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Findhorn-based Trees For Life breaks ground to begin building 'world first' Dundreggan Rewilding Centre


By Lorna Thompson

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FINDHORN-BASED environment charity Trees For Life has officially broken ground as construction of the world’s first rewilding centre gets under way.

The multi-million-pound Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, eight miles from Loch Ness on Dundreggan Estate, will act as a gateway to the 10,000-acre forest and wild outdoors, where there will be accessible trails, child-friendly forest adventures and more adventurous routes for the avid hillwalker.

The free-to-access centre, due to open next year, will include a café, classrooms and an events space alongside a 40-bed accommodation building.

It aims to inspire visitors from around the world to engage with rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature – by discovering wild landscapes and learning about wildlife.

Trees for Life expects the project to welcome more than 50,000 visitors annually to the centre, which is expected to create at least 15 jobs.

Trees For Life has been rewilding the former deer-stalking estate over the last 13 years, and its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites around the Highlands. This has seen the protection and expansion of fragments of Scotland’s Caledonian Forest, golden eagles successfully breeding for the first time in 40 years and populations of other species, such as black grouse, beginning to recover.

The centre will include displays and interpretation in English and Gaelic.

(From left) Trees For Life CEO Steven Micklewright, Trees for Life trainees Angus Crawley and Grymmsy Robinson planting the Rowan tree, Kat Murphy, rewilding centre education manager, Doug Gilbert, Dundreggan operations manager, Roddy Maclean and Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre director.
(From left) Trees For Life CEO Steven Micklewright, Trees for Life trainees Angus Crawley and Grymmsy Robinson planting the Rowan tree, Kat Murphy, rewilding centre education manager, Doug Gilbert, Dundreggan operations manager, Roddy Maclean and Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre director.
The first turf has been cut as work begins to build Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, near Loch Ness.
The first turf has been cut as work begins to build Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, near Loch Ness.

Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre director, said: "The landscape and its ancient connections to Gaelic will encourage people to 'rewild' themselves by connecting with nature and exploring the heritage of our Highland-based rewilding centre.

"Guests will be welcomed into the centre to experience rewilding for themselves, whether this is from a casual visit while passing through, to immersive experiences, supporting the concept that we can work with nature rather than against it.

"Scotland, the UK and the wider world need a place where rewilding can be explored, undertaken and shared. That is why we want to create the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan, a place where rewilding has been happening since 2008.

"The centre will offer recreational and educational experiences for people of all ages to enjoy the natural landscape and learn about the forest and rewilding, with the accommodation building being used for longer immersive experiences, including volunteering and educational trips.

"The full programme of activities is in development and will be made available prior to opening next year."

Dundreggan is home to more than 4000 plant and animal species – including some never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.

The plans for the centre have been developed following consultation with the local community.

Nick Halfhide, NatureScot director of nature and climate change, said: "We have no doubt that visitors will find the rewilding centre and Dundreggan wonderful to explore, with ancient Caledonian pinewoods and rich wildlife.

"This special project, part-funded by our Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, will help protect and expand Scotland’s nature – work which is crucial at this time as we face the twin threats of biodiversity loss and climate change."

The centre is supported with funding from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot and part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, SSE Sustainable Development Fund, Audemars Piguet Foundation, FERN Community Funds, and Garfield Weston Foundation.


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