An outdoor learning centre for teenagers and adults has been recognised for its committment to sustainability and green ambitions. 

Cameron’s Cottage, which is based at the RSPB Franchises Lodge nature reserve near Nomansland, was awarded the trophy for Best Green Project at the New Forest National Park Building Design Awards 2022.

It was also highly commended in the Best Conservation Project category.

In 2018, the RSPB began working with Moorhouse Architecture to restore the derelict workman’s cottage into an off-grid facility for up to nineteen individuals at a time, while also creating homes for nature.

The cottage is also a sanctuary for wildlife. The entire loft and roof of the adjoining classroom, is dedicated to the bats, which include some rare species such as greater horseshoe bats.

Special nest boxes have also been incorporated into the building work, to provide a safe space for nesting swifts during the spring and summer, and the gaps in the cladding will provide habitats for other species including robins and sparrows during the winter months.

Joe Moorhouse, of Moorhouse Architecture, said: “It’s great to see Cameron’s Cottage up and running after so much work went into it. This unique, sustainable development is rooted in nature and embodies the spirit of its surroundings.

“The entire project team should be extremely proud of this award. Our mission was to carefully balance heritage, improvements and create something that can benefit the New Forest while preserving nature.”

Cameron’s Cottage visitors and volunteers will be immersed in nature and able to develop a better understanding of conservation of heritage and wildlife in the National Park, experience living off-grid and learn about responsible and sustainable green building development.

Timber collected from Douglas fir trees on the reserve was used to restore the centre and build the outdoor study centre. Other materials used included recycled plastic loft insulation, internal wall wood fibre, recycled glass insulation in new limecrete floors and VOC free paints. Electricity and heating for the cottage is provided by solar panels. 

The project is a collaboration between the RSPB, the Cameron Bespolka Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Trust.

Cameron’s Cottage is being renovated as a legacy to Cameron Bespolka who died in an accident in 2013.

He was an avid nature lover and Cameron’s Cottage hopes to help young people young people with the environment for their own personal wellbeing and that of the wider planet.