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Restoration work starts on Victorian pond at Boleskine House near Loch Ness

By Val Sweeney

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A worker from Pro Forestry Scotland clears overgrowth from the pond on the Boleskine Estate.
A worker from Pro Forestry Scotland clears overgrowth from the pond on the Boleskine Estate.

An ambitious project to restore a neglected Victorian pond behind Boleskine House near Loch Ness has started.

The freshwater pond will be cleaned up, transformed into a haven for local plant and wildlife, and opened to the public.

It is being led by the Boleskine House Foundation, a registered Scottish charity, which was awarded £9400 from the Highland Council's nature restoration fund in December.

Boleskine House was formerly owned by occultist Aleister Crowley and later Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and was badly damaged by fire in 2015 and 2019.

Steven O’Donnell, restoration project lead and trustee of foundation, said: "It is wonderful to see our estate transform from decades of neglect into a place of natural majesty that people from all over Scotland and the world will be able to enjoy.

"This is yet another step not only towards our vision of giving the estate a new lease on life for the public benefit, but to promoting nature-based activities to educate the public on the importance of nature preservation in a fun and friendly manner.

"Together, we will move towards a sustainable future in the heritage sector and beyond.”

Boleskine House was badly damaged by fire in 2015 and 2019.
Boleskine House was badly damaged by fire in 2015 and 2019.

Mr O'Donnell has collaborated with Stephen Corcoran of Corcoran Consultants, a marine ecologist and nature restoration specialist, to develop a restoration programme to complement the foundation’s estate-wide biodiversity programme.

Together, they have developed a multi-phased plan which began on March 6 and is expected to be mostly completed by spring.

Phase one involves removing invasive rhododendrons in and around the wetland area and excavating decades of decomposed material from the pond.

This work will pause temporarily on March 17 so that the bird and amphibian breeding season can start undisturbed.

Phase two will focus on enhancements to public access and native plant life restoration.

New pathways will be provided around the pond, a dipping pier for educational activities will be constructed, and new plantings of native wetland pond plants, locally-sourced and grown in the estate’s own seed nursery, will be installed to deter invasive species and disease.

These efforts will support biodiversity and provide a suitable breeding site for newts, frogs, dragonflies and many other vitally important and often endangered wetland species.

The pond, which was once stocked with fish, is part of the Loch Ness and Duntelchaig Special Landscape Area, a designation by Highland Council as a regionally-valuable landscape worthy of protection and enhancement, and promotion of public enjoyment.

Records of the pond’s existence date back to the mid-1800s but a water catchment facility has existed on the site for much longer, as evidenced by the two natural springs at either corner of the pond.

With two thirds of freshwater species in Scotland found in ponds, and 50 per cent of all UK ponds having been lost in the 20th century, it is the charity’s intention that restoring the freshwater pond will ensure an effective way to protect freshwater wildlife in the local area and enhance biodiversity.

Information and updates will be available as the project progresses on The Boleskine House Foundation’s official social media accounts at BoleskineHouseFoundation and Instagram/Boleskine.House.

The Boleskine House Foundation's mission is to restore and preserve the historical legacy and heritage of the Boleskine House estate for the greater benefit of the public.

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