BBC Countryfile Magazine


- BY GUY SHRUBSOLE, WILLIAM COLLINS, £20 (HB) Tony Hall, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Packed with historical facts, legendary tales and myths, The Lost Rainforest­s of Britain highlights the loss of our woodlands over past centuries.

The plight of Britain’s ancient forests is familiar to many, and the destructio­n of tropical rainforest is well documented, but the woodlands that make up the rare temperate rainforest­s of Britain are less well known, if at all. These magical places, our ‘home grown’ rainforest­s, are brought to life by Shrubsole’s wealth of research. He includes indicator species to look out for, and maps showing the areas most likely to have the ideal conditions for these rainforest­s to exist – areas classified as having an oceanic climate along the western coast of Britain.

Shrubsole tells tales of Tolkien’s Fangorn Forest, Celtic legends of The Mabinogion, and Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervill­es. These are linked to places such as Wistman’s Wood, a remnant of temperate rainforest on the wilds of Dartmoor, luxuriant green with mosses, lichens and ferns covering the boulders, trunks and branches of the stunted oaks.

Many more of our rainforest­s have been lost. Shrubsole speaks of these as Ghost Woods – forests that disappeare­d long ago, but which can be sometimes traced by their place names, such as Birch Tor.

This story of our lost rainforest­s is a fascinatin­g read and underlines the serious need to protect and hopefully increase these areas of our own amazing rainforest­s.

Wistman’s Wood in Dartmoor is a surviving example of Britain’s temperate rainforest­s

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