Outer Estate trail: discover hidden corners of Eden
Follow this fascinating trail through our Outer Estate to discover wildflower meadows, woodlands, sculpture and views of Cornwall’s unique china clay mining landscape.
Why not bring this trail to life with a free audio story walk, created by Cornwall’s international theatre company, Kneehigh?
On the map you’ll see the main visitor destination where the Biomes and Stage are. This is about 15 hectares(ha)/37 acres. Beyond that we have about 50 ha (124 acres) of outer estate. This contains fields, woods, wildflower meadows, conservation sites, two old farms, ancient trackways and the Clay Trails.
- The trail starts and finishes in Pineapple Car Park just inside the East Gate entrance
- Stout shoes are recommended as some of the paths are a bit uneven
- The route is not fully accessible
- There are a couple of fairly steep sections (but nothing like as steep as the Cornish coast path!)
- The route is dog-friendly
- Short route: About 30 minutes (Points 1-6, 15, 16) – marked in red on the map
- Long route: About 1 hour 20 minutes (Points 1-16) – marked in blue on the map
- Please adhere to social distancing – still two metres – you know what to do.
- There are no gates to open or stiles to cross on route
- Some parts of the trail are on public footpaths and bridleways so keep an eye and ear out for a very occasional walker or horse rider coming the other way
What you'll see along the way
On each part of the journey there will be something to look out for.
- Park in Pineapple Car Park, just inside the East Entrance gate. (Look for the signs to Pineapple Car Park; and don't follow the giant pineapple sculpture, as this is a different car park!) Two tall wooden pillars mark the entrance to Wild Chile and the start of the trail.
- Walk up the track through Wild Chile. This woodland contains a collection of trees and shrubs from the Valdivian rainforests of central Chile, the only temperate rainforests in South America. You may spot plants that you grow in your gardens such as fuchsia and lobelia. Central Chile’s landscape is under threat from logging, agriculture and plantations of non-native pine and eucalyptus. This ‘safe site’ is a conservation forest that cares for the plants from there.
- At the top of the Wild Chile track, take a sharp right and walk along the lower side of the wildflower field. Looking to your right you’ll get a great close up view of our monkey puzzle trees, which we were given as part of a conservation collection from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
The trees got their name in the mid-nineteenth century when one was ceremoniously being planted at Pencarrow, the Cornish Estate (12 miles up the road). A guest touched the tree’s branch – ouch – then reputedly said: ‘Climbing it would be a puzzler for a monkey.’ Luckily, monkeys never had to work it out as there are no monkeys in Chile or Pencarrow!
In Chile, the tree is called the Pehuén and is highly revered by the Pehuenche people, who traditionally ate its tasty seeds.
Just after the monkey puzzles look out for little wooden platforms. This ‘Apidea’, will soon become a breeding site for the native dark honey bee also known as the Cornish Black bee. Eden is a reserve that helps conserve these important local bees.
- As the path around the field bears left, you will pass our baby bamboo nursery. This is the start of a new conservation collection to safeguard these plants. Bamboos are one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, often called ‘Green Gold’ as they have so many uses: from floors to roofs and toys to tools. The bamboos in our Rainforest Biome are massive – well worth a look. Fingers crossed that these baby ones will grow well outdoors.
How many different clumps of baby bamboos can you see from the path?
- At the top of the field is a massive sculpture called the Great Hive Mind. Made from old scaffolding poles it was built by CAUKIN as part of an HLF project to conserve the native dark honey bee. As we write this trail there’re no bees here but as soon as our beekeeper can get here he will be putting the bees back in their observation hive.
The Giant Hive Mind is surrounded by wildflower fields which we will be managing again when we are back: harvesting seed, removing weeds, re-sowing patches. Eden is home to the National Wildflower Centre.
At the top of the field there’s great views out over St Austell Bay. On a clear day spot the red and white-striped Day Mark at the top of the Gribben headland. It's surprising how many places you can see it from when walking or cycling around the St Austell area.
Opposite the Great Hive Mind a sign shows the wildflowers that we planted here last year. Nature has done its own thing while we have been gone. Can you spot any of the wildflowers shown on the sign growing in the field?
- Continue following the path keeping the Great Hive Mind behind you on the right until you reach the gate. This joins the North Road. Look out for cars, as this is the main entrance to the Eden Project. When clear, cross the zebra crossing to the footpath on the other side of the road.
To do the short route turn left and head down the hill past the YHA and across the second zebra crossing towards the Hangloose Tower. Pick up trail below at point 15.
- To continue with the long route turn right and follow the footpath on the left hand side of the road up the gentle hill.
- On the left is another of our wildflower fields (beyond a sign indicating the Melon parking zone). Carry on up the hill towards the little wind turbine. Take a look at the Cornish hedge on your left. Farm fields in Cornwall often use Cornish hedges as boundaries. These ‘hedges’ are made of dry-stone walls with a hedge on top (so take care when driving down a narrow Cornish lane!). Here you will find our contemporary take on the traditional Cornish hedge. Ours is oversized. We used massive granite boulders to build it.
The field is called Cow Pat – presumably because the farmer who once owned it used to keep his cows here. What colour are the wildflowers in here now? If you had to name this field now what would you call it?
- Walk to the left of the cob toilets. These facilities were built by Abey Smallcombe, a collaboration between two artists, when Eden first opened 20 years ago. They are due for a refurb – on our list now we have returned! Cob is a traditional building material used worldwide. It is made of subsoil mixed with straw and water (lots of squishing and stamping involved). It’s built up in layers and can be made into some wonderful curved structures. Cob buildings are traditionally made between ‘the swallows arriving and the swallows flying’ to make sure there are good working conditions.
See if you can see any swallows this summer. These small birds visit our shores between March and October having spent the winter in South Africa. They have black backs, pale undersides, red throats and long forked tails and you will most likely spot them ‘on the wing’ as they swoop along catching insects.
- Just past the cob toilets turn sharp left along the footpath that is signposted to Bugle. Please note. This is a public bridleway so keep an eye and ear out for anyone coming the other way. This path takes you past Cherry car park on your left. Keep straight on following the sign to Trethurgy. Go uphill past woods on your left and farm fields on your right.
It’s well worth the climb. You’ll get great views of this ancient worked landscape from the top. This whole area is steeped in history having been farmed and mined for centuries. china clay mining took over from tin and copper in the 19th century. The Eden Project main visitor destination is in an old china clay pit which had been exhausted of its china clay after being mined for 180 years.
China clay, a fine rock powder, is a rare type of decomposed granite. In the 19th century the deposits around St Austell were the largest found in the world. The clay was used to make porcelain. It was also an ingredient in toothpaste and some fine papers. For every tonne of china clay there were five tonnes of waste, which is where the tips came from.
Keep following the footpath down the other side of the hill until you come to a more open area and a junction.
Can you see the Sky Tip at the top of the hill on the far right? This and the other peaks in the area are nicknamed the Cornish Alps. The Sky Tip is a local landmark and can be seen from many places, even from the fishing boats out in the bay. There are many tips in Cornwall, the older they get the more plants they grow. Today some look like wooded hills. See how many you can spot around the area now you know what they are.
- At the open area and junction at the bottom of the hill turn left onto the Clay Trail. There are several of these Clay Trails in this part of Cornwall, all worth exploring. Head south following the trail for quite a way through changing woodland until it opens out into a sloping field on the right, once again with great views across St Austell Bay. As you approach the end of the field, the path takes a sharp right bend that leads to the field exit. The sign on the gatepost carries the number two and links to the National Cycle Network.
Look out for large granite slabs with arrows carved into them. These mark out the clay trails in Cornwall.
- After going through the gateway turn left onto the next bridleway past Vounder Farm and Barn. This very old track, that passes though ancient farmland, has been walked for hundreds of years. In the field on your right there is a garden, polytunnel and roundhouse used by our school and community groups. Further on, also on your right, you will see a drive to an old white farmhouse and farm buildings. This is Vounder Farm and Vounder Barn where Eden does staff training, and horticultural therapy with community groups. There has been a farm on this site since the 1400s. Stay on the main pathway. Just after Vounder you will pass an ancient sunken lane on your right. Stay straight ahead on the main path.
Near the start of this section see if you can spot a massive holly tree on the left. Clue: it’s just before a steep grassy steep track to the left and the open gate ahead. After greeting the tree, head for the open gate on the main path.
- The path leads into another farmyard containing a range of old farm buildings. This is Restineas Farm which is being restored with the aim of becoming a Learning Centre. Continue along the green lane.
Can you see five of the sides as you approach the unusual octagonal farm building? How many sides does the whole octagonal building have?
- As you leave Restineas, peep through the hedge on your right and you will get a glimpse of YHA Eden Project. On the opposite side a steep track leads to the YHA campsite. Continue along the main green lane back to the North Road. Turn right down the hill keeping on the footpath. Can you see what the YHA Snoozeboxes are made of? They are converted shipping containers. Each one contains a double bed, bunk beds and even an ensuite shower room and loo!
- Go past the main entrance to the YHA on the right and bear round to the right. When you reach the zebra crossing, cross the road and head left towards the big wooden tower which is the Hangloose landing point. Hangloose is an activity centre based at the Eden Project.
On the other side of the road you will see the Green Build Hub which is where our degree-course students are based.
Can you see the end of the Hangloose zip wire? It’s England’s longest zip wire and provides a great bird’s eye view of the Eden Biomes. These massive greenhouses house the largest rainforest in captivity.
- Finally take the zebra crossing back to Pineapple Car Park. Between the Green Build Hub building on the corner Hub and Pineapple car park can you see Eden’s Waste Recycling Centre? Here we recycle glass, cardboard, paper, and most other ‘waste’ and also compost the food waste to turn into food for the plants. Nothing is ‘waste’ until it is wasted.