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TREES FOR LIFE: Fundraising campaign launched in the Highlands to create accessible walking trails around Dundreggan conservation estate in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness

By Louise Glen

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Ariel shot of Dundreggan Trees for Life centre.
Ariel shot of Dundreggan Trees for Life centre.

Rewilding charity Trees for Life is running a fundraising campaign to create new accessible walking trails around its Dundreggan conservation estate in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness, where the world’s first rewilding centre will open to the public in early 2023.

The three new trails will bring locals and visitors closer to some of Dundreggan’s rare wildlife, where years of rewilding work has helped to restore the area’s globally-unique Caledonian Forest - home to rare aspen and juniper, metre-high wood ant mounds, brightly coloured tongues of fire fungus, and red squirrels.

With the funds, Trees for Life will also upgrade an existing popular circular trail, the Juniper Walk, by removing obstacles, providing a firm surface and widening the path to make it accessible for wheelchair users and those with mobility aids. This will allow people of all abilities to see a thriving ecosystem where plants, trees, insects, animals and ancient land features are all connected.

Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre Director, said: “The trails leading from Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will enable visitors to immerse themselves in the forest and better understand what it means to rewild a landscape, while protecting the land from erosion.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to engage with and benefit from nature. Whether our visitors are keen walkers or looking for a more gentle and accessible route, our aim is to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy our Rewilding Centre and the Caledonian Forest. We hope this will inspire people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities to become actively involved in rewilding at home and in their own communities.”

A new easy trail will take walkers past the charity’s nursery, where it propagates and grows over 60,000 trees a year at the nursery from seeds collected across the estate, enabling visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the work that goes into returning lost woodland to the Highlands.

A new moderate trail will take walkers on a greater challenge, passing through ancient Scots pines up onto open moorland, where regenerating birch trees are helping bring the treeline, and associated wildlife, higher up the hillside. Restoring and protecting these at-risk habitats, including precious carbon-storing peatlands, is central to the charity’s mission to rewild the Highlands.

The new Rewilding Centre is primed to open up the charity’s work to new generations and groups of people, acting as a gateway to the forest for up to 30,000 visitors in its first year alone. The centre will help engage even more people with the need to better protect Scotland’s nature, and in the process help turn the tide on nature and climate emergencies

The Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is supported with funding from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot and 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; Garfield Weston Foundation; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme; and individualdonors.

To donate to Dundreggan Trails Appeal, please visit treesforlife.org.uk/trails.

Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of nature, to help tackle the nature, climate and health crises – helping wildlife recover, and benefiting people and local communities.

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