Tim is Executive Vice-Chair, and Co-founder of the award-winning Eden Project near St Austell in Cornwall. Eden began as a dream in 1995, and opened its doors to the public in 2000. Since then, more than 19 million people have come to see what was once a sterile pit turned into a cradle of life, containing world-class horticulture and startling architecture symbolic of human endeavour.
“I’m very interested in the story of agriculture, where it is going and what that means for localism; muscular localism. This is our future, and I think one of the things that has happened during the pandemic is to show how resilient we are, where we are, and how we can make ourselves more resilient in the future.”
In 1987 Tim moved to Cornwall, where he and John Nelson discovered and restored the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Tim thinks what we need more of are adventures. We are ‘living in a largely secular age’ and most people need to feel part of something bigger that is both fulfilling and by default positive for mental health.
“With my background in archaeology, I knew there was a beautiful garden waiting for us beyond what I was cutting down. It was just the most romantic thing. The one thing I’ve learned when I speak to a lot of people, older and younger, and part of the problem is that they think that marvellousness happens somewhere else, that all you need is an adventure. The secret to life is that marvellous things can happen anywhere.”
Tim’s own adventure restoring the Lost Gardens of Heligan was just this, a journey of marvellousness. “We have dreamt of magic lands buried in craters and of volcanoes for thousands of years but the dreams of Heligan were dreams that were marvellous enough to excite adults and children to keep visiting”.
“It’s like Tinker Bell theory, once everyone wants something to happen they’ll clap their hands. The Eden Project happened, we need more of this to happen in our world.”
The Eden Project’s doors have welcomed the idea of gardening as a way of combating detachment to community and arising associations with mental health. This included Nature’s Way, a programme of activities which provide opportunities for people to connect and support each other in order to improve their health and wellbeing. The programme is open to social prescribing and other referrals, including self-referrals.
The health benefits of this are two-fold. People have something to take part in and they discover that people want them there and to be a part of what is going on, giving them a sense of purpose and belonging. Belonging in this sense can be understood as ‘I am of this place, I am of the DNA of this geography and I understand it.’
In our latest podcast episode, Tim also touches on the notion that “our universities and research organisations are not fit for the middle of the 20th century, and they are not fit for answering the challenges of the 21st century”.
With Blue Earth’s quest to bring ideas together on improving people and planet, we asked Tim his thoughts on what he believes are practical solutions to creating a flourishing world.
“We need to accept certain things as fundamental necessities. It is essential that we have clean water, air and soil and we have access to these with the right not to be poisoned by it. In an ideal world, we would have systems whereby we fed ourselves so that everybody could be nourished. Where we have a rich, cultural vein and a world where our care for future generations is taken seriously, with responsibility of these generations born by the wider community. Then we would really see what it means to have purpose as a human being.”