is the main source of warmth. To store heat for the nighttime are large brick back walls acting as a heat sink. More conventional heating comes from circulation units that are switched on and off as needed.
Electrical juice is also of the green variety. The project taps into the grid powered by the Cornwall wind turbines. Nearing completion, is a geothermal generating facility that will provide the Eden Project and a community of 5,000 homes with electricity.
Visitors are promised a huge variety of greenery to view. There are about 1,000,000 different plants. Most of them are not rare nor endangered except for a few that have been cultivated for use in educational programs. Many of the plants originated in botanical gardens and research laboratories across Europe and the UK. Others were raised from seed at the onsite nurseries.
Pollination and pest control are all done with natural, biological means. Pollinator insects are important. There are also birds and lizards that provide pest control and also provide visual variety for visitors to the Biomes.