Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 11:45

Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan has revealed the books, speeches and poems that have inspired his life and work.

Eden Co-founder Sir Tim was joined by two of his favourite actors, Anna Chancellor and Toby Jones, to record Radio 4’s With Great Pleasure in front of a live studio audience.

The half-hour programme was broadcast on Monday afternoon (May 15) and can be heard again at

It coincides with Heligan’s 25th year since rediscovery and includes poignant extracts from the book A Song for Will by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey, which features a series of exchanges between a worker at Heligan and a friend on the battlefront during the First World War.

The moving passages were read by storyteller Trounce Guy, the nephew of Corporal William Guy – the Will of the title.

Sir Tim said: “The thing that inspired us to do the restoration was the discovery of its associations with the First World War and the ordinary people who had made a garden like this great.”

Sir Tim, whose own books Eden and The Lost Gardens of Heligan are best-sellers, spoke of  a “weakness for football” since his grandfather took him to see the Dutch team Vitesse Arnhem as a child, and cited the book My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach as another inspiration.

Among the speeches chosen were extracts by US politicians Theodore Roosevelt about the spirit of risk-taking and Robert F Kennedy, whose words were a counterbalance to a world “where everybody knows the price of things.”

The programme also featured a quote on commitment by German author Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and thoughts on the sense of awe by author and philosopher Alain de Botton.

Another reading was from the novel The Serendipity Foundation by Sir Tim’s son Sam, about a mother and daughter team of kidnappers practicing what the book terms “terrorism with a social conscience.”

Sir Tim linked the excerpt from the novel to his ideas of growing communities with the Big Lunch, the Eden Project initiative that encourages people to become closer by having lunch with their neighbours.

He said of being chosen for the programme: “I feel as if I have won the Lottery because I get to do one of those dreamy things where you choose your favourite pieces of writing and you put them all together like a list and then you get some really rather cool people to read them out, so you look more intelligent than you probably are!”