How did you spend New Year’s Day? I started 2012 by being dangled from the top of the 165-foot high roof of the Eden Project and I should warn you now that it’s not for the faint-hearted, writes AG news editor Marc Rosenberg.
Let me explain. I decided to burn off the excesses of Christmas and the New Year by climbing to the Rainforest Lookout, one of the most recent additions to the Cornish visitor attraction.
Officially opened in 2011 by adventurer Bear Grylls, the Rainforest Lookout is a metal platform suspended high from the roof of the rainforest biome at Eden, the biggest greenhouse in the world.
My challenge, set by my so-called friends, was to climb the nine flights of stairs to the roof of the biome (which is taller than the Tower of London), take photos of the rainforest canopy from above and ‘Tweet” them to Amateur Gardening’s Twitter followers from the platform.
This was a particularly stupid challenge because I have no head for heights. I don’t like flying, nor do I have much of an appetite for tall buildings, so quite why I agreed to embark on this vertigo-inducing mission is a mystery.
Every visitor who wants to climb to the lookout has to take a medical questionnaire: do you suffer from disabling giddiness? Have you got high blood pressure? Do you suffer from a heart condition? Are you on medication for anxiety or tension? Do you have difficulty in dealing with high temperatures? Are you pregnant? It doesn’t exactly put your mind at rest.
And after signing that you’re fit to climb, you must then wait in a queue, along with other nerve-wracked visitors, as only a handful of people are allowed to climb to the platform at a time, to avoid overloading it.
Climbing the stairs was the worst bit. When I say stairs, I mean a steep line of metal steps suspended from the biome’s roof. Because the steps are hanging from wires, they swing from side to side. Each step is made from metal gauze so you certainly don’t want to look down (or drop your mobile phone or keys!)
Half way up I almost bottled it. The stairs were swinging from side to side like an aircraft being buffeted by sidewinds on its final approach to landing (except that I didn’t have a sick bag). As you’d expect above a tropical forest in a greenhouse, it’s also incredibly hot and humid – up to 40C – and I was making slow progress, holding on to the side-rails for dear life!
As you can see from my pictures, I made it to the Rainforest Lookout platform (which also swings on cables from the roof). The birds-eye view of the rainforest canopy is spectacular and made the whole ordeal worthwhile.
You can see the tops of giant trees such as kapok and balsa which have almost reached the biome ceiling. I took my photos (admittedly with a little camera shake), sent my Tweet and started the long trek down which felt remarkably easier than the journey up!
James Bond fans may remember that 007 scaled the roof of the Eden Project in Die Another Day (2002), but I think I’ll leave the stunts to Pierce Brosnan for now and stick to gardening.
However, if you’re visiting Eden I’d say give the Rainforest Lookout a go. Just don’t look down…
* Have you tried the Rainforest Lookout? Is Eden worth visiting? Share your thoughts with other readers by leaving a comment below. Please note: all comments are moderated and may take 24 hours to appear on the website.