The Eden Project

What a beautiful place. This is a “must do” if you’re visiting Cornwall.

It’s hard to describe what it’s all about because the experience is so breathtaking, but to put it simply it’s a huge project set up in a reclaimed China clay pit with two huge biomes (large greenhouse type domes) and surrounded by an outdoor garden interspersed with art and informative exhibitions.

This is a huge tourist attraction, with clear road signs and directions as you approach, and plenty of car parking space. Be prepared to walk, the car parks are quite a way from the main entrance and the entire place covers a huge amount of space with uphill walks so strollers are a must for little legs.

Entry fee is quite expensive but have a look on the website in advance. I visited with my partner and my parents back in September so opted for a couples membership at £80 which entitles you to bring an adult guest each. By returning again within the year the visits have cost us £10 per adult each time which is more than reasonable for a full day out.

We arrived shortly after opening at 9.30 and it was fairly quiet, there are toilet facilities at the main entrance, as well as a cafe – and don’t forget to pick up a map and check out the daily schedule – or if you want to be eco friendly then photograph the maps to save paper.

It’s difficult to miss all of the different eco-friendly messages throughout the project, from recycling, to saving water and beyond. I won’t go into detail as all of the things you learn are part of the experience, and some of the fact and figures are quite surprising.

My favourite art installation is the giant bee – bee’s are crucial to the eco system, they pollinate flowers and over a third of our food flowers rely on this process, and our bee’s are under threat for a variety of reasons.

Outdoors, Arlo’s favourite area was the sensory garden. A walkthrough area full of herbs and aromatic plants – we spent a long time walking through, using our senses to explore with delight…. mint, lavender, wild garlic and all sorts is on display.

The clever garden design is split into zones, each reflecting a different part of the world, from allotments, to American prairies, so much thought has gone into this and it’s truly as authentic as you can get, because the team at Eden work with people from across the globe when installing…. which I’ll come onto later.

The main attractions are the biomes. You enter at the centre, between the two, where there is a huge two level atrium, with the ground floor hosting the Eden Kitchen with long wooden tables with benches which means there’s plenty of space for large families, and an amazing menu.

We watched the chef’s from above as they prepared the fresh food from early morning and after our walk through the biomes couldn’t resist the menus… jerk chicken for me (£9.50) and Arlo had marinated chicken wings, cassava fries and corn on the cob.

Kids food is very reasonably priced at £5.50 – our membership earned us a 10% discount. A lovely little touch is the provision of paper rolls at the table for cleaning sticky hands.

We decided to explore the Mediterranean biome first, which transports you right there, with all sorts of little details. The plants are of course the main feature, however the sculptures and installations add to the atmosphere, there’s also a beautiful pizza restaurant here too.

We were invited by a member of staff to join a free of charge toddler activity “music in the med” – led by a charismatic conductor. Arlo really enjoyed singing and dancing along with musical instruments in this beautiful environment, and having checked the website there seem to be frequent activities for all ages so make sure to check before you plan your visit.

The walk through the biome led us toward Australia next, and my mum having recently visited Perth was delighted because it was so similar. After talking to the team, we discovered that indeed the Eden project had worked with a team based at Kings Park, so the plants here were planted with the advice of Australians, and not only that, the art work including the totems have been created by an Aboriginal artist too, so this truly is as close as you can get to Australia without the 24 hour flight!

Before you head into the rainforest biome there’s a cloakroom, toilets and a store on the upper floor. I would advise to rehydrate and remove layers as it gets incredibly humid inside. The biome is full of wildlife, and some of the most amazing rainforest plants. One one side of the pathway you could be looking at African jungle and the other, South American plants will line the route!

The route takes you up a winding path and there are water fountains along the way. You will meet some unusual little birds, discover new fruits and then end up in the clouds, just when you think the heat is too much, there’s a lovely little cold room to pause and rehydrate – ready for the rainforest canopy.

As you climb higher there’s a waterfall, a rope bridge and cloud formations to discover before heading back down through sugar canes to discover the BaoBao shack and grab a tropical smoothie.

In this biome we also discovered how a Nigerian artist created sculptures from reclaimed wood after the fire damage to Falmouth harbour. The wood originated from Africa in the 1930’s and we learnt all about how this particular type of wood from Africa is resistant to water so is used world wide by the shipping trade, and it was lovely to find out just how much thought had gone into this installation, and this delighted my dad to learn about his Nigerian heritage.

We spent all day at the Eden project, there’s plenty more to see and do including an indoor science exhibition and an outdoor amphitheater, and even tea tasting sessions.

Arlo was exhausted by 4pm, we took the land train to the top and spent a long time browsing the gift shop and nursery before heading home. So many unusual items, ethically sourced, eco friendly and locally produced – I ended up buying some succulents and a fab bar of chocolate.

Thank you to the Eden project, we had a wonderful day and we will be back soon 🐝

The Fairy Tale Forest

We decided to conclude our May Day bank holiday mini break with a trip to Rays Farm, set in the Shropshire Countryside. With four children to amuse it’s sometimes difficult to satisfy all of the different age ranges, but here there really is something for everyone.

As we arrived we purchased tickets and animal food and headed to the farmyard to meet the animals. Arlo is now an expert when it comes to naming all of the animals and so he roused us all into a few verses of “Old Mac Donald” as we met rabbits, lambs, goats, chicks and ducks in the small animal shed.

We followed one little escapee goat across the courtyard to visit the llamas and donkey before heading to the open field to play with the goats. This is a truly unique experience, and the playful goats were happy to jump and skip around, and over us – this made our day!

We paused for a snack on the picnic benches before parking up the pushchairs and tying up our shoelaces to hit the forest trails. May is the perfect time to explore the beautiful English countryside and the work done along the trails at Rays Farm is inspired.

Along the entire route are wooden sculptures inspired by classic fairy tales, myths and legends. At the start of the route you can choose to go left or right at the big chair. There’s some giant boots you can try for size here too

We decided to take the woodland walk to the left first and came across Excalibur set in stone – alas none of us were strong enough to remove the sword and claim the English Throne – quite fittingly as we were here a news alert popped up to let us know that a new member of the Royal Family had been born.

We followed the path down alongside the brook, and were surrounded by a sea of the white flowers of wild garlic. All of the children were busy spotting wooden sculptures, and Logan the eldest at six years old pointed out an orienteering clip so we spent time looking for these along the route too.

The woodland walk is approximately 300yards and so if you have little ones with tired legs you can head back to the farm, however we marched on, and I’m so glad we did.

The pathway is a bit of a climb up and down, but there’s so much to see and so many rest stops that it’s a lovely route. Here we were delighted with the swathes of bluebells, and along the route were informative wildlife signs.

I won’t post too many spoilers with the sculptures, there’s plenty of nursery rhyme characters to meet along the way – including Humpty Dumpty.

There’s a fairy ring, a story telling witch and then three men in a boat looking over an assault course style play area.

The kids all had muddy knees, and the little ones were tired so without strollers they had piggy backs for the walk back, and then as we left the woods we stopped at the little crooked house for snacks, next to a field of goats at the far side of the farm.

We’d been exploring the woods for over three hours at this stage, and slowly ambled up the far side of the farm boundary to meet the pigs, Reindeer and the owls which bought us back to the courtyard.

We finished our day with some refreshments from the cafe and a little run around in the indoor and outdoor play areas, being followed by a mother hen with two chicks.

The farmyard is lovely, the animals are well cared for and very friendly but the stand out for us was the fairy tale forest. We will be back to explore again as the seasons change.

To read about our day out at nearby Arley Arboretum during our May mini break click Here

Have you got any suggestions for family days out in the Midlands? Have you been to Rays Farm? Which was your favourite sculpture? We’d love to hear from you

The loveliest Castle – Leeds Castle in Kent

We have been visiting Leeds Castle in Kent since Arlo was quite tiny. For the first year of Arlo’s life we lived in Maidstone before relocating and so I bought an annual pass for £25 (babies are free).I would pack up the car with a picnic and head out for a stroll around the grounds – whatever the weather. There’s always an abundance of things to look at whilst walking. The grounds are so beautiful and with local parks charging for parking then I felt the pass was excellent value for money.

14th January 2018
January

Throughout the grounds are various sculptures and beautiful things to discover. I made a point of stopping at this carved rest stop every time. During the school holidays they create little trails for children to follow along with an activity book and then exchange as they leave for a chocolate treat. Arlo was fascinated with the ducks/swans and from quite early on he would notice them and point – and one of the first animals he ever mentioned was duck – you can buy food at the entrance for £1 if you’d like a really close encounter, but be warned they are used to being fed and can gather around very quickly. You can also explore the interior of the castle – prams are to be left outside so I would pop Arlo in a sling for this and wander around indoors on a rainy day as there’s lots to learn about the local history – and some of it is not quite what you’d expect.

There’s a lovely restaurant about half way along the walking route, along with a Costa, and refreshment stores – and if you keep going through a beautiful kitchen garden there’s a brilliant play park, a cafe, the birds of prey display arena, a maze and a Battle of Britain presentation.

Arlo’s first ever experience playing in a park was at Leeds Castle – we had the place to ourselves one weekday morning.

Every time we visited there was more to discover. Our annual pass also gave us entry to special events happening at the castle, including the classic car show, medieval jousting event as well as the beautiful Christmas fayre – I’ll share our experiences at these events in another post.