Wistman’s Woods has remained untouched by humans since the Bronze Age, which is rare, especially as by definition it’s an area covered in scrub oak.
Humans have tended to view this as an ideal fuel source, or for grubbing out and replanting with something more profitable.
For whatever reason, this little woodland managed to hang on.
Untouched until NOW
Wistman’s is the easily the most famous parcel of Temperate Rainforest (sometimes called Celtic Rainforest) in England, after having featured on the telly. But it is by no means the only rainforest in England, there’s loads of surviving bits.
More than this, Guy Shrubsole has begun crowd-mapping English rainforest and argues that with our help (read: avoidance) it may even increase. It may even increase within our own lifetime.
The trouble is not only folks who trample through this ancient woodland, breaking branches, taking mosses and leaving litter; but also grazing animals who eat new growth.
Access to Wistman's woods is now banned for a short while . . .
We might notice the age of the place, but it’s the system that’s old – and it relies on new growth just as much as life at all stages. Life upon life upon life.
Wistman’s Woods was untouched exactly like a sandy beach at 5 am or fresh snow.
But leaving litter is not like making footprints and fresh growth needs not to be grazed.
The urge to visit is natural…
There is something very special about the way the high-moisture atmosphere turns any surface into a growing medium. In fact, it is life growing upon life that defines a rainforest.
The Westcountry has several pockets of rainforest, and this is not only great news for nature but a testament to human restraint. Fear not if you’ve not visited – you can still go to a rainforest near you, and also give Wistman’s Woods a break.
Do the world a favour and tread gently, take no plants home (yes, really, even if you make hanging baskets – this place is ancient and belongs to generations yet to come, not to this years garden display) and only carry with you what you are prepared to bring home.