Charities join forces to give young people an amazing wild experience in the New Forest

New field centre in depths of “Secret Forest” to inspire young people to save nature

Two charities have announced their intention to create a unique residential educational facility in a derelict cottage deep within the RSPB’s new Franchises Lodge nature reserve in the New Forest National Park. The centre will provide a base from which small groups of young people will be able to have exceptional, immersive experiences in nature, and will be called ‘Cameron’s Cottage’ in memory Cameron Bespolka who died in a tragic accident, aged just 16.

The RSPB, who acquired Franchises Lodge in March 2018, have formed a partnership with the Cameron Bespolka Trust, a charity set up in memory of Cameron. The proposed new centre will be developed in a remote derelict cottage within the woodlands of the new reserve, and will be a high quality, low impact building renovation. It is intended to provide research facilities and residential accommodation for use by small groups from schools, colleges, universities and organisations, enabling young people to experience and study nature. The Cameron Bespolka Trust has pledged £350,000 towards the costs of creating and running ‘Cameron’s Cottage’.

Peter Exley, Public Affairs Manager for the RSPB, said: “It is vital that we provide ways for young people these days to connect with nature, if we are to save nature now and in the future. Cameron’s Cottage is a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Our vision together is to create a unique, special facility immersed in this wonderful location, a place that will inspire the next generation of naturalists and conservationists. We are delighted to be working with the Cameron Bespolka Trust, and grateful to them and their supporters for putting forward the funding.”

Corinne Cruikshank from the Cameron Bespolka Trust said: “When Cameron was 15, he spent 3 nights in a cottage in a Florida nature reserve. He listened to the screeching of an owl, he gazed at the stars and he saw an armadillo crawling along the path. Night and day, dawn and dusk, he was surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. His stay in that cottage helped to fire his passion for wildlife observation – it was an experience he spoke of frequently, and was central to the naturalist that he became.

“We set up The Cameron Bespolka Trust as a charity in Cameron’s memory to inspire young people to love and appreciate nature. We’ve been looking for somewhere where young people can experience and connect with nature as he did – and we think this is just the right place!”

The RSPB will now be drawing up plans for the new centre, working with Universities, colleges, schools and organisations to understand their needs, and talking to the local communities within the New Forest National Park about their hopes and needs.