A bee hums to himself as he gathers nectar from a giant daisy, his stripey jacket furry, his wings whirring to keep him secure. The white petals and bright yellow hearts epitomize the simple pleasure of a summer’s day.
A couple pose for a selfie in front of an even bigger bee, made of metal, perched precariously on the side of a bank. Grasses whisper to each other as a gentle breeze shimmers over them. An enormous steel figure hefts a rope of hemp across his angular shoulders, highlighted against a deep blue sky. Purple and yellow irises sway to and fro on thin green stems, enjoying their brief time in the sun. The Eden Project in Cornwall is at its very best in summertime …
A little boy runs along the path chasing a butterfly , which gracefully swerves away over a bed of bright orange alstroemeria enticing it to tarry a while on their delicate petals. The midday heat builds up as more people swarm in through the gates, but this particular Garden of Eden can take thousands of visitors on any day, and still have space for more. Gazing over at a willow bull, an elderly couple seem perfectly at peace with the world, enjoying a few moments’ rest before heading off into one of the space-age biomes.
Tropical heat drips from every leaf and plant in the Rainforest Biome. Exotic foliage stretches up towards a walkway in the sky and water cascades through fern-strewn banks. Rubber trees rub shoulders with coffee bushes and bunches of bananas trundle overhead on a never-ending circuit. Weird totems from Africa lurk in the shadows and a wooden boat loaded with spices is set to sail off to far-flung shores. Baobab smoothies and rum cocktails provide refreshment for over-heated explorers.
It’s a relief to get out of the humidity into in the fresh summer air, where the scent of roses mingles with newly cut grass and sun cream. Overhead a figures whizzes past, shrieking with delight; England’s longest zipwire has another fan. In the Arena, busy people are putting equipment on a big stage ready for the Paloma Faith concert, one of the Eden Sessions, a series of music festivals that make the most of the natural acoustics in this unique setting.
Entering the Mediterrean Biome on a sunny day is to be transported to colourful world of vibrant planting, scented herbs and quirky strangeness. Bright red geraniums flourish against blue-painted walls and purple bougainvillea cascades over terracotta pots, evoking memories of Greek islands and Spanish holidays.
Beneath gnarled cork trees a herd of cork pigs snuffle for food and pose for photos. Spiky proteas from South Africa grow not far from a rainbow of fragile Californian poppies. Cactii, palms and huge aloe vera plants vie for attention and, in the afternoon heat, a myriad of delicious scents mingle enticingly. Amidst a tangle of vines, the Greek god, Dionysus, represented as a bull, is surrounded by wild dancers, heads thrown back in an ecstasy of passion, adding a weird pagan element to the bright surroundings.
Meandering round the terraced slopes outside, a wooded dell draws the eye with its sun-dappled shade. At its heart lies Eve, queen of the Eden Project. Head on hand, her face is a mosaic of glittering mirrors, her hair a riot of wild flowers. She voluptuously embodies the spirit of this magical garden, forever gazing in wonder at the amazing achievements of this earthly paradise …