Ah, the Eden Project. Arguably the shiny, dome shaped, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene jewel in Cornwall’s big, grassy crown. Yeah nah, that analogy made more sense in my head. But anyway, it’s one of those must-visit things and one of the reasons we’d chosen Acorn Camping to stay at (aside from the fire pit, the price and the fact they allow BBQs) was its proximity to the site. Ria and Tony, the campsite owners, will happily give you walking directions there and if you rock up to the Eden Project on foot or bicycle, they’ll knock a bit off your entrance fee.
The Eden Project is an educational charity. Today would be about facts. So, fact number one. If you get excited about not having to do any driving and consume Cornish Rattler Cider for breakfast, what should be a 40 minute walk becomes a 60 minute stumble. And you know how it pissed it down yesterday? Well today made yesterday look like a light shower. Seriously. Think buckets. Really fucking huge buckets. Whiiiich leads us to fact number two; none of our waterproofs are actually waterproof. Turns out the Eden Project doesn’t offer further discounts for lesbians who rock up resembling drowned rats either but they do have a cafe where you can consume tea and watch a really bizarre mechanical exhibit about what would happen if there were no plants in the world. It involves nudity and a dead cat. Yeah.
Anyway. So there are two huge Biomes (a Biome is basically a massive greenhouse made from big pillows of unpronounceableness) at the Eden Project. One is tropical and the other is temperate. There’s also a huge outdoor area and another building known as The Core. We started to have a look around the outside area but the rain started up again so we retreated to the tropical Biome. It’s really quite impressive and well laid out by country or region covering Tropical South America, West Africa, Southeast Asia and Tropical Islands. They have so many plants sourced from around the world with information on fair trade and sustainability and they even have wildlife to keep the pests in check. I love the tropics. Every time I hack at an insect bite until it bleeds I get all nostalgic for the tropics. I think I could happily live in the tropics forever or until I died from dengue or malaria or some other mosquito borne disease.
Fact number three, all of the best shit is grown in the tropics. Coffee, cocoa, sugar. And the fruit! You’ve not eaten pineapple until you’ve eaten pineapple in the tropics. They were selling baoab juice in a little hut which was fucking delicious. I’ve never had it before. And cashews. I knew from visiting Brazil that the cashew nut grew attached to a fruit you could use to make juice, and I knew that the nut was toxic until roasted. I didn’t, however, know that the toxin, which causes skin blistering, was called Cashew Nutshell Liquid and can be used in medicine, marine paints and heatproof enamel and in train brake blocks. Nothing wasted if it’s done right. Rubber too. I tapped a rubber tree when I was in Brazil, if it’s done properly the tree will live and can be tapped for rubber for many many years without destroying it. The rain forests produce so many amazing things, it’s tragic that an area the size of the Biome is destroyed every 10 minutes.
Lunch break. We were still fucking soaking. One thing the tropics doesn’t aid with is getting you dry so we resorted to the hand dryers in the toilets and fact number four, if you hold a sock over a hand dryer, it inflates and looks like a massive cock. Kinda. Maybe only if you’re slightly intoxicated and have the sense of humour of a 12 year old boy. And it’s maybe not a good idea to point this out to your mrs whilst there are children present. Oops.
Onward to the temperate Biome. There’s actually a restaurant here too but we’d just stuffed a pasty into our faceholes so we didn’t check it out and I think it’s quite expensive. But the rest of the Biome is awesome and again, beautifully laid out to include South Africa, California and the Mediterranean. Much of what grows here is more familiar such as olive trees and cacti. There’s also a statue of a bull who represent Dionysus (or Bacchus), the god of wine. It’s surrounded by vines common to the temperate zone and slightly creepy minions but hey, it’s art. Cork is something else grown in temperate climates and they have little cork pig statues in this area. Tobacco is grown here too and fact number five, never mind inhaling this shit into your lungs, don’t get it on your skin.
The leaves, as you would expect, contain nicotine and coming into contact with the leaves means your skin can absorb it. Nicotine is a poison. Now, I’m a ex-smoker skilled in the art of patronising those who haven’t yet quit with lines like, “No thank you, I like my lungs the colour they are,” and “You carry on if you like, damaging the health and well being of yourself and those around you” and I do get a fabulous view from up here on my high horse, but it doesn’t take a smug little fucker such as myself to tell you that this shit isn’t good. In fact, the only positive of the tobacco plant is the fact it provides a good livelihood for those who do grow it, although those who grow it often succumb to nicotine poisoning.
So one of favourite things in the world is chilli. I love spice with my food and chilli is something else grown in a temperate climate. Most folks know that the heat of a chilli is measured on the Scoville Scale, named after Wilbur Scoville in 1912, and fact number six, the scale is based on how many drops of sugar water it would take to neutralise the chilli. That’s why the numbers are so fucking high. To put things in perspective, a jalepeño is a mere 2500 to 5000 so think about that next time you’re picking them out of your sandwich, you pussy. A Tabasco Pepper is 30,000 to 50,000. I cook (I use the term “cook” very loosely. More like “I add this to shit like packet rice whilst heating it on the hob”) with Bird’s Eye Chillis at 100,000 to 225,000 or Scotch Bonnet at 100,000 to 325,000. Pure capsaicin is 16,000,000 Scoville units and will actually just fucking kill you if you so much as glance coyly in its direction.
Next stop was The Core via some more outdoor shit. They have a load of plants that are used in medicine. Like, stuff you can get from Boots the chemist and not the creepy old witch lady down the road who smells like cats and wee. Evening of Primose Oil, St John’s Wort, paracetamol. Yep, that stuff can be made from the opium poppy. I think The Core is more for kids though. We wanted to check out the “outdoor Biome” but the rain wasn’t having any of it and we still had to walk home. I absolutely love it here though, it’s really interesting. We’d saved it for a rainy day on account of most of it being indoors but I’m kinda gutted we missed out on the outdoor bit. Maybe don’t save it for a rainy day. Maybe go when you can explore it in its entirety without risk of drowning.
And today’s final fact number seven. When you walk somewhere unfamiliar whilst a bit drunk it will quite severely impair what little navigational skills you may have. So you’re pretty much gonna get lost on the way back home in a place with no phone or internet signal. I’ve seen this movie… I take full responsibility for the wrong turn we took. Yep. But in my defence, all these narrow, foliage lined roads look the same to me. Using the tried and tested “if you keep walking for long enough you’ll either end up somewhere useful or die horribly in a ditch with sparrows pecking your face off” we managed to get home in one piece where I promptly crawled into the tent and emptied the contents of my drool glands into my pillow in an exhausted, cider induced coma.
The Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall, England
Stayed at: Acorn Camping & Glamping