The Eden Project is a feel-good, botanical and conservation attraction on a colossal scale: two vast, geodesic-dome glasshouses – the “biomes” – stand at the bottom of a cavernous, landscaped former clay mine, showcasing the world’s huge diversity of plantlife. Low on tat and high on changing the world, Eden is, by any standards, one of the UK’s best days out.
The Mediterranean Biome features the sights and scents of warm temperate zones – the Med, the Cape in South Africa and northern California – with herb and vegetable gardens, fruit trees and a vineyard. The Rainforest Biome takes you on a trek through the jungles of Malaysia, West Africa and South America, where huge trees tower overhead, with exhibits on fair trade and deforestation. The rainforest can get extremely warm and humid, but there are plenty of seats to rest on, and an air-conditioned refuge in the middle, where you can chill out if the heat gets too much. A programme of special events, such as den building, rock climbing or ice skating in winter, is held, including ones specifically for children and families; check the website for dates.
Eden has excellent access: on arrival, marshals direct you to parking spaces. Apple One car park, closest to the entrance and visitor centre, has Blue Badge parking (if you don’t have a Blue Badge but need an accessible space, speak to one of the readily available stewards). Both this car park and Apple Two have manual wheelchairs available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis (there are forty in total) and there are also buggies to transport people who have mobility difficulties to the entrance. Ticket staff are fully briefed on access and most are TypeTalk trained. Hearing loops are available at three of the ticket booths. Accessible toilets are plentiful throughout the park. There is also an expansive Changing Places toilet near the entrance, which includes a height adjustable changing bench, a hoist system and shower.
You have a choice of two routes down to the Biomes – the one that goes over the bridge and down in the lift is the shortest – but to avoid any walking at all you can take the land train there and back instead. There are slopes throughout the site, which are generally manageable, and most of the few steps and steep gradients have alternative routes. For powered scooter users, most of Eden is a breeze. Eden’s on-site powered wheelchairs should be booked two weeks in advance during peak holiday times, by calling 01726 818895. Manual wheelchair users can get help from one of Eden’s trained volunteers, who can also be booked in advance to assist visitors with sensory disabilities around the site. Discover packs and guidebooks are available in Easy English, large print, Braille, on CD and Widgit (symbols for those with learning and communication difficulties). There is also an MP3 version available via email; to obtain a copy, call 01726 818878.
Food & drink: There’s excellent food at Eden’s numerous accessible restaurants and cafés, where the bulk of the produce is local and organic.