Our last day in Cornwall was spent back up near St Austell at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. If you find yourself having to choose between the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens as the destination for a day trip, I would definitely recommend choosing the latter.
The gardens are on the site of the Tremaine family's estate and over the course of the 20th Century were left to rack and ruin. The valley was "rediscovered" in the 1990s and the last twenty years have seen tremendous efforts made in restoring the grounds. They're a fantastic site and sight.
Alongside the Woodland Walk is the Giant...
...and a little further along the path, the Mud Maid.
(That's her on the right - I was only a little grubby).
At the bottom of the valley is the Jungle - full of bamboo, giant redwood, giant rhubarb and tree ferns. It all feels very prehistoric.
After a top lunch - they bake their own bread and grow a lot of the food served in the restaurant - we headed up to the Northern Gardens. I thought this was going to be fairly boring - vegetable gardens and flower gardens, but it is stunning.
There's a suggested walk taking you past the key points of interest and the gardeners don't seem to mind visitors asking (daft, in our case) questions about the plants and the restoration.
(I once read a horror novel about scarecrows - what possessed me to take a picture of one?)
There is information posted all over the Gardens about the restoration and about the different aspects of work (e.g. charcoal burning as a sustainable part of forestry management) and I found this much more informative than the Eden Project approach. Why? Well, the Eden Project is very funky with lots of brightly painted displays but these seem to ask more questions than actually getting around to answering anything.
Yes, it could be argued that sustainablity and the best approaches to being environmentally-friendly are up for debate. It just seemed to me that the Heligan method was more honest - "here's what we think, though we might be wrong". Yes, the information provided at Heligan was about the work done there, rather than trying to answer worldwide questions, but I felt there were gaps in the presentation at the Eden Project. They also grow their own food on site, and they use rainwater for the toilets, but then there is the tractor powered land train (milk float alternative?) and the stonkingly huge lump of granite shipped there and shaped by power tools into a seed - the Core. Doesn't this contradict what the Eden Project is allegedly trying to do? Perhaps I missed the point.