Yesterday we rode in dense green shade through the virgin beech forest which covers much of the Lagodehki reserve. The steep trail was so densely covered in fallen beech leaves that it was scarcely visible in places. These beech trees are two hundred or three hundred years old, says reserve director Vazha Pavliashvili, and they may grow to 50 meters.
Lagodekhi is renowned for the richness of its plant and animal life the forest has never been touched by human beings. Around 1500 different species of plants and trees live in it, including many endemic species and almost all the mammals of the Caucasus.
"Ecologically this country is different to any other place I have photographed," says Pat, who has been preparing a book on Georgia for two years. "The combination of high mountains, temperate forests and cultural monuments in such a small area is really special. But these people I am working with have really opened it up for me."
Vazha has been the director of Lagodekhi for 20 years. He has the courtesy and quiet alertness of many people who spend their lives in wild nature.