PHOTO BY The Telegraph

Restoring Britain's Lost Rainforests


When you think of Britain, a lot of things probably come to mind… some better than others. But rainforests are probably not what you associate this rainy country with.

However, Guy Shrubsole wants to change that.

Above, the green indicates where temperate rainforests have the ability to grow.

“Many of them were cut down centuries, if not thousands of years ago, by Bronze Age settlers, as they started to move through the countryside to clear land for farmland,” he said. “But some have been cut down as recently as the 20th century to turn into timber plantations.”

While over 20% of the UK could sustain these temperate rainforests, less than 1% actually are home to them.

Wistman’s Woods, Dartmoor

One of the best examples of Britain’s temperate rainforests is Wistman’s Wood. Covering just 3 hectares of land, it’s owned by the Duke of Cornwall. While it’s a popular tourist destination, humans have degraded the flora of the woods to such an extent that visitors are now discouraged from walking through it.

I think it’s important to talk about this, because on an international level, Britain seems to be very concerned about protecting rainforests. And yet, local leaders continue to destroy nature in order to extract more and more profit, while decrying the practices of developing nations who are simply replicating what the West did during the industrial revolution.

A combination of inefficient farming practices and uncontrolled road development has lead to the UK becoming one of the most nature-depleted places in Europe, and they are paying the price. As more roads and buildings are built, we are becoming sicker and sicker. Our air is becoming polluted with toxins from the cars that drive past our houses, and less carbon dioxide is being sucked out of the air by trees.

It’s time for change, and restoring these biodiversity hotspots seems to be one of the most efficient ways we can help nature, and ourselves.

News flash - people are cutting down rainforests because they want to have the same standard of living as those of us in the west. We elevated our standard of living through - among other things - cutting down our forests and selling the produce we grew on that land. That worrying pattern is being repeated today in countries like Brazil and Indonesia, and the West must financially incentivise the protection of these lands - or face the consequences.

It’s up to us to pioneer sustainable development, and show people that it’s possible to live comfortably, while existing in harmony with nature.

At the end of this article I’ll share some action points if you want to get involved in rewilding efforts.

So what are they doing about it?

Shrubsole (what a great name) has taken his campaign all the way to the UK government, and has had some good preliminary results.

The UK gov and The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs have promised to fund the restoration of these temperate rainforests with the Nature Impact Fund. However, as with most things in politics, the rollout has been slow, patchy and not really that substantial.

Not substantial enough to make any difference at least.

Despite the fact that “having rainforests is as British as a cup of tea,” , a lot of people are not immediately aware of their existence, he said.

“Sometimes people have visited them and not realize what they've been seeing,” he said.

What can I do about it?

I’m glad you asked.

Donate to Rewilding Britain, or if you’re reading internationally, you can donate too Re:wild. Both fund nature-based solutions, and Rewilding Britain is specifically working on supporting the UK’s temperate rainforests.

Contact your local representative and call for extensive biodiversity restoration programmes to be put into place. Research what’s going on in your area, and provide them with actionable points. It’s harder for them to give you vague and non-committal answers when you ask them for action in a very specific area - if you’re in the UK, mention temperate rainforests.

Share your feelings with those around you. I saw this amazing Twitter thread @treesnpeace but I can’t find it anymore… The essence of it was that so many more people care about climate change than we all assume, but no one really speaks about it in their day to day lives because they feel as if they’re alone in their feelings. So speak up! You never know who you might impact.

Sign the petition to protect the Okavango River Basin. It’s really important that this campaign wins, and a failure to do so would be catastrophic

Sam Atkinson
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Sam Atkinson has been a writer for The Teen Magazine since January 2021.