Trees for Life, the conservation charity behind a major native forest regeneration project in Glen Affric, are fundraising to restore a bothy that they say is key to their plans in the glen. Once a busy base, Athnamulloch bothy has been derelict for several years.
A revamped Athnamulloch Bothy will be a springboard for the next stage of their large-scale forest restoration work, in which volunteers will plant 250,000 trees to extend Glen Affric’s endangered native pine woods further west. This will create forest corridors and habitats for unique wildlife, they say.
Hidden away to the west of Loch Affric, the remote bothy became unsafe and closed in 2008. Trees for Life’s volunteers had previously used it as a base for planting the first new Scots pines to grow in the area for centuries, but restoration of the Caledonian Forest in this part of the glen stalled with the bothy’s closure.
Detailed plans have now been drawn up to renovate the building to what they call a high ecological standard, while retaining its rustic character. The charity has signed a 25-year lease for the bothy with Forestry Commission Scotland.
The new bothy should prove useful to hillwalkers as well as conservationists:
'We will be making the bothy available on a booking basis for hillwalking and other outdoor groups as widely as possible, outwith the times when it will be used by Trees for Life, the educational charity Wild things! and the Forestry Commission' says Trees for Life's Richard Bunting.
To date donations and grants have contributed towards much of the total £137,000 cost. The most recent of these grants is £20,000 from The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation, which supports worthy causes particularly in the Highlands.
Celebrity cameraman and filmmaker Gordon Buchanan – well known from television programmes such as Big Cat Diary and Springwatch - has lent his support to the fundraising effort.
'For me, time spent in Glen Affric’s ancient forest is precious' he said.
'Watching eagles soaring against the mountain peaks, red squirrels in the branches and glimpsing pine martens hunting amongst the heather is as wild and remote an experience as Britain can offer. How lucky we are to have this unique and wonderful landscape.'
'The problem is that this forest is tiny, and these ancient pines are just a fragment of the forest that once filled the glen. Further west, the grasslands are silent and empty, and the only signs of the former forest that once grew there are tree roots scattered in the peat.'
'I am thrilled to be supporting Trees for Life’s appeal for a new base in Glen Affric. It’s not possible to plant trees in this remote location without a place for volunteers to stay. We now have a fantastic opportunity to renovate Athnamulloch Bothy in the western glen, saving it from dereliction and bringing it back to life.'
A final £30,000 is needed to complete the charity’s most ambitious recent fundraising endeavour. This will bring the bothy back to life, replacing rotten woodwork, and installing a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, drying room, and a bathroom with eco-friendly energy and water systems.
For more info or to make a donation see the Trees for Life website.