Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 14:39

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall put in a marker today (Tuesday, July 12, 2011) for a planned Rainforest Walkway which will enable people to explore the treetops high up in the Eden Project jungle.

During a two-hour visit to celebrate the tenth anniversary year of Eden, the Duke and Duchess drove a bamboo stake into the ground to symbolise the start of the walkway.

It carries the inscription “Eden Project Rainforest Walkway - The journey begins. The future of the Rainforest is our future too. Marked by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.”

Eden is aiming to raise £2.5 million to create Rainforest Experience, which will include the walkway and a learning centre within the world’s biggest plant conservatory. More than £1 million has already been raised.

The visit by the Duke and Duchess was hosted by Eden Chief Executive Tim Smit and Managing Director Gaynor Coley.

On their journey through the Biomes they were joined by Rainforest expert and Eden Trustee Sir Ghillean Prance and Eden’s Chair of Horticulture Don Murray, who explained the walkway plans.

The royal visitors also saw a special flight of Eden’s helium-filled Rainforest Balloon. Its ascent to near the top of the 50-metre Biome enabled them to see how high the walkway will go. The balloon is similar to those used by scientists to explore the tropical rainforest and enables Eden gardeners to explore and prune at height.

Between the two covered Biomes, the Duke and Duchess stopped at the Link Shop where they met Andrew Holden, Eden’s Head Buyer, who showed them some examples of the products Eden sells and talked about its ethical sourcing policy.

The Duke and Duchess were able to view from above the recently-installed Eden Bakery and heard how the damage caused by the major flood of November 17, 2010, prompted the project to radically re-invent the way food is presented and sold to the one million-plus visitors who come each year. Bakery Manager Phil Harrison presented the royal guests with some freshly baked bread.

In the Mediterranean Biome they had a taste of Eden’s 10th anniversary summer show Labyrinth, when Foucauld Falguerolles and Shaena Brandel, performers from the acclaimed NoFit State Circus, were suspended from the roof structure to create the figure 10 to mark Eden’s first decade.

Their Royal Highnesses were visiting as part of a two-day tour of Cornwall and Devon.

They were greeted at Eden by the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall Lady Mary Holborow and Mr Geoffrey Holborow; the Vice Lord Lieutenant Mr Michael Galsworthy and Mrs Sarah Galsworthy; The High Sheriff of Cornwall Colonel Edward Bolitho and Mrs Alexandra Bolitho; The Chairman of Cornwall Council Mrs Pat Harvey; The Chairperson of St Blaise Town Council Councillor Mrs June Anderson; St Blaise Town Clerk Ms Gaynor Mamo; and Eden’s Chairman of Trustees Mr Anthony Salz and Mrs Sally Saltz.

The last leg of the royal visit was to the Core education centre, where the Duke and Duchess were hosted by Eden’s Director of Interpretation, Dr Jo Elworthy, and Richard Good, Pollinator. Among the exhibits they viewed was Seed, the 70-tonne granite sculpture by the artist Peter Randall-Page.

After the visit, Gaynor Coley said: “Walking through the Rainforest Biome and generally throughout the visit, the Duke and Duchess engaged with the issues we are concerned with. They loved the spirit of Eden. Our team were bowled over by them. The visit was a lovely way to mark the 10th anniversary of the project.”

Tim Smit said: “We were honoured that the Duke and Duchess could join us to mark the anniversary of Eden. We have always been shoulder to shoulder with the Duke and his Rainforest Trust and the initiatives to save the world’s rainforests.

“Today has been a great day for sharing our commitment to the cause and feeling optimistic in the face of so much public support. It didn’t feel like a stuffy visit of VIPs. It felt like welcoming respected friends.”