Celtic rainforest

Here is a sneak preview of a short digital story Craig put together for a local project…

… and here is the transcript.

Most people have heard of the tropical rainforests that, despite decades of logging, still cover vast swaths of the earth. Fewer people have heard of the much rarer coniferous and broadleaf temperate rainforests that only occur in coastal oceanic-moist climates with an annual precipitation of over 1400mm and a mean annual temperature is between 4 and 12 °C.

A subset of the temperate rainforest is the even rarer celtic rainforest specific to the celtic nations of the Atlantic seaboard area of Europe, and of which Wales has some of the best examples.

It is in remnant form because most of Wales has been farmed for millennium. While we lament, and rightly so, the destruction of the tropical rainforests we must remember that the picturesque patchwork landscape of sheep and cattle farms, hay meadows and coniferous woodland in our beautiful corner of the world is man-made and left to its own devices would revert to the same oak forest ecosystem that colonised the land after the end of the last ice age.

Today the celtic rainforest is found in the land that is too difficult to farm – at the bottom of the deep steep valleys surrounding river tributaries. The welsh for valley – Cwm – is reflected in place names such as Cwm Morgan and here good examples of celtic rainforest can be found. Writing in ‘The Living Landscape‘ author Patrick Whitefield captures the ambiance of these woodlands:

“These valley woods are often dense and jungly. Few sounds from the outside world reach you when you are walking in them and all you can see is woodland. Civilisation can feel far away. Even though you are you know there’s a bare, ordered fieldscape above you on all sides, somehow it feels a bit improbable.”

Our tree Ent

Our tree Ent by the river in the Celtic Rainforest

Indeed it does. Mosses, liverworts, lichens and filmy ferns abound in the celtic rainforest – signs of clean, unpolluted, moisture laden air. Before the industrial revolution, most old welsh trees would have grown to look like one of Tolkien’s Ents and as we leave the hydrocarbon age behind, maybe, they will again.