Wild Oak Woods Eco Campsite

Wild Oak Woods Eco Campsite

Funding: 
Private source: £108,000; Dumfries and Galloway LEADER: £50,000
Scottish Rural Development Programme priority: 
Enhancing the rural economy
        
Contact details: 
Elspeth English elspethenglish@live.come

 

Location

Sandyhills
Dumfries and Galloway

What are the aims of your project?

Wild Oak Woods Eco-campsite project will create a low carbon tourist facility in a hidden valley within the Stewartry National Scenic Area. The development will increase coastal, rural tourism using good environmental design and renewable energy sources to create a niche market, back to nature holiday experience which will be an example of Eco-tourism at its best.

The project creates a symbiotic relationship between a sustainable small business and a stunning, biodiverse wildlife site. It will ensure the economic stability of the business, add to the economic growth of the area and safeguard a site of valuable biodiversity. It will raise awareness of the natural assets of Dumfries and Galloway both nationally and beyond.

By holidaying at the Wild Oak Woods Eco-campsite our clients will have the opportunity to experience woodland life as it unfolds around them and their accommodation charge will ensure that this stunningly beautiful wildlife site is conserved and enhanced for future generations of visitors to Dumfries and Galloway.

We also aim to promote opportunities for volunteers. So far, we have had Forestry Students from the Barony College as well as Wildlife Media Students from Carlisle on work placements.

Who’s involved?

Nigel Shields and I have been managing the project. We have also had the help of local contractors carrying out the works and helping create and put in place the systems and structures. As well as this we have had input from college students from both the Barony and Carlisle College. These student placements have been extremely valuable to the students so far, especially as we have offered free accommodation because transport can be a major obstacle to young people in rural areas. 

How was the project funded?

The project has been funded through a combination of private investment from myself and LEADER funding. This is through the income generated by my current business ‘Hands on Environment Education’.

How has your project benefitted your local area?

The project has already created many benefits to the local area and once the project is finished and ready to open to the public will create much more. So far, the biodiversity of the site has created a positive environmental impact for the local area, with the wild flower meadows encouraging bees and butterflies to pollinate as well as a safe haven for wildlife such as squirrels, deer and badgers to flourish.

The volunteering and student placements have benefitted local young people and we hope this will continue. We are also looking at offering volunteering opportunities for the older generation to tackle social isolation, a huge problem in rural areas.

The work done so far has been valuable to local contractors as they are now able to set up sustainable and eco-friendly systems that are no standard and something they can market for themselves in the future.

Once the campsite is up and running, the local area will benefit with an increase in tourism. These businesses include the deer park next door, the local shops, cafes and restaurants. These are all within walking distance and we will be creating a map for customers with routes through the local forest to either walk or cycle to the wider area, again benefitting the shops and restaurants who often rely on tourists. 

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Grey water system

Getting the systems to work! Our grey water system is incredible to see, with waste water being filtered through reed beds and coming clean out the other side. Also, with our PV system we are almost fully self-sufficient in energy for lighting and electrics. We are as sustainable as we can be and it’s exciting to see how this can be used elsewhere in the future. We have also had friends and family ‘testing’ the cabins and it’s great to see the excitement in people watching squirrels and other wildlife out the window. Being able to offer people that experience in the future is an exciting prospect and will be a huge achievement.

And the biggest challenge?

All of it! Every system has been a challenge because they are non-standard systems and sometimes they simply don’t work and because they are non-standard parts can be extremely difficult to source and can take weeks to come. However, our local builder has been great to work with and has been helping us solve problems. The access to our site has also been a major challenge, however again, the local hauliers have worked with us to get everything on site. The renewable electric system was a challenge and did not work out the first time, but the electricians worked with us the start over and as I mentioned before, the electricians now have the expertise to recreate the systems and can use that to capture a wider market.

Any tips for those setting up a similar project?

It has been very difficult, assume things will take MUCH longer in time and money than you could ever possibly imagine and enrol friends and family and take all the help. Stay sane and always remember why you wanted to do your project in the first place. Don’t be afraid to take some risks, rural areas require changes to create vibrant places where our young people want to live. Embrace new technology and always keep to a ‘can do’ attitude.  

What’s next for your project?

To get up and running! And to make sure all the systems run smoothly, although we anticipate this could take a little while. I want to see children enjoying being outdoors and learning about the importance of looking after the environment. I really hope when people come here on holiday we can offer them the knowledge and love of the environment, showing them, it is a good thing to look after our surroundings and even look at ways they can put this knowledge into place in their own home environment.