Cameron's Cottage 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.
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.
What an altogether awesome week it has been! An incredibly momentous occasion to be hosting the first groups of young people at Cameron’s Cottage to experience just a few of the outdoor activities that will be on offer.
The RSPB hosted three separate small groups to test out some of the outdoor activities at Franchises Lodge nature reserve. The first group, Employ My Ability, is a charity that helps students with learning disabilities develop vital skills. They learnt about habitat management and helped clear the invasive non-native rhododendrons.
The second group Black To Nature led by Birdgirl took part in a bio blitz activity organized by Russell Wynn and Marcus Ward from Wild New Forest with each group identifying over 110 different species in just 1 hour!
And the third group of University students and volunteers carried out deer population and impact surveys in the New Forest.
These are just some of the endless possibilities around Cameron’s Cottage. For now, groups could not stay due to COVID restrictions and the Cottage is not 100% ready but it was very special indeed to be part of the day.
The event was expertly organised by Anneka at RSPB England. We are so grateful to our amazing supporters for making this possible. Thank you.
What a glorious day to be in the New Forest. Cameron’s Cottage was basking in sunshine, amongst a hive of activity. It was wonderful to see such amazing progress and see so many people working on site.
The Outreach Centre, with a spectacular 360 degree view of woodlands, creates a feeling of open space and being totally immersed in nature. All the solar panels have now been fitted on the roof of the Outreach Centre as well as the Cottage and electricity is now being entirely provided by renewables.
One highlight was seeing the Swift bricks being installed. A total of 6 Swift homes will be added to Cameron’s Cottage and we are hoping for Swifts as well as a variety of other birds to make their nests in them.
Inside, work has progressed and all the glass panels have been installed, stairs are in and bedrooms have been painted.
We are so grateful to the Garfield Weston Foundation for their wonderful grant of £40,000 that we were awarded last week. This grant will enable us to kit out the Cottage and install all the necessary fixture and fittings. A huge thank you to all the Trustees at the Garfield Weston Foundation for their tremendous support and generosity.
Due to open in the autumn, our young visitors will be able to enjoy a wealth of nature-based activities, whilst living off-the-grid for days at a time. Cameron’s Cottage is a unique nature outreach centre located in the idyllic RSPB Franchises Lodge woodland reserve.
It was wonderful to see such progress at Cameron’s Cottage last week. Now more than ever, this residential nature outreach centre will be a place where young people can connect with nature, understand wildlife, boost their wellbeing, learn new skills and socialise in an outdoor environment. Cameron’s Cottage, in the heart of the RSPB nature reserve, is surrounded by pristine ancient woodland and open heathland where young people can experience this unique natural heritage and immerse themselves in outdoor learning experiences.
Inside the Cottage, the stairs have been fitted and all three bedrooms on the top floor are looking good and all the original windows have been refurbished and refitted. Below, all the other rooms are taking shape and the Cottage has been insulated throughout. The new extension has been clad and will be used for the showers plus a large dorm room which will sleep up to 8. This area is spacious and has been insulated and installation of ducting for the ventilation systems are being installed in the walls and ceilings.
This new extension is beautifully clad with wood all from the reserve which compliments the old brick building. Next to it is the Nature Outreach Centre which is nearing completion and all the solar panels have been fixed on the roof. Inside the Nature Outreach Centre is a small Field Study Centre which will be used for research projects by University Students and other young RSPB volunteers.
All renewable equipment has been installed inside a security caged outhouse and has been tested and is working which is fantastic. See the flow chart below to show how energy will be created to heat Cameron’s Cottage as well as supply hot water. All this has been expertly done by SA Energy Ltd.
We are hoping that the weather continues to improve so that building work can carry on without any hitches. So far our builders, AV Development, have done a remarkable job continuing all the work. Our aim is to complete the project by this summer.
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.