Phase one completed

Phase one of the Walkway, completed in 2013, introduces visitors to those who live and work in the forest: from indigenous and tribal peoples to canopy scientists. It explores biodiversity, form and function and demonstrates the importance of the rainforest as a habitat and as a resource provider (for food, fuels, medicines, materials) linking to specific in-depth exhibits on these subjects on the forest floor, notably: 

  • R.01    Tropical islands 
  • R.02    Southeast Asia 
  • R.03    West Africa
  • (R.04  Rainforest Canopy Walkway. Phase 1)
  • R.05    Tropical South America 
  • R.06    Welcome to crops and cultivation 
  • R.07    Growing with the forest 
  • R.08    Regrowing the forest 
  • R.09    Rubber 
  • R.10    Cocoa and chocolate 
  • R.11    Stories from the rainforest 
  • R.12    Palms              
  • R.13    Tropical fruits – Bananas and friends 
  • R.14    Sugar
  • R.15    Rice 
  • R.16    Tropical fruits – Baobab and friends 
  • R.17    Bamboo 
  • R.18    Coffee
  • R.19    Nuts and spices 
  • R.20    Secrets of the rainforest

From paths set in the sheer cliff face, the Walkway stretches out through the steamy canopy, immersing visitors in the majesty, mystery and wonder of the forest. The Walkway teaches visitors not only about the importance of rainforests but also about what they can do to help save them.

You can find out more details at the bottom of this page. 

Rainforest is the glue that holds the climate of our planet together. Lose the forest and it will have devastating consequences for all life on earth.

Professor Sir Ghillean Prance

Plans for phase two

We are currently fundraising to bring you the next phase of the Walkway. The ‘Weather Maker’ will make weather and explore climate. When completed you will be able to: 

  • journey across wobbly rope bridges
  • get behind the waterfall
  • walk through mist and clouds
  • shelter from tropical rainstorms
  • measure weather.

Support our Rainforest Canopy Walkway

The Rainforest Canopy Walkway will be an inspirational and transformative experience. A generation that does not understand or value the natural world will not strive to protect it, but Eden is uniquely placed to demonstrate the vital role rainforests play in all our lives and to inspire action.

We're already half way to our target but need your support to reach our goal. Donate now and help us achieve this.

How to support the project

Accessibility

Eden is working with the Sensory Trust to make the experience great for visitors of all ages and abilities. The Walkway will be accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs. 

Supporters and team

The first phase of the Walkway has been made possible thanks to the generous support of a number of educational and scientific foundations and individuals, including the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, and donors to the Eddie George Memorial Appeal, as well as donations from Eden visitors and Eden Friends. Thank you!

The Walkway design and project team comprising Blue Forest in collaboration with Jerry Tate Architects, SKM, Buro Happold, Ward Williams Associates and EaseManage has worked hand in hand with the Eden Project team to bring the project to life. 

12 years after we opened, our forest has grown and is reaching for the sky. At last, we have been able to start to build the walkway and, with you all, take to the trees.

Dr Jo Elworthy, Eden’s Director of Interpretation

What the Canopy Walkway includes:

Phase one: Baka Camp

At the camp, visitors can explore the way of life of the Baka indigenous people who live in the West African rainforests of Cameroon, the Congo basin and Gabon. They can see the shelters they build and hear the music they make using plants found in their sacred forests. There is also information about the food they've hunted and gathered for thousands of years. The exhibit helps to convey how the Baka people's way of life, superb listening skills, deep forest knowledge and the forest itself are now under threat.

Background

For the Baka people, the forest is mother, father and guardian. The Baka have hunted and gathered, sung and played their way through life for thousands of years. The forest provides their medicines, shelter, food, work and play.

Features of our exhibit

Shelter - the Mongolu

This is a temporary shelter used built by Baka women for us whilst hunting and gathering. This is an example of true low-impact living in keeping with the Baka way of life. They are built by covering flexible young branches with tough, weather-proof Ngongo leaves. The Baka also use Ngongo leaves as drinking cups, plates, baskets, mats, fans and jewellery.

Food – the Hunter-Gatherers

The Baka eat berries, wild yams, fruit, nuts, fish, termites and honey. The men usually do the hunting. This is getting harder as access to parts of the forest is limited, bush meat hunting is illegal in some areas, and large tracts are sold to logging and mining companies or exploited illegally. The women build dams to catch small fish, shrimps and crabs. They also put pulped Milletia vine (‘mongombo’) in the rivers to make fish float to the surface.
They can spend days seeking out a bee’s nest. Once one has been found someone goes up (up to 120 feet up trees), smokes the bees and grabs the honey. The tree is climbed with the help of a liana vine. Women have been known to ask prospective partners to get them honey to check out their skills!

Examples of Baka music

  • Angbindi (Earth Bow): This single-stringed instrument uses the earth itself as a sound-box. Its construction is similar to the Baka people’s snares and is often made when on hunting trips.
  • Yelli: Sung by the Baka women the night before a hunt to enchant the animals of the forest, ensuring success by the men the next day.
  • Limbindi: This musical bow is only played by the women. A thin vine is used as the string and a strong pliable branch as the bow.

Phase one: Canopy Camp

Visitors can explore the IKOS pod - an aerial laboratory and campsite where canopy scientists explore life at a different level - and learn how rainforests keep them alive wherever they live on Earth. Scientists live in and work from this aerial laboratory in the trees for around two weeks at a time.

Canopy Scientists work in the final frontier where trees meet the sky. They explore biodiversity as the variety of life in the canopy is vast. The scientists investigate interactions between the canopy community (trees, climbers, stranglers, tree-dwelling epiphytes, mosses, lichens, mammals, birds, insects, plankton, fungi and bacteria) and how they exchange gases, water and nutrients between trees and sky. They also explore the role of rainforests in creating the world’s climate.

Features of the exhibit: How rainforests keep us alive wherever we live

  • Store cupboard: rainforests keep us fed, clothed and healthy. Over half the world’s plant and animal species are found in rainforests. 99% of them have still to be studied by science. Many products we use originated in the rainforest: chocolate, spices, rubber wellies, life-saving medicines, genes from wild relatives that increase crop yields and increase resistance to pests. Working together and with nature we can leave the world better than we found it.
  • Leaders in design and innovation: There is much we can learn about the design of our own environments. In rainforests, we find:
    • Strong foundations: buttress-rooted trees to hold up the giants.
    • Gutters and plumbing: drip tip leaves to shed water and central pools to store it.
    • Tough materials: spiders with mega-strong web fibres.
    • Sun-tracking leaves and insect-attracting flowers.
  • Weather machine: rainforests keep us cool and watered by:
    • absorbing CO2 and storing carbon in the woody tree trunks (12–20% of carbon emissions come from deforestation)
    • sweating and make huge white, light-reflecting clouds which help cool the Earth (it’s 5°C cooler in the Amazon than outside it)
    • making rain which waters crops thousands of miles away. The Amazon evaporates some 8 trillion tonnes a year (4,000 times the water needs of the US).
    • releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in tree leaves that help clouds form
    • acting like huge sponges holding on to water preventing flooding and soil erosion.

Phase one: The Nest Platform

The Biodiversity Chandelier explores how nature’s designs are ‘fit for function’:

  • Function? Plants eat, drink, reproduce and protect themselves – without moving.
  • Fit? Plants have an array of forms, shapes and colours to do this – grand designs indeed!
  • Look up: Nature’s ‘fit for function’ designs are portrayed in the Biodiversity Chandelier.
  • Look around: Nature’s ‘fit for function’ designs can be seen in all plants – here and everywhere.

Energy

Through photosynthesis: plants turn sunlight into a battery of energy (carbohydrate/sugar) using CO2 and H2O as raw ingredients. The waste product is oxygen (O2). Respiration: animals and plants breathe in O2 to ‘break down’ the sugar to get energy.

Plant design features include:

  • Solar panels: leaves are flat and green to absorb light and capture energy
  • Gas exchange: tiny holes (stomata) let CO2 and O2 in and out
  • Plumbing: tubes in stems (xylem) and veins in leaves carry water
  • Double whammy: plant leaves on the forest floor have purple backs that reflect the light back up (like foil behind radiators)
  • Leaves arrange themselves on the stem to get the most light
  • Climbers scramble and race up to the sun

Drink

Plants use the power of the sun to drink with no mouth and no muscles.

  • Massive forest trees can pull up 5 tonnes of water a day. This water makes huge, white clouds
  • The Amazon evaporates about 8 trillion tonnes of water a year (x4000 the water needs of the whole United States)

Transpiration

  • Sun evaporates water from leaves through tiny holes (stomata)
  • Water is pulled up through plant via tiny tubes (xylem)
  • Water is pulled into roots

Shape

  • Leaf tips (drip tips) shed excess rain
  • Veins get water in
  • Waxy leaf surface, folds and gutters shed excess water
  • Broad, shallow roots

Skyscrapers

  • Some bromeliads grow on other plants.
  • They are funnel-shaped, collecting water in central pools
  • Cells near the leaf tip repel water, cells near the leaf base attract water
  • Frogs live in these high-rise swimming pools
  • Orchids have aerial absorbent dangling roots, moss is very absorbent too

Eat

Plants need minerals to eat which (usually) come up with water from the soil. When you burn a log, the fire is the sun, the water and carbon dioxide are given off as gases, and all that is left is a small pile of ash, which is made up of minerals. Leaves rot quickly on the forest floor, releasing their minerals to be reabsorbed by roots. Animals eat fruits whose seeds are passed out the back in a packet of fertilizer (manure).

If the plants can’t get enough minerals out of the soil some become carnivores. The pitchers, sundews and fly paper catch and eat insects.

Some plants become ‘ant hostels’. The ants pay their rent in poo (mineral fertilizer) and also protect the plant from attackers.

Sex

Plants can’t move, so how do they reproduce? Flowers use colour, scent and sweet nectar to attract pollinators to take their pollen from one flower to another. Some flowers have ‘runway’ markings to direct the bees into the centre. Some can be seen by all, others are visible under UV – which only the bees can see. Some orchids produce bee-perfume to attract bees.

  • Lantana: Pink buds open to attractive ‘come and get me’ yellow flowers. After pollination they turn pink. Yellows and pinks - loved by butterflies.
  • Torch ginger: Beautiful colours attract spiderhunter birds.
  • African tulip tree: these flowers have no scent, just colour (and tasty nectar) to attract the birds.
  • The Victoria water lily and beetle affair: The lily lures beetles in with gorgeous scent and titillates it with tasty treats. But it’s an all-night affair. The flower closes, the beetle wriggles. The next day, the beetle – now covered in pollen is released, and goes to the next flower for another all-night (pollinating) party.

Protection

Plants can’t move, so how do they protect themselves? Some use camouflage such as white stripes and coloured markings make leaves look tatty, less tasty and less filling. Young leaves are sometimes brown which is either though to make them look less appetising or maybe act as a sunscreen to protect delicate young leaves.

Plants have also evolved spikes, prickles, spines, unseen poisons, and tough, waxy leaves for protection. Some harbour resident armies: ants that live in, and protect, their plant homes. Some have big leaves that are feather-like or have big holes in them (so they can take the wind rather than break in it).

Interdependency – it’s better together

Plants, animals and microbes live in an interdependent web - all cogs playing a vital role in the engine of life. Flowers and pollinators have evolved together, the perfect partners:

  • Bats go batty for bananas
  • Hummingbirds have a passion for passion flowers
  • Darwin discovered a Madagascan orchid with a very long throat. ‘There must be a moth with a tongue over a foot long that pollinates that,’ said he. ‘Hah,’ they said. The moth was discovered several years after his death.

The Brazil nut tree’s ‘ménage à quatre’:

  • The nut: imagine a very hard grapefruit-shape with hard-shelled segments inside. That’s how Brazil nuts are.
  • The agouti: the only animal whose teeth are tough enough to crack that nut. It eats some and buries others for later (which it forgets and so they grow into trees).
  • The bee: Brazil nut flowers have stiff, strong petals that curve over the inside of the flower. The female orchid bee (Euglossa) is one of the few insects strong enough to lift the petal and has a tongue long enough to reach the nectar. She pollinates the flower to make the nut.
  • And her lover: the male orchid bee uses the scent of the Coryanthes vasquezii orchid like aftershave to attract the females to mate.

Phase two: Walkways

  • Leaving the Baka Camp and the Canopy Camp, the walkway path leads through the Rainforest Biome, at one point even going behind Eden’s waterfall to a secret, hidden cave. Bridges come out from this path at canopy height to a series of learning spaces and exciting experiences.
  • Phase two: the walkways will provide a highly experiential journey: a feeling of walking though old ruins in the forest, alcoves of artefacts and artistic installations, telescopes and binoculars trained out and down onto specific plants and parts of the Biome. 

Phase two: Weather Maker

  • A learning space filled with dials, thermometers, floating weather balloons, hygrometers, and all fashion of strange but fully operational weather-monitoring equipment, the Weather Station will contain information explaining how rainforests control the earth’s climate. 
  • Our school visitors will be able to use authentic equipment to produce genuine measurements of conditions in the Biome and we aim to link from here to canopy scientists and meteorologists working in the field. 

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