Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Eden and Bristol

Monday's agenda was a trip to something called the Eden Project (http://www.edenproject.com/). Basically, a team of people have carried out an amazing rehabilitation job on a worked out mine just outside St Austell (a small Cornish town with a brewery that produces something similar to Miller's - I'm not a huge fan). The old mine site is now a massive garden with two gigantic biomes (dome-shaped greenhouses) and a strong environmental education program.

St Austell's public transport is really good. The shuttle bus that usually takes tourists out to the site is broken down, so they incorporate the Project into a regular bus route - they dig out an old double-decker (complete with spiderwebs, to my delight) - whatever it takes to keep the service running.

When I get to the Project, I can see why. I had never thought of a mine rehab as a major tourist attraction, but this place is bigger than Ben Hur. It must make up at least half of the local economy. Luckily I bought a ticket at Salisbury - even with a pre-purchased ticket, I have to queue. The queue is much shorter than the one at the main entrance though - a mere 20 people or so.

Because it's raining, I start outside - I walk straight into a garden dedicated to the nine Celtic sacred trees, complete with willow bothy and labyrinth. The entire side of the mine workings has been terraced and set out in themed gardens. Most of them revolve around useful plants rather than religious ones - there are medicinal gardens, plants that can be woven or used for fibre, plants for brewing alcohol and edible plants.

The biomes are similar - one is a wet tropics environment and the other is a Mediterranean climate. To keep the kiddies amused, there are little houses appropriate to the area (a Malay longhouse, an African tukul, a whitewashed church steeple) - there are also exhibits on the history and uses of the different plants. For the adults, there are sculptures and paintings scattered about the gardens - they also have a World Music festival happening in the background.

The Core education centre has films, exhibits and hands-on experiments to bring people up to speed on social justice and environmental issues. The place is absolutely packed. I'm not sure how much of it people are taking on board, but it seems to suggest a very strong interest in these issues and a willingness to get involved.

One thing that disappointed me - the cafes serve pasties, ham and cheese baguettes and other standard fare. I was hoping they'd have taster plates to show off some of their exotic crops (I think I can safely say I would be the only visitor there who would have cooked quinoa or amaranth) - it seemed a missed opportunity to promote organically grown crops and drum up income for the Third World.

From St Austell, I tried to catch a train to Cardiff. More hassles and delays - I tried to ring to book a room from Plymouth station with no luck. Finally, I got off at Bristol, figuring I'd rather wander around looking for a room in daylight. I got a room straight up at the YHA, which was quite comfy - my room mates had their phones off and both of them had healthy bladders, so there were no disruptions. Tales from Cardiff to follow!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home