Eden Project circular walk

Eden Project

Gates shut to the Eden car parks at 6pm. In the summer holidays, the Eden car parks can get very full.

A walk though a granite landscape mined first for tin, then china clay and now for geothermal power to generate electricity and heat the space-age greenhouses of the Eden Project.

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The walk follows a bridleway towards Trethurgy across what were once china clay tips but have now been reclaimed by nature. The route continues across the edge of Carvear Moor through a corridor of trees planted along the perimeter of the Eden site to reach the main entrance to the Eden Project. The return route passes around the rim of the pit in which the Eden Project is located.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 2.2 miles/3.6 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes; boots in winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Pretty wildflowers in early summer
  • Ideal to combine with a visit to Eden
  • Eden Coffee House can be visited without an entry ticket


  1. Make your way to the bottom-left corner of the Cherry car park and walk out to the pedestrian crossing. Turn left towards the yellow Luxulyan sign to reach a junction of paths by the yellow sign for Bugle. Turn left and keep left at blue Bugle sign to follow the path along the hedge (indicated for Trethurgy as you pass the sign). Continue on the path for roughly a quarter of a mile until it opens out into a clearing and forks at the far side.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. Partly, as an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

    This stretch of the route is on the waste tips of the Trethurgy China Clay works. This operated from the early 20th Century, first recorded on a map from 1930. The disused pit is now used as a fishing lake and much of the waste tips have now been colonised by bushes.

    China clay in Cornwall and Devon resulted from a sequence of events that began over 300 million years ago; molten rock cooled into granite: a mixture of quartz, feldspar and mica. As it cooled, the feldspar reacted with other minerals to form china clay.

    The clay from Cornwall was found to be a much finer quality than elsewhere in Europe and also turned out to be the largest deposit in the world. By the mid-19th Century, 7,000 workers were employed in the St Austell area alone and by 1910, Cornwall was producing 50% of the world's China Clay.

    At the time of writing, the UK is still the third largest producer of China Clay in the world: Cornwall produces approximately 1 million tonnes of kaolin each year. Due to increasing mechanisation and large amounts of production being moved to Brazil, the industry now only employs around 1000 people.

    The word kaolin is thought to be a corruption of the Chinese for "high ridge" where it was presumably found.

  2. Turn left at the fork and follow the path downhill past a metal gate. Continue to pass through the remains of a gate crossing the path and merge onto a tarmac path. Follow this to the bottom of the hill to reach a gap with a National Cycle Route 2 sign.

    Red campion is also known as "red catchfly". The flowers are an important nectar source for larger pollinating insects including butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Much smaller flies drawn to the nectar can become stuck in the froth on the stigmas of the female flowers but this is not intentional by the plant (it doesn't eat them).

    The pure white porcelain used by the Chinese was discovered millennia ago and has always been a valuable material, appearing in many stately homes. Despite many attempts to find it elsewhere, it remained elusive until a few deposits were found in parts of Europe and in America early in the eighteenth century.

    In 1746 William Cooksworthy noticed the miners repairing the furnaces with clay at Great Work Mine and how this was fired by the furnace. He developed a way to process the clay to separate the kaolin from the gritty rock and fire this into fine porcelain.

  3. Go through the gap and turn right and then immediately left on the path marked with a "2". Follow the path a short distance to a triangular boulder in front of a gateway where a small path departs to the right.

    The extraction of china clay has dramatically altered the Cornish landscape: it is estimated that 120 million tons have been extracted. For every 1 tonne of china clay, there are 9 tonnes of mineral waste products (a gritty sand of quartz and mica), which has led to the creation of large areas of tips. The now disused conical (or "sky tips") can be seen near St Austell from as far away as Bodmin Moor.

    Due to the density of china clay pits, the area around St Austell has become known as "The Clays". This has dominated St Austell's more recent industrial history and to some degree masked the area's earlier history: prior to china clay, St Austell was an important centre for copper and tin mining.

  4. Bear right onto the path indicated by the black arrow on the rock and follow this to a fork in the path.

    Sorrel is common in fields and hedgerows and easily recognisable by its red seeds at the top of a tall stalk. The leaves resemble small, narrow dock leaves.

    Sorrel is used both in soups or as a salad vegetable. The leaves have a pleasant lemony flavour. The plant was known in Cornwall during Victorian times as "green sauce".

    In common with many vegetables, sorrel contains oxalic acid. Exactly how much is a bit unclear: many articles mention "high amounts" though some published studies report a lower percentage than in spinach, parsley or rhubarb, though don't specify how easily soluble the oxalic acid is in each case. Oxalic acid is poisonous if enough is consumed and prolonged exposure can cause kidney stones. So use sorrel reasonably sparingly and don't eat it every day.

    The path to the left is private and continues to Vounder Farm. The settlement of Vounder was first recorded in 1354 as Bonder. The name is from the Cornish word bounder for lane. That mediaeval lane is now part of National Cycle Route 2.

    The National Cycle Network is coordinated by the charity Sustrans. It began with one route in Bristol in 1984 and now consists of around 15,000 miles of signposted cycle routes known as National Cycle Routes. These each have a number and are constructed using a combination of roads typically chosen to have light traffic and some traffic-free tracks which are open to cycles.

  5. Turn left at the fork and immediately right (signposted to Par) and follow the path until you pass the "Coaches and Taxis Only" sign and reach a small gate on the left marked "Entrance to The Eden Project".

    Centuries ago, before china clay extraction began, the area would have been moorland. This area is still known as Carvear Moor although the land on the hill had been cultivated for farming by Victorian times when a horse engine was in use at the farm.

    Horse engines were the forefathers of the modern-day farm tractor. The horsepower itself either involved a treadmill or a capstan turned by a horse, both of which provided a rotating axle that could be used to drive gears. As with modern-day tractors, a modular approach was often used with the horse-driven power unit being coupled to different pieces of farm machinery to perform different tasks such as threshing or pumping.

  6. Go through the gate on the left and follow the route over the three pedestrian crossings. Turn left and follow the pavement past the bike racks to a pedestrian crossing with an Entrance sign for Eden.

    The Eden Project was conceived by Tim Smit after his involvement with the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Work on the Eden Project began in the late 1990s and the visitor centre opened to the public in May 2000 followed by the main attraction in March 2001. The biomes are effectively giant bubble wrap, with each panel containing an insulating gas bubble sealed within plastic. This allows a tropical climate to be maintained in one where nearly 4 acres of rainforest thrives. The Core building was added in 2005 to provide an education facility which includes classrooms. The Eden Project is run as a social enterprise by the Eden Trust - a charitable trust dedicated to educating the public about the natural world.

  7. The walk continues ahead but first you may want to either visit Eden (to the right) or the café (which doesn't require a ticket) and toilets. To continue the walk, follow the pavement past the rest of the bike racks and around a corner to another pedestrian crossing. Continue over this to a path marked "All clay trails" and follow this to another pedestrian crossing.

    The dandelion-like flowers along the coast are most likely to be catsear, also known as false dandelion. Catsear is very salt tolerant, not only growing along the coast but actually in sand dunes. The easiest way to recognise it is by the hairy leaves, hence the name. If you can cope with the texture, the leaves are edible and are much less bitter than dandelion leaves.

    Another way to tell them apart is when they are flowering. Although dandelion flowers over quite a long period, the most profuse flowering is in April and May whereas catsear's intense flowering period is in late June and through July. Catsear has neater flowers than dandelion with squarer edges to the petals (but still toothed). The stems supporting the flowers are also solid, in contrast with the hollow stem of the dandelion.

    The Coast and Clay Trails is a 45 mile public access network of tracks and roads around St Austell. The trails were first opened as "The Clay Trails" in 2005 as part of a restoration programme to provide new habitats for flora and fauna. The trails are described as "multi-use" although are principally aimed at cyclists, with many sections of the routes being on Public Highways (quiet lanes where possible) and link up with National Cycle Route 3 to Bodmin and Truro. For walkers, the off-road sections provide some additional links across the Rights of Way network.

  8. Cross at the crossing and turn right onto the pavement. Follow this in the direction of Bugle to where the road splits and a short distance further to where the path departs from the road.

    The village of Bugle came into existence in the mid 19th century following the construction of a turnpike (toll) road in 1836-7. A coaching inn was built and a small settlement grew up around this called Carnsmerry. In 1842, the settlement was connected to Par via the Treffry Tramways to export minerals from the nearby mines. Carnsmerry eventually just became known by the name of its pub - the Bugle Inn - and disappeared into history.

  9. Follow the path uphill to depart from the road and continue to where it meets the road again. Walk a few paces further to a pedestrian crossing marked with a National Cycle Route 3 sign for Lanhydrock.

    Genetic analysis has revealed that domestic apples originated from wild apples in Kazakstan near the Chinese border. It is thought that the apple was probably the first tree to be domesticated by humans, several thousand years ago. Wild apples grew in the British Isles in Neolithic times but domesticated apples were introduced by the Romans. Over 7500 varieties of apple are now known.

  10. Cross the crossing and follow the pavement around the corner to pass the Skywire drop-off and reach a pedestrian crossing opposite the car park.

    At the time of writing, the Eden Skywire is Britain's longest zipwire at half a mile in length. The journey takes around 45 seconds and reaches a speed of around 60mph. This is roughly half of the maximum speed that a skydiver reaches in free-fall where 95% of the top speed is reached in just over 10 seconds.

  11. Turn left onto the crossing and continue through the car park then go through the gate between two tall wooden posts. Cross the clearing and join the path leading from the right-hand corner beneath the trees. Follow this uphill to emerge into a field.

    Gunnera looks like giant rhubarb but the leaves stems are spiky. It tends to favour damp places as quite a lot of water is needed to supply its huge leaves.

    The plant has a symbiotic relationship with cyanobacteria which live between its cells. The cyanobacteria, also known as "blue-green algae", are photosynthetic and also supply the host plant with nitrogen which allows it to colonise poor soils.

  12. Follow the path a short distance to reach a gateway on the left before the path bends right to pass the bench and white scaffold structure (which is a bee hive).

    The Eden Project is built in the old Bodelva china clay pit which was worked for over 160 years, and by 1995 was nearing the end of its economic life. The Eden site also encompasses the Carvear china clay works which closed in 1942.

  13. Go through the gateway and cross the road to the path alongside. Turn right and follow the path to a pedestrian crossing leading ahead over a junction to the path alongside the road.

    The works are to create a geothermal power source.

    For 4.5 billion years, the Earth has been very slowly cooling. Heat that is still left over from the formation of the Earth is supplemented by heat generated by radioactive decay within the Earth. The heat slowly makes it way up to the surface, mostly into the oceans where the crust is thinnest, and then radiates away into space.

    By drilling a borehole, down to hotter rocks deeper in the Earth's crust, it's possible to mine for heat. Cool water can be pumped down, and depending on the depth, hot water or steam comes back up which can be used for heating or electricity generation, respectively.

  14. Follow the pedestrian crossing ahead and the fenced path to enter the Park and Ride. Continue on the path past the building and over a pedestrian crossing then turn right to return to the Cherry car park.

    The Eden Deep Geothermal power plant has been designed along the following lines... Water is pumped down a 4km deep borehole. The hot rocks boil this and create superheated steam. This rises up a second borehole and is used to generate electricity. The water from the condensed steam is then re-used to pump back down the first borehole in a "closed loop". After a few decades of intensive extraction, the rocks surrounding the borehole can become locally depleted of heat. This means that some geothermal power plants can have a finite economic lifetime even though over a slightly longer timescale, the local heat supply will be replenished.

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