The Lost Rainforests of Britain
Author: Guy Shrubsole
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WINNER OF THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR CONSERVATION 2023
Shortlisted for the Richard Jefferies Society Literary Prize
In 2020, writer and campaigner Guy Shrubsole moved from London to Devon. As he explored the wooded valleys, rivers and tors of Dartmoor, Guy discovered a spectacular habitat that he had never encountered before: temperate rainforest. Entranced, he would spend the coming months investigating the history, ecology and distribution of rainforests across England, Wales and Scotland.
Britain, Guy discovered, was once a rainforest nation.
This is the story of a unique habitat that has been so ravaged, most people today don’t realise it exists. Temperate rainforest may once have covered up to one-fifth of Britain and played host to a dazzling variety of luminous life-forms, inspiring Celtic druids, Welsh wizards, Romantic poets, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s most loved creations. Though only fragments now remain, they form a rare and internationally important habitat, home to lush ferns and beardy lichens, pine martens and pied flycatchers. But why are even environmentalists unaware of their existence? And how have we managed to so comprehensively excise them from our cultural memory?
Taking the reader on an awe-inspiring journey through the Atlantic oakwoods and hazelwoods of the Western Highlands and the Lake District, down to the rainforests of Wales, Devon and Cornwall, The Lost Rainforests of Britain maps these under-recognised ecosystems in exquisite detail – but underlines that without immediate political and public support, we risk losing them from the landscape, and perhaps our collective memory, forever. A rich, elegiac and boundary-pushing feat of research and reportage, this is the extraordinary tale of one person’s quest to find Britain’s lost rainforests, and bring them back.