Timeline

From clay pit to world-famous visitor attraction and educational charity – see how the Eden Project story has unfolded since 1995.

Select a year from the timeline. The relevant content will be shown below.

Selected:

  1. Early days , year: 1995–1999
  2. The Big Build , year: 2000
  3. We open our doors , year: 2001–2002
  4. Winter embraced , year: 2004
  5. Live 8 at Eden , year: 2005
  6. The Queen visits , year: 2006–2007
  7. 10 millionth visitor , year: 2008–2009
  8. The flood , year: 2010
  9. Tim Smit knighted , year: 2011–2012
  10. Accommodation , year: 2013–2014
  11. Focus on learning , year: 2014-15
  12. , year: Future plans

1995–1999 Early days

January 1995 How it all began

In 1995 this hole in the ground is a working china clay pit that is nearing the end of its economic life. And the Eden Project is just a twinkle in Tim Smit's eye. Having restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan, he's now looking for an epic setting to showcase the world's most important plants and realises he is going to need a very, very large space…

October 1996 Early sketches of Eden vision

The very first designs of the Eden Project Biomes are drawn on a napkin over a drink in a pub. Architect firm Grimshaw gets behind the project and takes its concept of Waterloo International as a starting point. Over time the design evolves into giant bubbles, because bubbles can settle on any shaped surface, even irregular clay pits.

October 1998 World record set at Eden

It rains everyday during the first few months of construction, sending 43 million litres of water into the pit. We devise a special drainage system for the pit, which sits 15 metres below the water table. The 230 miles of scaffolding used to build the Biomes earn Eden an entry into the Guinness Book of Records. 

2000 The Big Build

March 2000 The Project is at last fully funded

Eden celebrates as years of tireless fundraising by a small team have finally paid off. Vital grants, loans and sponsorship arrangements mean we now have the 50% match funding needed to secure the generous Millennium Commission grant promised back in 1997. Here, Finance Director Gay Coley, who went on to become Eden's MD, signs contracts with NatWest's Dennis Spencer.

May 2000 Visitors come to the Big Build

As one of the UK's Landmark Millennium Projects, Eden invites the public to take a glimpse behind the scenes. Wearing hard hats and high-vis jackets, visitors get to see the build in progress. The Biomes start to take shape as the 'sky monkeys', a team of abseilers, install the giant hexagonal pillows.

August 2000 Making our own soil

With help from Reading University we make over 83,000 tonnes of soil, helping to show that environmental regeneration is possible. The mineral component came from local mine wastes. In the Biomes, composted bark provided the organic matter component because it needed to be long lived. Outdoors, we went for composted domestic green wastes.

September 2000 First plants arrive

The first of many trees are planted in a sparse-looking Rainforest Biome. Twice as high as the Tower of London, this space will eventually become home to over 1,000 different rainforest plant species. Many plants are grown from seed in our nursery; others come from botanic gardens, research stations and supporters.

2001–2002 We open our doors

March 2001 Eden opens its doors

The doors of the Eden Project open officially for the first time on 17 March 2001. The Biomes are shrouded in Cornish mist but, as dawn breaks, the air clears and thousands of visitors and staff look out onto what the Times calls the 'eighth wonder of the world'. By June, over a million people have visited.

August 2002 Eden Sessions launches

Pulp stars at the first of Eden's famed one-day music festivals. Since the first show, the Eden Sessions have welcomed the likes of Oasis, Amy Winehouse, Paolo Nutini and Muse.

The Daily Telegraph describes the Sessions as 'Magical… half Glastonbury, half Glyndebourne'.

2004 Winter embraced

January 2004 Global school gardening network launches

Eden kicks off an international programme helping schoolchildren create gardens where they can explore food, environment and citizenship. Within seven years, thousands of children across four continents had joined in. 

November 2004 Eden embraces winter

Cornwall's first undercover ice rink is opened at Eden, providing a winter experience for visitors, year-round employment for staff and business for local suppliers. Our annual winter festival is established as a season to give thanks and support each other in the depths of winter. Around 100,000 people now come to skate each year.

2005 Live 8 at Eden

April 2005 World's smelliest flower blossoms

The world's biggest, smelliest flower unfurls its deep red petals in our Rainforest Biome, thanks to careful pollination by our gardeners. Armed with a pollen-covered paintbrush tied to a long stick, they stand in for the insects that would normally pollinate the rare Titan arum in its native Indonesia.

June 2005 Giant robot installed

A huge robotic sculpture made of scrap electrical and electronic equipment arrives at Eden. Weighing 3.3 tonnes and standing seven meters tall, the WEEE Man sculpture shows the average amount of electronic products everyone throws away in a lifetime.

July 2005 Eden hosts Live 8 event

Angelina Jolie addresses a crowd of 30,000 as part of Eden's global Live 8 event, before taking an unexpected stroll around the rainforest. Also gracing the stage for Africa Calling are Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour and WOMAD co-founder Peter Gabriel with Nelson Mandela broadcasting live from a big screen.

September 2005 Cutting-edge education centre opens

Construction finishes on the Core, our sustainable education centre. The copper roof is sourced from a mine with one of the highest environmental and social standards in the world, through our partnership with mining industry giant Rio Tinto. 

2006–2007 The Queen visits

June 2006 The Queen visits Eden

The Queen visits Eden to open the Core. The sun shines, the flags wave and Her Majesty gives us a seal of approval: 'I am confident that the Eden Project will continue to encourage a better understanding of the planet on which we live, to offer a vision of hope for the future, and to inspire us all to work to make this world a better place for everyone.'

April 2007 World's first eco-motor show

Visitors get close up to the latest, green cars at Eden as we host the first Sexy Green Car Show.

The 'sexy' motors – some of which haven't yet hit the showrooms – feature a range of innovative materials, fuels and designs including recycled carbon fibre bodies, plant-based fuels and electric chargers.

June 2007 Huge Seed sculpture arrives

Hundreds of schoolchildren and musicians take part in celebrations as the 167-tonne Seed sculpture is lowered into the Core. Inspired by botanical forms, Peter Randall Page's masterpiece was meticulously carved out of a solid block of Cornish granite blasted from a nearby quarry on Bodmin Moor.

2008–2009 10 millionth visitor

May 2009 Chelsea Flower Show success

A garden created by hundreds of homeless people and prison inmates, part of a collaboration with Eden, wins silver at the Chelsea Flower Show. A second stunning display scoops another silver the following year. It's an example of the work we do to boost the skills and confidence of socially excluded people through activities like horticulture and football.

July 2009 The Big Lunch launches

In streets, parks and gardens across the UK, nearly a million people sit down together and take part in the first ever Big Lunch. Set up by the Eden Project as a way to strengthen communities, the nationwide neighbourhood get-together is now an annual tradition.

September 2009 Eden opens as wedding venue

Eden opens its doors as a wedding venue, giving couples the chance to wed amid the lush foliage of the rainforest or in the fragrant surroundings of the Med. Unusual ideas for the big day include getting married in the Malaysian Hut inside the Rainforest Biome and having photos taken by the waterfall.

July 2010 10 millionth visitor

Tim Smit takes Eden's 10 millionth visitors by surprise at the ticketing hall. Jonathan and Sarah Shaw, a couple from Oxfordshire, are presented with lifetime memberships to Eden and a complimentary meal for two. We only expected 750,000 visitors a year, but by our 10th birthday we had welcomed almost 13 million since fully opening.

2010 The flood

August 2010 David Attenborough films in the Biome

Sir David Attenborough film wildlife documentary Flying Monsters 3D inside our Rainforest Biome. The film mixes computer-generated images of prehistoric flying vertebrates with real-life footage of modern flying lizards.

August 2010 Bear Grylls abseils from Rainforest Lookout

Adventurer Bear Grylls tests out Eden's latest thrill. The new aerial platform suspended from the top of the Biome is higher than the Tower of London. Visitors with a head for heights get a unique bird's eye view of the biggest greenhouse in the world and can look down on the lush tropical canopy.

November 2010 Eden affected by flood

Like many others in the St Austell area, the Eden team wakes up to severe flooding following heavy rain. Up to one foot deep in some places, the water causes damage to buildings, plant displays and the ice rink - and it's all hands on deck to clean up.

2011–2012 Tim Smit knighted

January 2011 Tim Smit is knighted

Tim Smit receives news that he is to be appointed an honorary Knight in recognition of his services to public engagement with science. The Dutch-born Co-founder and CEO of Eden says: 'In the true spirit of "going Dutch" I would like to share the honour with all the fabulous friends and colleagues who have helped make the adventures of the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project a reality.'

August 2011 Biomes become big top

A specially created show of aerial acrobatics, live music, dance and drama is commissioned to mark Eden's 10th anniversary celebrations. Over the summer, the award-winning performers, NoFit State Circus, performed the 'Labyrinth' show right across the Eden site.

March 2012 First World Pasty Champion crowned

In celebration of the quintessential Cornish snack, we launch the World Pasty Championships to recognise the pro and amateur pasty bakers from around the county, and the whole world.

May 2012 Olympic Flame visits Eden

Safely strapped to our helium balloon, TV personality Ben Fogle flies the Olympic Flame high above the canopy of our rainforest at the start of its 70-day journey across the UK in the lead-up to the London Games.

2013–2014 Accommodation

May 2013 First community camp takes place

More than 50 community champions from across the UK join us for an inspirational residential camp at Eden, to get practical ideas on how to engage people where they live. It's the first in a series of events under our Big Lunch Extras programme, which builds on the success of The Big Lunch.

June 2013 Treetop walkway opens

The first phase of the Rainforest Canopy Walkway in our Rainforest Biome opens with the aim of educate visitors about the importance of rainforests while offering breathtaking views across the Biome.

October 2014 On-site accommodation opens

The YHA opens its Eden Project hostel in association with Snoozebox. Made from shipping containers, it accommodates up to 228 guests in 58 modern en-suite bedrooms.

2014-15 Focus on learning

September 2014 Apprenticeships at Eden

Growing on the past success of our horticulture apprenticeships, we launched our biggest ever such programme in September 2014. Working with Cornwall College we opened the programme up to welcome apprentices into a range of teams including hospitality, media, creative design and horticulture. 

October 2014 Mini-bond for new Learning Village launched

Eden launches a mini-bond to raise funds to transform two farmhouses on our northern boundary into a new Learning Village for teaching quality horticulture, cookery and food production. The bond reached its limit of £1.5 million within only 20 hours.

October 2014 Green Build Hub

Work began on the Green Build Hub, a ‘living laboratory’ for testing eco-building products. Run by the Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust and situated on the Eden site, it is designed to provide a training centre and a future base for degree courses, and a public showcase of innovative renewable energy and green building products.

September 2015 The Eden degree launches

We launched these unique courses run by Cornwall College and accredited by Plymouth University to bring a hands-on, practical approach to learning in an inspiring and unforgettable environment. Courses include horticulture and plant science, garden and lanscape design and storytelling and interpretation. 

Future plans

Future plan Rainforest Canopy Walkway: new phases

We plan to build further phases of this stunning walkway. Set amid the treetops of the biggest rainforest in captivity, this practical laboratory and HQ for science and conservation reinvigorates and refreshes the importance of the rainforest and our understanding of dependence on nature.

Future plan Geothermal Energy Project

We have planning permission to build the UK's first geothermal energy plant generating both heat and electricity, in partnership with EGS Energy. When completed, it will take renewable energy from deep inside the Cornish granite to heat our Biomes and feed electricity into the national grid.

Future plan Redwood forest

Eden is to be home to Europe's only Redwood forest. The first sapling, planted in March 2015, will be part of a 100-tree forest, forming a living library of the world's tallest and rarest trees. The Champion Coast Redwood saplings have been created from living plants in the west coast of the USA that are up to 4,000 years old.

Future plan New hotel planned

We have planning permission to build a hotel on our outer estate, which is energy-efficient, accessible, and designed to blend into the countryside. The hotel will support our educational aspirations, our conference facilities, weddings, and the annual Eden Sessions concerts – as well as creating new jobs.

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