Today Devon Wildlife Trust will begin creating Atlantic rainforest at a new nature reserve called Bowden Pillars Farm. The ambitious project has been made possible thanks to a long-term partnership between Aviva and The Wildlife Trusts.

The 30-hectare (75 acre) site is located close to the market town of Totnes. Its position on the edges of the Dart River valley provides wonderful views of South Devon and Dartmoor. Devon Wildlife Trust has secured a 105-year lease which will allow it to plant two-thirds of the land with native species trees to create new rainforest.

The purchase of the lease has been made possible with support from Aviva, along with a generous legacy from a Devon Wildlife Trust supporter.

Rainforests of the British Isles have been largely destroyed over hundreds of years and now cover less than 1% of Britain. The restoration of this precious habitat is part of a UK-wide programme of nature-based projects funded by Aviva to remove carbon from the atmosphere and to help nature recover.

Tree planting at Bowden Pillars Farm is the first project in the South West of England to receive support from the Aviva fund. Devon Wildlife Trust will create new rainforest close to existing examples of the ancient, wooded landscapes in the Dart Valley and on the southern edges of Dartmoor.

Devon Wildlife Trust will involve communities in and around Totnes in the rainforest recovery project, who will benefit from increased access to nature, volunteering, educational and employment opportunities. Rainforest restoration will also provide cleaner air and water and reduced risk from flooding.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s rainforest creation is part of a wider partnership centred on Bowden Pillars Farm. Other aspects to the project include establishing a regenerative farm. The reforested landscape will sit perfectly alongside these other features, creating a truly holistic community based on the principles of living in balance with the natural environment. Other partners include the Apricot Centre, Regenerative Settlement (Re-Set) and We Have The Power, as well as a host of supporters in the local community.

Harry Barton, Chief Executive of Devon Wildlife Trust, said: 'I’m very excited that we can now start to recreate rainforest in this beautiful part of South Devon. It’ll provide vital habitat for wildlife in a time of nature crisis, store vast amounts of carbon, and help restore the health of the soils and the quality of the water that drains off them. Bowden Pillars Farm will also be a fantastic asset for the people of Totnes, who will be able to walk out of the town and straight into this stunning landscape.'

Claudine Blamey, Group Sustainability Director, Aviva, said: 'It’s brilliant that Devon Wildlife Trust can begin restoring temperate rainforests in the South West of England. Aviva is proud to play its part in creating new areas of this important habitat that will help to tackle nature loss and climate change. Rainforest restoration will also benefit communities through education, access to nature, employment and tourism opportunities.'

Rainforests of the British Isles are temperate rainforests, which means they grow in areas that have high rainfall and humidity, and a low annual variation in temperature. They are also known as Atlantic woodland or Celtic rainforest.

Tree species include sessile oak, birch, rowan, holly, alder, willow and hazel. They are home to stoats and pine martens, and threatened birds like wood warblers, redstarts, and pied flycatchers. Wet conditions support an abundance of mosses, liverworts, lichens, and ferns – many of which grow on the trees or cover boulders and ravines. The dampness is ideal for fungi, including globally rare species like hazel gloves fungus.