Home Lifestyle The UK is home to a ‘mystical’ ancient rainforest — and it’s...

The UK is home to a ‘mystical’ ancient rainforest — and it’s haunted

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The UK’s rainforests are incredibly rare (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When you hear the word ‘rainforest’, you think tropical climates, with monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

But did you know there are rainforests right here in the UK?

The UK is home to patches of temperate rainforests – rare habitats that are thought to be even more endangered than those found in the tropics.

They’re found on the Western coastlines in the UK – and one in Dartmoor, Devon, has just been named in a list of the best ‘off the beaten track’ locations to visit this Easter.

Wistman’s Wood, otherwise known as Wistman’s Wood National Nature Reserve, is important for its fragile mosses, lichens, heathland and grassland species.

However, it’s the look and feel of Wistman’s that makes it a must-see.

The fantastical place is said to be haunted (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The oak trees growing in odd directions, granite boulders and wildflowers, make you feel like you’re stepping into an otherworldly fantasy land – it’s perhaps no surprise that visitors report spooky goings on after dark.

Some report saying a ‘ghost dog’, or hearing eerie whispers as the wind blows. And, legend has it that there’s an angry pack of blood thirsty hellhounds who hunt across the moors at night, searching for lost souls and explorers who’ve lost their way. They’re even said to guard the gates to the Underworld…

And if that’s not scary enough, another tale tells the story of a man who attempted to fell one of the ancient trees… but the oaks got their revenge, curling their roots around the man, crushing him to death. It’s said his cries can still be heard at night.

Still, that hasn’t put visitors off taking in this stunning site. There are hundreds of five star reviews of the place on TripAdvisor. One traveller said Wistman’s Wood looked like it was ‘straight out of a Harry Potter set’, adding: ‘This is a very peaceful place, but dare you stay after sunset???’

And another reviewer likened it to a ‘Steven King cinema set’, while another described it as ‘mystical and magical.’

What is the history of Wistman’s Wood?

Wistman’s Wood is a remnant of Dartmoor’s ancient forest dating back to around 7000 BCE.

Originally covered with stunted oak trees, the wood has changed over the years and has seen the emergence of new straight-grown oaks alongside the growth of its older trees. Some of these ancient oaks are estimated to be 400 to 500 years old. 

Creepy… (Picture: Shutterstock/Galih ajasih)

The origin of the name of this petite oak wood is shrouded in various theories. Some believe it came from the presence of Druids in the wood who purportedly conducted rituals within. This meant it was dubbed ‘Wise Man’s Wood.’

Alternatively, some believe the name stems from the Saxon term ‘wis,’ denoting knowledge, or ‘Wissman,’ translating to ‘Wood of the Wise Man.’

For those who prefer a more mysterious association, the term ‘Wisht’ also connotes being led astray by pixies. In folklore, pixies are mischievous pranksters, often playing tricks on unsuspecting visitors to this wood.

How to get to Wistman’s Wood

Be warned that travelling to Wistman’s Wood is not the easiest of excursions. Weather on the moor can also change quickly and drastically, so be prepared for all conditions.

The wood is located in the Dart River Valley which is a very remote area of Dartmoor National Park.

It is closest to Two Bridges and the large tourist hub of Princetown, which is home to the National Park visitor centre.

Weather can change quickly on the moor, so come prepared (Picture: Shutterstock/Mark Barnwell)

According to the official Dartmoor website, a small car park for visitors is available opposite Two Bridges Hotel. Spaces are very limited and best avoided at busy times.

The footpath to Wistman’s Wood from the car park and back again is about 4km. It is advised that visitors give themselves at least one hour to complete the return walk. After all, you don’t want to get stuck here after dark…



Rules to follow in Wistman’s Wood

As Wistman’s Wood is an important nature area, visitors are urged to adhere to the following rules:

  • Don’t walk through the wood or scramble across the rocky boulders, this will destroy the lichens and mosses. Every footstep makes a difference.
  • Don’t remove branches or pick lichens and mosses.
  • Don’t light fires or barbeques
  • Wild camping is not allowed in this area
  • Cycling is not allowed on the footpath or moorland. Check where you can cycle.
  • Leave no trace, give nature space

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