Craving a bit of an outdoor adventure, Dorset Adventure Park Directors Liz and Rob took some brief time out to sample some other top tourist attractions. I was all too happy to join in for the ride and revisit an old acquaintance – The Eden Project, Cornwall.
Famously created with in the site of a retired clay pit, the Eden Project, “brought a huge diversity of plants that we use every day but often don’t get to see, planted in soil made from ‘waste’ materials, watered by the rain, in giant conservatories and buildings that drew inspiration from nature.” Over the years it has grown, in every sense of the word, into something unique and spectacular. We arrived on a cold bright day in early March. We went from scraping the frost from windshields of a morning, to stepping into a living rainforest and wandering, smiling and relaxed through an awaiting mediterranean cloud of blossoms. Having previously worked at the site a few years ago, I thought I would be impassive and jaded to the delights of Eden. As an adventure job, it was fun, educational and different. However, I felt myself stagnating and decided to leave my role before I lost myself in a jungle of baobab trees and roads not taken. Yet, that morning when we beheld the biomes, I saw the site with fresh eyes and remembered why visiting it is considered one of the best things to do in the Uk (one of many great places to visit).
Eden’s mission is to educate visitors about the essential role plants play in our world, their varied uses, ability to save lives and rejuvenate – despite deforestation. Every plant is clearly and succinctly explained and signposted. Walking around the rainforest biome the benefit of warmth and being surrounded by nature is felt immediately. The biome’s unusual structure mirrors that of a beehive, whose hexagonal make-up is considered to be one of the strongest structures in nature. Every detail, plant, tree and flowers is there for a reason, just as in nature.
Dorset Adventure Park Director Liz, decided the Mediterranean biome was her favourite. As you enter the Med biome, vibrant bursts of bougainvillaea hang down and greet you. Continue along the terracotta path and brush past swathes of heady jasmine and orange blossom. Sadly, my favourite plant in the whole site, the humble little myrtle, had been severely pruned and only branches remained. In mythology, myrtle is the flower of paradise and of love. A seemingly unassuming evergreen shrub that releases the most beautiful scent if you pick and tap the leaves. We moved on through the citrus groves and past the shimmering ‘silver tree’. Although just a morning was spent at the Eden project, it felt as if we had been on a small holiday. The entry fee is expensive and it will be extremely busy during peak season. However, there are often a lot of activities on offer for families, great food, a remarkable site and there is now a cap on the visitor numbers per day. Weather permitting, going to the lookout at the top of the rainforest biome is definitely worth it, especially if you are an adventure lover. It offers an above canopy perspective of a rainforest, which is both fascinating and utterly unique. Be aware, it is the hottest part of the biome and legally, is not allowed to be accessible to visitors once temperatures hit 40 degrees Centigrade. Having worked on the lookout (my favourite part of the job), my insider tip is to get there early in the morning as the temperature can climb very quickly.
The Eden Project can be a really fun place to visit but it is one of many spectacular gardens available to the public in the UK. Here are a few more we recommend!
If you want a city break but still have a nature lover’s soul, visit the world renowned Kew Gardens, London. Kew is the home to a spectacular Victorian glasshouse, stunning rose garden and over 50,000 plants with displays all year round. Dating back to the 18th Century, this world heritage site has something for history lovers, botanical fans, science buffs and those who love a taste of adventure and the great outdoors.
Sissinghurst Garden in Kent is the perfect place to visit for those who feel akin to the more wild, romantic side of life and prefer gardens that appear less curated and structured. The gardens at Sissinghurst were designed in the 1930’s by poet Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, who completely transformed them into a space to grow vegetables and generated a series of ‘rooms’ filled with various planting schemes. These gardens are a carefully, expertly and lovingly crafted world, that has been sagely throughout to achieve its dramy, cottage-core and laissez-faire effect.
Another national trust site, Bodnant gardens in Wales is best known for its luscious Laburnum arch which flowers in May and June and is the longest in the UK. Pictured above, this epic feature is just one of the breathtaking sights to behold at Bodnant. Found at the foothills of Snowdonia, is regarded as world class with Wales’ largest collection of UK Champion Trees and home to the first Magnolia trees ever planted in the UK. This garden provides wonders all year but to experience the resplendent laburnum arch (pictured above) Bodnant is best to visit in late Spring and early summer.
Kent may be thought of as ‘the garden of England’ but the beautiful Isle of Purbeck is home to spectacular countryside and stunning sea-scapes – as well as another top attraction, Dorset Adventure Park. Nestled into the foothills of the awesome and ancient Corfe Castle, Dorset Adventure Park will be welcoming back visitors in time for the warmer weather. With the warmth of places like the Eden Project reminding us that sunny days will soon be are here again, it won’t be long before you can stretch your legs and charge through the mud trail, run, leap and jump over the Wibit inflatable assault course and dive into the cool blue Dorset lake waters once more. Afterwards, you can always take a gentle stroll across the fields and sweet scented purple heather of Purbeck, perhaps the most beautiful garden of them all.
Words by Olivia Lowry