Emi has had one of his best chums down for a few days to stay with us in deepest, darkest Devon. Both boys are mad about dinos, so when I asked them what they'd like to do I got a list that had a predictably pre-historic theme to it: a trip to the Jurassic coast was mentioned, and so was the dino rampage down at Eden. Emi had picked up a leaflet about it in town, stored it away and then waited for the perfect opportunity to suggest it as a day-out.
Now I'll be very honest with you: I don't need much persuasion to head off down to Eden. The place totally rocks for me. What's not to like about an abandoned, worn-out old clay pit that's been transformed with wit and imagination into a garden paradise? Nothing, that's what!
I love the modern, quirky planting, the message Let's try and save the planet, and the humour that they inject into the whole affair. When you add in their biodomes and the sheltered aspect of being in a dug-out pit it's also not a bad venue when our bonkers British weather hasn't quite remembered its summer brief. Luckily for us the weather was behaving itself when we visited.
They've built a great big marquee and stuffed it full of animatronic dinosaurs. They move and roar and keep the punters happy. My pair of intrepid explorers were impressed, and they're given to loud outbursts of ironic criticism if they spot something that's not quite cricket. I think they were a little bit blown away by the scale of the big beasties. And frankly when the animatronic T-Rex is standing in front of you it's easy to conjure up a terrifying image in your mind of what life must have been like on prehistoric earth when these chaps were charging around hunting for prey. I can totally understand their fascination.
Outside they've got a few dinos dotted around to keep the would-be palaeontologists on their toes. I was led off at a brisk pace in search of all the other dinosaurs that were hiding around the complex. Luckily I was able to admire the planting as I jogged by ...
... and smell the flowers ...
... but basically they kept me buzzing around like a bee.
From time to time someone would roll out the pantosaur (the dinosaur that looked a bit like a pantomime horse) and everyone would go nuts.
The smaller children were absolutely terrified, and greeted him with a cacophony of hysterical screaming. Every dog in the entire complex also went mad and barked the place down. The larger children (my two included) started off with a sceptical list of why they didn't think it was a real dinosaur (duh!), and then got over being geeks and entered into the whole crazy spirit of the thing. It was hilarious. The chap with the hat (photo above) was the handler and I don't believe that a more inept handler has ever existed anywhere outside of a Carry On film. Both he and his chum inside the latex suit were brilliant. They had pretty much the entire park running after them and playing along with the idea that we were all Walking with Dinosaurs.
At the risk of sounding like a very sad muppet, I've got to say that the man in the latex suit pretending to be a dinosaur really was the highlight of my day. Part of the fun lay in the crowd's reaction. No one quite knew how to behave when the dino singled them out for a special roar. And no one, not a single solitary soul, had the courage to try and take a selfie with him, which, by the standards of today and the enormity of the photo opportunity that he represented, just about says it all ... .
After a nice sit-down to recover from all the excitement we were ready to carry on searching for other new and terrifying specimens.
We came upon this rather exotic road kill just off the main highway in the tropical biome.
And this fellow was spotted lurking in the shallows waiting to strike some unsuspecting passerby.
Some fossils had been dug up outside and everyone took a hand at helping to excavate them.
And then there was a big dino puzzle, which was enthusiastically solved by my two-man team in double quick time ...
... before having a spot of lunch at the Diner-Saur Grill.
The Eden Project team were, without exception, absolutely fabulous. Everyone was on-message, incredibly enthusiastic about answering our (many dino-related) questions and they all seemed passionate about their work.
If you'd like to check them out the dinosaurs will be roaring down in Eden until 2nd September. You can find their website here Eden Project.
All the best for now,