Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Eden Project in The Winter

I have to admit the idea of getting up at 7.00 am on a Sunday morning to drive to the Eden Project did not fill me with excitement! I've been there a fair few times before and whilst I wouldn't say the place didn't impress me I wouldn't say it interested me much either. Anyway, this was February and we were heading up with the kids to go ice skating and a Shaun the Sheep modelling work shop - wahoo!

After the delights of driving along the A30 and the highlights of Bugle (sorry anyone from Bugle) we arrived in the Banana car park of the Eden Project - it's sort of banana shaped I suppose. From there we made our way down to the mega gift shop, sorry entrance. That is after stopping off in what were the poshest toilets I've been in for quite some time. Being from round ere we got out our 'Local Pass', which, for £7.50, means I can return for free for the rest of the year. They weren't taking any chances though, proof of address etc...

Eden Project
The Eden Project
 When we had negotiated the steep zig-zagging slope (the kids only fell over twice)  down to the main area I was feeling a little more positive about things. It was a nice day, there weren't too many people around and everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I thought I'd better.
The ice skating area is under a big canvas canopy a little way from the biomes. Inside there is the ice rink and  the Eden Winter Cafe, which actually did make me feel remotely festive, especially after a hot drink. With that we took to the ice.

Eden Winter Cafe
Eden Winter Cafe

Now this wasn't the kind of ice most of you will be familiar with. I.e. it wasn't slippy ice. It kind of had a powdery texture and was about as grippy as carpet. But, there were lots of sledges, plastic dumper trucks and tricycle type things all over the ice and the amazing thing is they did slide! So as you can imagine this combination of slippy and grippy allowed me to run around whilst pulling the kids in a sledge...
...for what felt like hours! I'm sure it did me good and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. There was also lots of them scooting around on various vehicles and pulling each other around. So, the verdict lots of fun was had by all!

After the kids session a tractor like-machine called the Olympian 2000 or something came and magically transformed the ice back into the slippery sort of ice we are all familiar with.

Eden Ice
Kids Ice Session at Eden Project

My oldest and me were booked into a Shaun the Sheep modelling work shop run by the people from Ardman (Wallace & Grommet etc). The deal was you pay £5 and you get to make your own Shaun the Sheep out of plasticine, sorry, modelling clay. Anyway, we had a bit of time to kill so we had a look in the giant yurt type structure next door where some more sheep related activities were going on. I was a tad apprehensive when we first entered as there was a massive wood burner in the middle with only a rail to prevent careering kids from roasting themselves. None did whilst I was in there so maybe kids are smarter than they look?!
There were a few crafty activities going on and we made a bobble sheep just to get in the mood.

Shaun the Sheep as mad by us!
So, on to the workshop proper. I was very impressed to find that the people running it where actual Ardman modellers - these are the people who actually make Wallace and Grommet! I'm guessing they didn't have kids of their own as when I asked one if they'd met Wallace and Grommet she replied, 'Oh, yes. There's hundreds of them'. I think my 6 year old had probably already figured out they weren't real but...

To cut a long story short we were instructed and given a few pointers on how to make our own Shauns. Amazingly enough it worked, although if you give a 6 year old black and white plasticine much of it ends up a dirty grey.

That was the structured part of the day. We sat on a bench and scoffed our home made sandwiches and headed off to the Eden Project proper. Now, since I had last been things seemed to have grown to fill in the void in front of the biomes. It did in places have the feel of a garden centre but generally it looked nice. There are also lots of sculptures and the likes around the place such as water features. Nearly all of these have clever little features, visual puns, that sort of thing which I have to admit to liking.

Well, here I am at the Eden Project actually thinking this is quite a nice place to spend a bit of time. Admittedly it was quiet and the weather was nice, but this is an improvement on my previous feelings. Now for Eden's raison d'etre - the biomes.

There are two biomes linked by the central cafe area. There is the Tropical Biome and the Mediterranean Biome. I'm assuming you all no what a biome is. Everyone knows what a biome is don't they? OK, for those who don't, imagine and enormous dome shaped green house made up of hexagonal panes of plastic. Somewhat like the molecular structure of Buckminsterfullerene I would guess, if that helps!

Eden Project Biome
The Buckminsterfulerene like qualities of the Eden Project
So off we headed to the tropical rain forest dressed in scarves, hats and winter coats - it turns out there is a cloakroom next door, but anyway. I quite like the heat but my missus was not a happy camper. By the time we had ascended the paths up the biome her hair had gone frizzy, she was developing jungle fever and was getting a touch short tempered! So we headed out.

Tropical biome
Biome was so tropical it steamed up my camera!
On the way out my son spotted the platform at the end of a stairway, suspended from the top of the dome. He wanted to go up there so I think I might have volunteered to take him. At the foot of the stairs there was a lady who told us we would have to wait about 10 minutes and gave me a thing to read. I started reading it, and the warnings about heart conditions and vertigo, and... well it was then that I decided we weren't going up there. This didn't go down very well with the boy, but I had to protect him from seeing his father crawling along on hands and knees whilst sweating profusely and mumbling.

On to the Mediterranean biome. This time we'd found the cloakroom, which made it a lot more pleasant. I have to say this was my favourite bit. Admittedly I didn't look at a single plant but there is a square there. The sort of square you find in Mediterranean villages with tables and chairs. It was sunny outside and the temperature was in the 20s, along with the smell of the plants it actually felt like being on holiday. I think even the kids were convinced for about a minute. I would have been happy sitting there, working on my tan all day, but alas it was time to go.

Eden installation
One of those installations
Back up to the exit / gift shop / cafe / environmental awareness centre for a cuppa before hitting the road. I am slightly cynical about the Eden Project's green credentials, surely the most environmentally friendly thing they could have done was nothing, i.e. not build it. There is also the rumour that they were orginally going to build it in a pristine valley and not a disused quarry. Whether this is true or not I don't know.
That said the kids thoroughly enjoyed watching the installation here. It is an automated puppet show telling of what would happen if there were no plants, with the unfortunate puppets losing everything including their clothes. The kids really revelled in the puppets misfortune, not sure if they got the take home message, but hey!

In conclusion, the family went to the Eden Project and had a nice day out in February. And my opinion of the place has, grudgingly, slightly improved. All it need now is a few wild animals roaming the biomes, tigers and the likes, and I will be completely sold on it.


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