Unique reclaimed Gaelic-inspired tree sculpture to be rooted in Dundreggan Rewilding Centre

A unique reclaimed and Gaelic-inspired tree sculpture by Scottish sculptor Helen Denerley is to form a focal point of the world’s first rewilding centre, to be opened at Dundreggan in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness by Trees for Life in 2023.

The 4.5-metre tall ‘Gathering Tree’ is being created out of recycled materials and scrap metals including ventilation pipes, exhaust pipes, garden chairs, wheelbarrows, polytunnel frames, gates, bicycles and pipework.

The tree – symbolising the important connection between humans and nature – has been inspired by Gaelic traditions around the sacredness of trees, and how trees can represent strength, boldness, generosity and protection.

Trees for Life has been rewilding its acclaimed 10,000-acre Dundreggan estate since 2008. The new centre, which broke ground this summer, will be a gateway to the wild outdoors – welcoming visitors to discover stunning landscapes and unique wildlife, and leave inspired to engage with rewilding.

“The Gathering Tree at the heart of our rewilding centre will be a beautiful acknowledgement of the region’s land, language and heritage – and a reminder of the benefits of rewilding for people and communities, and for fixing the nature and climate emergencies,” said Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Rewilding Centre Director.

“The centre will spotlight and support local artists, heritage and creativity. So we’re delighted to be partnering with Helen, who is such an inspiring and talented Scottish sculptor. We look forward to our visitors seeing her finished sculpture when the doors open.”

Helen and her assistant Donald Redpath expect the tree will take a year to complete. Due to its size, the structure is being assembled by hand outside Helen’s Aberdeenshire studio.

Best known in Scotland for her larger-than-life scrap-metal giraffes in Edinburgh, Helen is renowned for creating natural forms from recycled materials, and championing sustainability.

“The natural world influences my work on a daily basis, so creating the Gathering Tree for the world’s first rewilding centre is an exciting project to be a part of. My hope is always to capture a sense of pulsing life within my sculptures,” said Helen Denerley.

“My sculptures aren’t always whole but are weaved together with scrap metal to create natural forms. The negative space, or the space left between the metal, allows the viewer’s imagination and interpretation to seep through – bringing the spirit of the sculpture to life and making the Gathering Tree an interactive and engaging experience.”

Local community groups and schools will be invited to catch a glimpse of Helen’s sketches when she presents her vision on Tuesday 16 November in Glenmoriston Millenium Hall. The community will be invited to offer suggestions for wildlife they’d like to see illustrated as part of the sculpture.

Visitors to Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will journey through a space which will have the feel of a forest throughout, with displays and interpretation in English and Gaelic. The centre has been developed in consultation with the local community, and will draw inspiration from the rich Gaelic heritage of the area and of the wider Highlands.

Rewilding is the large-scale restoration of nature, to help tackle the nature and climate crises – helping wildlife recover, and benefiting people and local communities.

Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. Its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites – encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.