In partnership with the RSPB, we are thrilled to announce that Cameron’s Cottage is now open. This residential retreat is a non-profit venture in memory of Cameron to make nature more accessible to young people.
Cameron’s Cottage is nestled in the heart of RSPB Franchises Lodge nature reserve in the New Forest and sleeps 19. It has been renovated to create a sustainable place where groups of young people can experience and learn about the natural world.
Cameron’s Cottage offers an immersive outdoor experience for 15 – 25 year olds in a stunning woodland packed full of wildlife, including many rarities.
Whether it’s getting creative through outdoor cooking and wild art, tackling the grittier side of nature with survival skills and conducting research or learning conservation skills, those coming to stay at Cameron’s Cottage will have the experience of a lifetime.
Franchises Lodge is a haven for wildlife, from birds of prey to unusual fungi, orchids and loads more. In this idyllic setting, young people can come together to take part in activities ranging from shelter building to conservation skills, plus much, much more.
Next to Cameron’s Cottage there is an open-sided wooden outdoor classroom which can be booked for day visits from schools. These day trips will include nature activities provided and led by RSPB.
"Cameron’s Cottage is completely off-grid with heating and electricity provided by solar power, so it really is the ultimate nature experience"
We are proud of the fact that Cameron’s Cottage is off-grid, relies on solar power and is wildlife friendly. All the timber used to renovate the Cottage has come from the site. The douglas fir trees needed to be thinned by a third to allow light to reach the ground and to increase biodiversity. Solar panels are located on the study centre and extension roof producing 10KW power per hour with battery storage.Groups can monitor their power use and adapt according to the amount being generated or stored. This is a fantastic learning resource for how we need to think carefully and consider the impacts of how we use resources. A firepit and equipment has been provided to encourage outdoor living.
The water is heated by solar heating in the warmer months but switches to solar power for the winter. Inside, all appliances have been planned to have a low energy use. There are wood burners inside the kitchen and study centre to provide additional heat but can also be used to cook indoors and has an additional hob. A heat source pump supports the low carbon heating arrangement by drawing heat from the outside air and transferring to the underfloor heating system to warm the building.
Outside, wildlife friendly features have been built into the design including swift bricks, house martin cups, greater horseshoe bat entrance and bat entrances included in the roof slates. There is an old well which supplies water to outside taps to wash boots, whilst inside the water does come from a mains supply. The property has its own sewage treatment plant to treat sewage safely and with no negative impact on the environment. This is fenced in the garden and will eventually be hidden by a native hedge that will provide a nectar source for butterflies, moths and bees to support the ecosystem.
To find out more about how sustainable and environmentally friendly this Cottage is, please have a listen to Joe Moorhouse, the Architect who worked on the whole renovation project. He explains the care and attention taken to make sure this off-grid Cottage is low-impact as well as being a home for lots of wildlife all around.
We are delighted to continue our sponsorship of the New Forest Wildlife Camp for a third year. The Wild New Forest chose the newly renovated Cameron’s Cottage as its venue for camp which ran from Friday 22 October to the Sunday.
The Trust has sponsored this event since its inception and it was wonderful to welcome this energetic group of teenagers to the Franchises Lodge RSPB reserve in the northern New Forest.
It was a jam packed weekend for the campers. The activities included everything from nocturnal wildlife hunts to bird ringing demonstrations. The campers were also able to set moth traps and to see how camera traps are set to capture nocturnal activity. The camera traps yielded video footage of Fallow Deer, Grey Squirrel and Wood Mouse.
The Saturday afternoon bio blitz competition showed just how rich the area is in flora and fauna; the three teams recorded between 130 and 150 species, with highlights including Raft Spider, Wood Cricket and Palmate Newt.
Trustee, Corinne Cruickshank paid a visit to the cottage on the Saturday to give the attendees an inspiring speech about Cameron’s legacy and the vision for Cameron’s Cottage.
Andy Page, Head Keeper at Forestry England, joined the group on the Sunday walk and was able to talk about wildlife and woodland management and reveal some of the rich history of the area.
By the end of the camp the attendees had recorded nearly 100 species of fungi, 45 species of bird, over 30 species of moth, and numerous invertebrates, plants, and trees. It was great to see the group sharing experiences and enjoying each other’s company after what has been a tough couple of years due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Huge thanks to Nigel Jones, Andy Page, Andrew Colenutt and Helen Schneider for leading the activities and to Anneka and Lou from RSPB for their assistance at Cameron’s Cottage.
To read a full report on the weekend please visit the Wild New Forest website
Trustee Corinne Cruickshank met up with RSPB Chief Executive, Beccy Speight, recently to check on progress at Cameron's Cottage. It won't be long before the doors will open to young naturalists everywhere.
Beccy reflected on the progress so far; "The partnership between the Cameron Bespolka Trust and the RSPB feels like a real meeting of minds. Cameron’s Cottage is a very special place and the opportunity to have young people come and stay and have the chance to be immersed in such nature rich surroundings is hugely important. Nature’s restoration needs all of us to care and take action and we know that people only care for what they can understand and therefore grow to love.
We also know that being in natural surroundings brings huge benefits in terms of an individual person’s physical and mental wellbeing. The kind of experience offered by a stay at Cameron’s Cottage in a supportive communal environment will definitely start young people on that journey, both for nature and for themselves. We’re incredibly grateful that the Trust has chosen to fund and work alongside us to achieve this vision.”
We were very proud to be the first group to test out Cameron’s Cottage last weekend. All our Trustees and 10 Young Ambassadors came to Cameron’s Cottage and find out what a stay is like and to discover the RSPB Franchises Lodge nature reserve.
Cameron’s Cottage is so nearly ready, just final touch up details before the building is handed back to the RSPB. So we had fun camping close to the Cottage but using the facilities which made the whole weekend even more of an adventure.
The focus of Cameron’s Cottage is to invite young people from all walks of life to come and stay, learn, develop skills and confidence in this beautiful wildlife rich forest. The Cottage will sleep 19 (and additional camping available) and has an Outdoor Classroom adjacent to accommodate day time activities as well as being a perfect place to eat outside. There is also an enclosed study centre at the end of the Classroom which will have facilities for research and data analysis to take place.
Cameron’s Cottage is also a home for wildlife. There are bat boxes in every roof space as well as on the surrounding trees, Swift bricks, House Martin cups and many other nooks and crannies around the place for birds to nest.
This building is off grid but there is mains water and but no mains gas or electricity. Much research has gone into making this place reliable and energy efficient. There are 72 solar panels, 3 large batteries, a mechanical ventilation system, an air source pump and under floor heating. There will also be a back up generator for those dark winter days. The most energy efficient part of the Cottage is the superb insulation. And the RSPB are very proud to have supplied all the timber (douglas fir) from the surrounding reserve.
We can’t wait for you to organise your group and come visit, aimed especially at 15-25 year olds from all backgrounds and walks of life. We are working with educational establishments such as schools and universities, conservations groups, youth groups, specialist charities, scouts and more. Reservations will be on line as of September but please email me in the meantime if you have any questions or enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org or Anneka Schofield, Project Officer RSPB Franchises Lodge email@example.com.