Today I’ve been to the Amazon forest. Among the chaos of supersized vegetation I saw scorpios, a sloth, stick insects and carnivorous flowers, pacus and tortoises, exotic birds and monkeys, a crocodile and cockroaches. It was hot, humid, sticky and smelt of decaying foliage. In other words it was a real feast for the eyes. Then I drove back to Witney.
Right, I haven’t really been to the Amazon but I did go to the Living Rainforest in Hampstead Norreys, West Berkshire, which as far as I am concerned is the next best thing considering travel time and the £9.95 adult entrance.
The Living Rainforest has two large greenhouses that are home to an array of plants and animals representing the biological diversity of rainforests across the continents. Without being extremely big, the place gives a very good idea of what it might be like to go to a real rainforest. The smell, the hot dampness and the monkeys’ cries surrounding me while I was walking among plants that do not grow in our temperate climates all made the experience alive.
Going to the Living Rainforest is a bit like starring in StarTrek: one minute you are in a car park in the 21st century and the next you have teleported in a place where everything is alien and that has probably be looking like this for thousands of years. Losing that grip on familiarity is what I love most when travelling and it was a good surprise to experience this so close to home.
The place is also teeming with educational ideas and very kid friendly. The Living Rainforest can really be a good outing to learn more about the importance of not destroying tropical forests on a grand scale but also simply to contemplate the beauty and the diversity of this rich ecosystem.
If I had to describe it with only one word I would say The Living Rainforest is lush, both literally and in its Welsh nuance.