When we hear the mention of rainforests, it might be the Amazon and all its colourful creatures that spring to mind. BUT think for a second, ‘forests’ and ‘rain’ - we have plenty of both here in Wales!
These are magical woodlands indeed, with carpets of green mosses spreading over the earth and climbing up the ancient tree trunks. You are never far from the sound of cascading water, and with the huge boulders and ravines galore, these forests are an ideal place for adventures!
Some of these woodlands are almost untouched by man, and visiting them is like a journey back in time. They almost feel otherworldly!
Stop for a minute and you will see leaves of all shapes, plants growing on plants, a criss-cross of patterns everywhere. Curly ferns raise their heads through the moss, all of it in various shades of green.
Look down at your feet, exactly how many different mosses are there? Some are like feathers, others star shaped and some like little tongues - and each one a different shade of green!
You will see colourful patterns on the tree branches. Strange growth of all sorts, some that look like cabbage, others with spots, some even hairy. Grey, orange, purple, green, black, red – these are the lichens.
There is rain falling down from above, streams are flowing past your feet, and everything in between is soaking wet!
It is only in some locations along the western seaboard of the UK that this habitat can exist - we are very fortunate to have it here in west Wales. Yes, there is plenty of rainfall across Wales, but especially so on the western side.
With the regular rainfall, constant humidity, mild temperatures and clean air, the lower plants thrive – providing a unique home for the other wildlife.
Only fragmented areas of Celtic Rainforests remain, mostly located on steep slopes or in narrow gorges where sheltered from over grazing and located on steep slopes or in narrow gorges.
In times gone by these woodlands would have covered a much wider area, but today they are very rare habitat.
For centuries there was exploitation of these woodlands as a source of timber and bark for tanning, and land was cleared for grazing by livestock. Further pressure followed in the 20th century when the planting of non-native conifer plantations was favoured over the protection of native woodlands to boost tree cover.
Unfortunately, even those fragments that remain are under threat of being neglected unless we care for them. A serious problem today is colonization by invasive species such as Rhododendron and lack of suitable management.
This 7 year project aims to address these threats and improve the condition of these precious woodlands.
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