A DERELICT cottage in the heart of the New Forest has been given the green light to be transformed into a unique residential education centre for young people in a tribute to a teenage nature-lover.
Planning approval from the national park authority means that Cameron’s Cottage, named in memory of 16-year-old naturalist Cameron Bespolka, will be an immersive outdoor learning retreat by 2021.
Based at a secluded RSPB woodland reserve near Nomansland, it will provide accommodation and a research facility for schools, colleges, universities and small groups to embed themselves in nature for days at a time.
Cameron, from Winchester, died tragically in an Austrian skiing accident in 2013. He was an avid nature lover, whose passion for conservation was ignited at a similar outdoor retreat in Florida at the age of 15.
Cameron’s Cottage hopes to act as a catalyst in much the same way, engaging young people in the environment for their own personal wellbeing and that of the wider planet.
It was the idea of Corrine Cruickshank, the mother of Cameron and co-founder of the Cameron Bespolka Trust.
Through her own dedicated efforts, and those of friends, family and followers, the trust has raised a whopping £425,000 for Cameron’s Cottage. Most recently, a team of 16 individuals ran the Berlin marathon to raise an impressive £75,000.
Corinne said: “Now more than ever children and teens are widely disconnected with their natural outdoor environment and are spending more and more time indoors.
“We know that nature is important to their development in every way and there is a real need to educate young people as the future guardians of our planet.
“We strongly believe Cameron’s Cottage will offer them a way to experience and appreciate wildlife and the outdoors first-hand.”
The project is a partnership between the Cameron Bespolka Trust and the RSPB.
RSPB spokesperson Beth Markey said: “It has never been more critical to engage young people in nature. Absolutely everyone has a connection to the environment, whether it’s simply strolling in the Forest or taking an active interest in the welfare of animals.
“Unfortunately, many don’t realise it because they haven’t had the opportunity to engross themselves in nature, particularly if they’ve grown up in a city.
“Cameron’s Cottage is a truly wonderful venture that provides an unparalleled opportunity for people to completely absorb themselves in trees, plants and wildlife, free from electricity and the bonds of daily life.
“We are delighted to be working with the Cameron Bespolka Trust, which has an important vision to educate, inspire and open up the leaders of tomorrow to the wonders of nature.”