The view from the hide before it was destroyed. Photo: Lorne Gill/NatureScot

The view from the hide before it was destroyed. Photo: Lorne Gill/NatureScot

An online appeal has launched to raise cash to replace a popular bird hide destroyed by fire.

The Mill Hide stood on the shore of the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, but was completely gutted by a blaze on 18 February.

NatureScot, the Scottish Government’s advisory body on the outdoors, said it had decided to lead the campaign to rebuild the structure after being encouraged by many offers of support from the community around Kinross. The appeal to raise funds is being run on MyParkScotland, the nation’s only crowdfunding site specifically for nature reserves, parks and greenspaces.

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 birdwatching site’s popularity and fantastic lochside 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 crowdfunding effort with the aim of re-building the hide as soon as possible.”

The hide, built in 2011 and situated on the edge of Kinross behind the Todd and Duncan factory, had won awards for its architectural design. NatureScot said it was a much loved place for locals and visitors alike to enjoy some of the best views of the loch and the large numbers of birds congregating on the water.

Kinross Community Council chair Lynne McKay 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 lochside facilities.

“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.

“Reserve manager Neil Mitchell has told us that support from the local community and friends and family from far and wide has been both overwhelming and heartwarming. Like all the residents of Kinross, the Perth and Kinross councillors and Kinross Community councillors are fully behind the crowdfunding 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 remains of the hide will be removed. Photo: Simon Ritchie/NatureScot

The remains of the hide will be removed. Photo: Simon Ritchie/NatureScot

The charred, skeletal remains of the hide will be removed in early March. It is hoped the foundations have survived to support the replacement structure, reducing the cost.

Currently, the hide is fenced off for public safety, but NatureScot hopes to begin rebuilding this year.

Following the fire, two youths, aged 14 and 16, were arrested and charged in connection with the blaze.

Loch Leven is Scotland’s most visited National Nature Reserve. With more than 250,000 people a year visiting the site and using the Loch Leven Heritage Trail, the bird hide was one of the most popular parts of the reserve. The hide won the award for the best low-cost project at the 2012 Scottish Design Awards.

The original hide cost about £35,000 and it is anticipated the replacement will cost a similar amount. NatureScot said it has some funds available this year, and a significant contribution from the community will allow the Mill Hide to be rebuilt as soon as possible. Otherwise, the reconstruction will have to be deferred until more funds become available in 2022-23 or later.

NatureScot manages the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve on behalf of Kinross Estate Company and along with RSPB Scotland at the Vane Farm part of the reserve. It does this with the co-operation and support of organisations and individuals including volunteers, Kinross Community Council, Tracks and Perth and Kinross Council.

Donations to the crowdfunder can be made via the MyParkScotland website.

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