I’ve been on holiday in Cornwall this past week, and we had the chance to visit the Eden Project, which is one of my favourite places. If you’ve not been, it’s hard to describe. On the surface it’s the world’s biggest greenhouse, but that’s kind of underselling it. Basically, a group of ecologist visionaries took an abandoned clay-pit and sculpted it into a celebration of plant-life in all its diversity. It’s a world-class tourist attraction, an ingenious bit of architecture, and a great example of a sustainable business as well.
This time around, I was quite interested to learn about the Post-mining alliance, another initiative from the Eden Trust. The post-mining alliance helps heal communities and the landscape after mine closures. By building a project that redeems the land and has created a whole host of jobs in Cornwall, the Eden Project has probably modelled it to perfection, but it raised an issue I’ve not really thought about much – how do you clean up after industry?
Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is a tree surgeon working on the new Olympic village in London. This is a contaminated site in a worse state than the Eden Project’s clay pit. Toxic waste and landfill has been dumped on the site for years, including radioactive waste. The answer at the Olympic site has been to install soil ‘washing machines’ to process the contaminated topsoil.
There are thousands of ‘brown field‘ sites, former industrial or mining landscapes, dotted about the country. Re-claiming these is a matter of increasing importance, especially with demands for new housing and pressure to release green spaces for development. Places like the Eden Project, the Olympic site, the Tate Modern, and the Greenwich peninsula are great examples of what be can done with a spent landscape, making it useful again.
- changing places, the millenium re-generation programme.