Rob Stoneman: Resurrecting Rainforests and Protecting Peat

May 14 2024

Rob Stoneman, Director of Landscape Recovery at the Wildlife Trusts, wanted to make lots of money in the oil industry… and then he found peat!

David Oakes

David Oakes


Rob Stoneman


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About this episode:

This episode is a deep dive into peat, the blancmange-like substance that should be our saviour. Also: the Wildlife Trusts’ plans to grow a new temperate rainforest in North Wales and Rob’s dream of having a mile deep nature reserve that circumnavigates the entirety of the British Isles’ coastline.

A geologist at source, Rob Stoneman has grown into a leading expert on the pragmatism required for landscape reform on the British Isle. Before becoming the inaugural Director of Landscape Recovery at the Wildlife Trusts, Rob managed vast areas of burgeoning biodiversity across the European continent for Rewilding Europe. Prior to that, he ran the Sheffield, then Hampshire and then the Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts.

Here, Rob and David Oakes tackle some genuinely daunting subjects: green finance and carbon credits, the feasibility and required timescale for achieving carbon neutrality, the post-Brexit opportunities for reformed agro-subsidy schemes, the potential symbiosis between nature tourism and food production, how conservation NGOs collaborate without becoming an enviro-cartel, and there’s even time to squeeze in a compliment to none other than Michael Gove(?!)

And if that doesn’t float your boat, then stick around for the bison, the elk, and the pumas that prey upon guinea pigs!

David's thoughts:

For the past two months, I have failed to remove the image of a coastal National Park from my mind: a mile deep, surrounding our nation. It’s bold thinking, a mesmerising prospect, and one I would give almost anything to see become a reality. I genuinely lie in bed before sleep arrives imagining how it might look…

I know it’s not what Rob means (he means a national park of which human beings are still a constituent part), but I cannot help but envision a Bournemouth devoid of ‘us’. I’ve never liked Bournemouth:

Beavers have re-routed the rivulet that currently winds through the mini-golf play area; beach huts slowly decay, they’re riddled with sea buckthorn whose luminous orange berries are munched by new forest ponies having made the trek from further inland like the horses of Greek myth before them; herds of elk and bison cavort with their offspring along the shallows of Poole harbour like the Brachiosaurus’ do in that ‘realisation’ scene in Jurassic Park; wolf packs can be heard howling in the ex-plantation pine forests, now marten-rich, that the RSPB failed to fully remove from Arne before we bipeds were evicted and the boar took over; lynx are undoubtedly skulking amongst the Victorian redwoods of Christchurch – a forest of giant trees finally starting to reach their potential; Brownsea Island is a daily battleground between red squirrel and white-tailed eagle, and the Baden-Powell bust is buried beneath ivy.

Not to mention the sand dunes alive with lizards and beetles and pregnant seals, the rich marine protected zone whose sea grass is capturing carbon, carbon, carbon and more carbon, with ospreys dipping their talons at whim to feed from a sea world frothing with fish and sea mammals and shellfish attaching themselves to all the old submarine concrete structures and then left free to age and age and age and age…

This Bournemouth is one where words like “native”, “archaeophyte” and “invasive” mean nothing – for there is no-one there to speak them. We all just look on with wonder, as we camp wild and feel alive once again (or tip our tour guides heartily as the hydrogen powered duck-boat brings us in for hourly tours – whichever floats your boat!)

I think that all sounds bloody marvellous.



Rob Stoneman on X/Twitter

The Wildlife Trusts –
Rewilding Europe –


The Lost Rainforests of Britain by Guy Shrubsole
Wilding: the return of nature to a British farm by Isabella Tree
Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life by George Monbiot


Sir John Lawton on Nov 4th 2019
Rob Rose & Natalie Stoppard on Mar 2nd 2020
George Monbiot on May 24th 2022

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