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What can a temperate rainforest teach us about humanity?

Cabilla Mother Oak Tree in a temperate rainforest Half-circle stamp style image with 'Greenheart for greener futures' caption
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Tucked away in the heart of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, lies a hidden gem almost as old as the Giza Pyramids – the enchanting temperate rainforest at Cabilla. This emerald sanctuary boasts a remarkable 4,000-year history and holds profound lessons for humanity.

The forest at Cabilla thrives in a challenging environment, battered by the Atlantic winds and drenched in British rain. Despite once covering up to 20% of land in the UK, just 1% remains temperate rainforest. Yet, it endures. Its ancient oak trees, gnarled and strong, stand as testaments to the power of resilience. They remind us that even in the face of adversity, with deep roots and unwavering determination, we can weather any storm.

Cabilla, an upland hill farm where an ancient patch of temperate rainforest remains untouched. The custodians are blending the business of traditional farming with innovative new ventures to sustain and breathe new life into the farm. The brainchild of Merlin Hanbury-Tenison, he describes Cabilla as a place “for groups to connect with the restorative powers of nature”. Merlin and his wife Lizzie took over the land at a time when profit margins for traditional agricultural farming were being squeezed and at a turning point in their personal lives where nurturing their mental health became paramount. The couple felt a yearning to restore the land to achieve ecological balance, for their families’ health and as custodians of the land for future generations. Merlin and Lizzie dared to dream; what if they worked with the land to restore it and invited other people here to heal and connect with it? The idea for Cabilla was born: a place where groups and teams could reconnect with themselves, one another and nature. 

This thriving ecosystem is a tapestry of interdependent life forms working as a collective. The teeming trees provide a haven for a myriad of mosses, air-purifying lichens, ferns, and wildflowers. In turn, these smaller plants enrich the soil, creating a symbiotic cycle that sustains the entire forest. The Cabilla temperate rainforest reminds us that humanity too is a part of this living system that flourishes through collaboration and a deep respect for the delicate balance of our world.


The greenheart ecosystem under a mother oak tree in Cabilla's temperate rainforest in cornwall

The Greenheart Ecosystem collaborating under a Mother Oak in Cabilla’s temperate rainforest in Cornwall


During the recent Greenheart Summer Gathering at Cabilla, we spent time admiring, sitting underneath and interacting with a 350 year old oak “Mother Tree” – an analogy we use within the business to describe our impact strategy. A Mother Tree (as coined by Dr Suzanne Simmard) is an interconnected system that works symbiotically with the surrounding flora and fauna. The temperate rainforest is a refuge for a rich tapestry of life. From the vibrant emerald mosses clinging to ancient branches to the secretive creatures that flit through the undergrowth, the temperate rainforest pulsates with life.



The very existence of this natural wonder is a testament to the power of sustainable practices. For thousands of years, this ecosystem has thrived, a closed loop where nature replenishes itself and builds nutrient value. The temperate rainforest compels us to rethink our relationship with the environment and strive for a more sustainable future and serves as a natural model for how living systems work together to create conditions conducive for life to flourish. 

The Cabilla Temperate Rainforest is a beacon of hope, a living testament to the enduring power of nature. As we stand amidst the canopy of this ancient wonder, we are called to action. We must become custodians of our planet, fostering resilience, interdependence, biodiversity, and sustainability. Lawyer, researcher and facilitator, Erin Matariki Carr, who is of Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa descent explains that nature has “been creating stuff for millennia, she knows what she’s doing, she doesn’t need management, humans need management”. The future of humanity hinges on our ability to learn from the wisdom whispered by this 4,000-year-old ecosystem. 

As the mother tree nourishes its forest, your business can become a source of strength, support and inspiration to its network. The next time you find yourself surrounded by bucolic woodland, take a moment to be still and listen. The trees may hold the key to a brighter future.


For more information about connecting your business meaningfully with nature email us on contact@greenheartbusiness.com 

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