Trees for Life has submitted a planning application for the world’s first rewilding centre at its 10,000-acre Dundreggan Estate in Glenmoriston
The conservation charity, Trees for Life, is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. Its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.
The planning application was submitted to Highland Council on 22 June. It features a visitor centre situated in the Dundreggan estate inspired by wild native forests and the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands.
Trees for Life expects the project to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually – showcasing the benefits of rewilding and working with nature rather than against it, while boosting the rural economy and creating at least 15 new local jobs.
Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive, said: “Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will be a place for people from all walks of life to rewild themselves by exploring and enjoying a remarkable wild landscape in a beautiful Highland glen, and to spend time learning about the area’s unique wildlife and inspiring Gaelic history”.
Using nature as an inspiration
To blend in with the landscape, the building’s design has been inspired by local Gaelic heritage, and by the endangered Caledonian Forest – with verticals representing trees, changing light to reflect how light plays in woodlands, and materials and colours conjuring up bracken and forest bark.
In the all-weather visitor centre, a ‘Welcome Tree’ central space will be a focal point where people can discover the activities on offer. A Gaelic bothy area will spotlight local history and heritage, and there will be spaces for learning and events.
The building will act as a gateway to the forest and wild outdoors, where there will be fully accessible trails and more adventurous walks. Family-friendly features where people can learn, play and relax will include forest play area and a wildlife pond for dipping.
An accessible 20-bed accommodation space will be constructed on the site of an original lodge, enabling people to have longer stays at the rewilding estate.
The project has received over £2m in support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Natural Heritage-led Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund funded through the European Regional Development Fund. Trees for Life is seeking further funding to ensure the centre can be constructed on schedule in 2021.
The project has received overwhelming support from the local community and their opinions have been incorporated into the plans.
Inverness-based Threesixty Architecture has led the design team for the centre. Highland Council granted planning permission in principle for the centre in April 2019. Construction should begin in early 2021, with the centre opening in 2022.
Trees for Life has been rewilding Dundreggan – including by protecting and expanding fragments of the Caledonian Forest – since its 2008 purchase of the former deer stalking estate.
Dundreggan is home to over 4,000 plant and animal species, including some never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.