Executive vice chairman and co-founder of the Eden Project Sir Tim Smit – also known for his work on the Lost Gardens of Heligan – reveals his top spot on the Cornish coastline. Interview: Alex Reece
I came to Cornwall completely by accident. I was on holiday, walked into an estate agent’s and saw a house. I said if I could sell my own house in 48 hours, I would buy it. And I bought it. My job was in London, it was crazy, but I never regretted it. It was the best decision I ever made.
My ex-wife and I lived on a farm on the eastern Roseland Peninsula. Hemmick Beach, which is below Dodman Point, is my favourite. It goes from huge rocks that would have taken the hull off any ship, round the bend into this beautiful beach where the current is suddenly not dangerous. Like the Lost Gardens of Heligan, you get that juxtaposition between the wild and the safe, which is somehow exhilarating.
At low tide you can go round the rocks to what’s known locally as ‘the secret beach’, where there are two or three giant sugarloaf-type rocks, encrusted with mussels. On a summer’s evening, if you’ve looked at the tide table, you could go and get mussels for supper. Nothing beats food that’s freshly caught or picked. It’s one of the great pleasures of life.
The thing I like doing best is scrabbling over the rocks, going into the caves – and generally beachcombing. It’s a bit like an intellectual Etch A Sketch. Every day the tide comes in and brings something new, and wipes out the footprints. It’s like a new dawn.
I am proud of The Eden Project as it has been a tremendous success in terms of making people look at the West Country in a different way. It has pioneered some very helpful things in terms of science communications and it’s been very popular with the public. It was recently voted the nation’s favourite landmark of the 21st century. That’s all good.
But I think we’re going to mark 15 years by saying: let’s see if we can reinvent ourselves again to make a really big contribution. We want to increase our footprint to be totally global.
Visit edenproject.com for more information.