A NEW nature centre for young people built in memory of a teenager has opened.

Cameron’s Cottage is based at the RSPB Franchises Lodge nature reserve near Nomansland and was built in memory of Cameron Bespolka who died in a skiing accident in 2013, aged 16.

It aims to make nature more inclusive for young people through an immersive residential centre.

Cameron’s Cottage is a former woodsman’s cottage turned outdoor, residential centre that provides experiences for teenagers and young adults with limited access to nature.

The Cameron Bespolka Trust raised £450k to renovate Cameron’s Cottage in partnership with the RSPB and work began on the building in 2019.

Over the past year, the project has received a further £200k from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, alongside crucial funding from other partners such as the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Corinne Bespolka, the founder of the Cameron Bespolka Trust and Cameron's mother, said: “As a family, we always tried to spend time in nature and we appreciated how special and important this was. From an early age, Cameron loved animals and wildlife and as he grew older, bird watching became his passion.

Salisbury Journal:

"He stayed in a cottage similar to this and it meant the world to him. He loved that he was surrounded by wildlife morning noon and night. He inspired us to listen and observe and Cameron’s Cottage is dedicated to all young people to come, stay and connect with nature as he did.

“We are delighted to partner with RSPB to fulfil our joint vision. Now that Cameron’s Cottage is open, we will be providing funding to ensure that young people from all walks of life will be able to stay.”

Cameron’s Cottage also provides facilities for educational institutions such as colleges and universities to conduct research.

Franchises Lodge, which is in the New Forest National Park, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the woodland is home to wildlife including rare bat and fungi species and the highest population of breeding toads in the UK.

RSPB spokesperson, Beth Markey, added: “Cameron’s Cottage is completely off-grid with heating and electricity provided by solar power, so it really is the ultimate nature experience. We’ve been lucky enough to welcome several groups to Cameron’s Cottage since the beginning of September, all of whom have been involved in exciting conservation work and discovered incredible wildlife.

“Research shows that teenagers and young adults are more disconnected from nature than any other age group and we believe that by tackling barriers that prevent access to nature, we can encourage more people to take an interest in the natural world and change lives.”

On a recent visit to Cameron’s Cottage with the New Forest National Park Authority, Salisbury MP John Glen described the centre as “a fantastic scheme, and a great example of a successful management model for collaboration between communities, councils, organisations and volunteers".

He added: “Not only does it offer the therapeutic value of nature but will introduce a new generation to the stewardship responsibility we all have for this beautiful part of the country.”


Get more Salisbury news

You can also like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date.

If you want online news with fewer ads, unlimited access and reader rewards - plus a chance to support our local journalism - find out more about registering or a digital subscription.

Email newsdesk@salisburyjournal.co.uk with your comments, pictures, letters and news stories.