The 'otherworldly' rainforest tucked away in the heart of Devon

Epiphytes - plants that grow on other plants - at the Devonshire forest Credit: Tim Gilbert Photography

A rainforest in the heart of Devon is at threat of disappearing, Natural England has said.

Wistman's Wood, in Dartmoor National Park, is an "otherworldly" place with twisted tree trunks, mossy rocks and some of the rarest flora in the country.

Local folklore about a murderous hound living in the wood is said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Hound of the Baskervilles".

It is one of just a few temperate rainforests in the world, where you'll find epiphytes - plants that grow on other plants and thrive in damp and rainy places.

Wistman's Wood may have inspired Tolkien's depiction of Mirkwood Credit: Monika Mi

Chris Harbut, Reserve Manager, Natural England, said: “Wistman’s Wood National Nature Reserve is an otherworldly place, with a rich diversity of plant and animal species, including dwarf oak trees and some of the UK’s rarest lichens.

"Mostly untouched for centuries, this also makes it incredibly important to protect.

"We would ask all visitors to follow the new Countryside Code, so this nature reserve can also be enjoyed by future generations: stay on designated paths, walk around the woodlands, rather than through, and don’t litter, take, or damage any plants or wildlife.”

Credit: Charles Sainsbury-Plaice

The wood is home to the UK’s rarest lichen species - liverworts and bryophytes - and the incredibly rare Horsehair Lichen, which grows as little as 1mm a year.

These microscopic lichens are very sensitive to any changes in their environment and Wistman's Wood is under threat.

According to Natural England data, the wood can have up to 1,000 visitors on busy days.

Credit: Charles Sainsbury-Plaice

Some of those people are straying from the paths through the woodland, despite signs warning them not to.

New paths are being eroded, leading up to the woods and to the mosses, lichens and low-lying branches within.

Wistman’s Wood plays an important role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and so protecting it helps mitigate the effects of climate change.