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Historic climbs around Loch Ness can inspire new generation to look after nature

By John Davidson

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It started with the seed of an idea during lockdown, and now could grow into half a million trees.

Climbers are being invited to join a campaign to gather hundreds of thousands of seeds - drawing inspiration from a Highland adventurer’s newly re-published book, Rock Climbs.

Jane Frere with her father's book Rock Climbs and copies of the re-issued version.
Jane Frere with her father's book Rock Climbs and copies of the re-issued version.

Artist Jane Frere hopes the book, written when her late father Richard Frere was still a schoolboy in Inverness, will spur climbers to a greater appreciation of the need to restore nature on the barren hill tops.

Working alongside rewilding charity Trees For Life, Jane now hopes to inspire more of the climbing fraternity to help with a seed collecting scheme.

The 63-year-old, who lives in Drumnadrochit, says her father and his climbing companions were “true pioneers”, tackling local hills, crags and cliffs in the land around Loch Ness,

“They were 14, 15, 16 years old, going off up to rocks with their hemp ropes and nothing else,” she told The Inverness Courier last year. “Richard and Kenneth [Robertson] were credited with the first ascent of the Savage Slit, which they named in 1939 and has become a legendary route for climbers in Coire an Lochain in the Cairngorms.”

Richard was also the author of naturalist Gavin Maxwell's biography, Maxwell’s Ghost, and published his first book describing climbs around Loch Ness in 1938.

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He attended Inverness Royal Academy and formed the Highland Mountaineering Club with his classmates in the 1930s as well as the Inverness section of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland, with his father Harold Frere as president.

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is the location for the event.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is the location for the event.

Last year Jane re-published his book of local climbs – an idea inspired after a conversation during lockdown – and is now set to give a presentation about her father, a noted writer, mountaineer and conservationist, at Dundreggan Rewilding Centre.

The illustrated talk will feature early black and white mountaineering photographs highlighting the revised edition of Rock Climbs, with additional commentary and an epilogue by Jane Frere herself.

Copies of Rock Climbs, another of her father’s books, In Symphony Austere, and Jane's own rewilding-inspired limited edition prints will be available for purchase.

The cover of the new Rock Climbs edition..
The cover of the new Rock Climbs edition..

Trees for Life volunteer coordinator Roz Birch will introduce the Tree Seed Collection project, explaining how climbers can support the project’s goal to gather enough seed to grow 500,000 trees across Scotland.

The event will take place on Sunday, April 14, from 2pm to 3.30pm at Trees For Life’s Dundreggan Rewilding Centre.

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