Explore: a personal perspective by Tim Narey, Eden Project North

Tim Narey, Programme Director at Eden Project North was kind enough to share his perspective of the recent inaugural edition of Explore - our new challenge event to bring together the real estate industry to talk climate, ride bikes and discover Scotland - and how this relates to the Eden Project's new developments...


"In the wake of the awesome pedElle Cumbria ride, and the Five Ferries ride earlier this year, Club Peloton decided to venture north yet again, this time to the magnificent Scottish Borders.

For those of you who have been brought up on the BBC’s tilted weather map, here lies a surprisingly extensive and relatively undiscovered patch of these Isles with literally ‘a bit of everything’ that the British landscape has to offer – and with that, the full spectrum of cycle adventures to go with it: MTB/gravel/road – whatever your poison, the Borders can deliver.

It’s worth remarking on the landscape a little more to set the scene: although notably cooler and a little moist, Autumn hasn’t yet set in here and the whole area has a wonderful lushness and an abundance of trees that all seem 20% bigger than anywhere else. The fresh air and lack of traffic is a joy.

On Thursday evening, I joined the main group who arrived by train from London at the ‘Hydro’, a famous spa hotel set in splendour and overlooking the town of Peebles in the Tweed Valley.

After an excellent meal, and with COP26 Glasgow just weeks away, the EXPLORE group started to chip away at what is the extraordinary challenge of how the property and construction industry can address the environmental crisis. Housing and engineering were hot topics, but there is little doubt the sector is struggling on the questions, never mind the answers.

In my role with Eden Project, and specifically the delivery of our new UK venues, in Morecambe and Dundee, we are very aware of our own developments and the sustainability journey we must also take, despite being seen as a leading organisation in this field. Our mission is to have a net-positive contribution to the environment – not just doing ‘less bads’ but actually doing good and delivering on a triple bottom line of Social, Economic and Environmental returns. Whilst much of the industry is rightly focussed on embodied carbon, at Eden, we have come to realise that our operational impacts far exceed that of construction and it is through good design that we can address both.

The evening closed with a masterful suggestion for the next day: a route edit which would see us roll straight into Edinburgh rather than taking coaches and cars into town (thumbs up emoji).

Friday started brightly and the Hydro has a stunning breakfast room that shows off the varied terrain on offer, glowing in the morning sun.  These days I have to take the road option – old ankle injury – but the Explore group set off together, with MTB and gravel riders peeling off to their trails not far from the hotel.

The day’s ride was spectacular as we headed east through the Tweed valley, before turning north for the capital. One puncture was quickly forgotten about and we made good progress across rolling terrain where we popped up through the tree line onto the more barren hilltops and back down again into the leafy lanes.

As we approached Edinburgh, the riding became more familiar to the city dwellers among us, and we dodged and weaved through Dalkeith to enjoy a light lunch at a pub on the fringe of the city (see what I did there?). Edinburgh was buzzing from the arrival of its students, with countless families carrying duvets and houseplants into new digs. It was lovely to meet Club Peloton’s Chris’ daughter Zoe who looks like she is settling in well. Proud Dad moment!

Mid-afternoon, we met at HTA’s studio downtown and commenced a bike tour of numerous notable buildings with sustainable credentials – the Commonwealth Games Pool and the Scottish Parliament building among them. Both these projects were reminders of current conversations at Eden whereby we must be aware that tackling CO2 emissions is only half of the problem – humans are still ‘polluting’ at extraordinary levels and we have an alarmingly casual attitude to our water: from the discharging of harmful substances into watercourses, to flushing potable water down the loo! Whilst we have accreditation models like BREEAM, these are still little more than voluntary initiatives and only hard legislation – specifically the long overdue reform of the UK Building Regulations – can take us where we need to go.

Then it was back to HTA for shower and change before meeting at Malmaison for dinner with special guest Mark Beaumont, world record endurance cyclist. Mark was excellent and really insightful, with great humility as he remarked that “at 6’3’’ and 90kg he’s not even close to being Edinburgh’s top cyclist”, never mind his achievements.

We returned to the Hydro by minibus (booo!) and slept well that night, helped by the freshness of the Borders air. Alas, due to my son starting university (a couple of others in the same boat) I could not partake in Saturday’s road ride and had to head home, but by all accounts it was stunning with perfect weather.

My takeaway from this trip would be applauding CP for just going a little bit leftfield with this excursion. The MTB and gravel riders were equally as impressed with the Borders as us ‘roadies’ and I would recommend coming to this area if you love the bike – the lack of traffic, very affordable accommodation, the long, long well surfaced lanes and the sheer tranquillity are special. I hope CP return here next year."

The view from the Peebles Hydro
The view from the Peebles Hydro
Discussing climate challenges facing the construction industry with UK Green Building Council's Alastair Mant
On the hunt for Edinburgh's most sustainable buildings

Other news