Fundraiser launched to rebuild burnt-out Scottish bird-watching hide

A major fundraising campaign has been launched to help rebuild an award-winning bird-watching hide that was destroyed by fire at a Fife nature reserve last month.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 7:00 am
Mill Hide, a popular spot for bird-watchers at the Loch Leven national nature reserve in Fife, was completely gutted in a fire last month that was thought to have been started deliberately

Mill Hide, on the shores of Loch Leven near Kinross, was a popular spot for watching birds and other wildlife.

Built in 2011, the timber-clad structure had won accolades for its architecture and design.

The structure was completely gutted in a blaze on February 18, believed to have been started deliberately.

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Mill Hide, which had won awards for its architecture and design, cost around £35,000 to built - it's thought the price will be similar to erect a replacement

The charred remains of the building, owned by government agency NatureScot, are fenced off for safety reasons, but will be removed in the next few days.

It is hoped the foundations will have survived to support the replacement structure, which would reduce the cost of rebuilding.

The original hide cost about £35,000 to construct. It is anticipated the replacement will require a similar outlay.

NatureScot, which manages Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, has some funds available in this year’s budget that could go towards funding the project.

However, there is still a significant shortfall, so without a major cash injection the scheme will have to be delayed for a further 12 months.

Now after receiving overwhelming support from the public, the agency has launched its first ever crowd-funding campaign in the hope Mill Hide can rise from the ashes sooner rather than later.

The online fundraiser is being done through MyParkScotland, the country’s only crowd-funding site specifically for nature reserves, parks and green spaces.

NatureScot’s reserve manager Neil Mitchell said: “The hide was hugely popular, with so many people enjoying this wonderful vantage point for the ducks, geese and swans that feed and roost in Factory Bay – as well as the occasional glimpse of a kingfisher.

“While it’s gutting to see it destroyed, the response from the community and the general public has been amazing.

“Given this bird-watching site’s popularity and fantastic loch-side location, we are determined to replace the hide as soon as possible.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people offering support, so we’ve decided to begin our first ever crowd-funding effort with the aim of re-building the hide as soon as possible.”

Lynne McKay, chair of Kinross Community Council, said: “While we were pleased that no-one was injured in the fire, we were all shocked and saddened by the destruction of one of Loch Leven's treasured loch-side facilities.

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“With its award-winning design and vantage point in a beautiful spot at the south-west of the loch, the hide was a much-loved building.”

Ms McKay said support from the local community and people from further afield had been “both overwhelming and heart-warming”.

She said: “Like all the residents of Kinross, the Perth and Kinross councillors and Kinross community councillors are fully behind the crowd-funding initiative that NatureScot intends to launch.

“It is hoped it will enable the rebuilding of the hide, so that it can be restored to its former glory.”

The nature reserve is a hotspot for all sorts of wildlife, including birds such as goldeneye, pink-footed and greylag geese, tufted ducks, swans, teal and great crested grebes.

Two teenage boys, aged 14 and 16, were arrested and charged in connection with the fire last week.

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