For many people, lockdown has meant looking for joy in the natural world around us.

From enjoying time in the garden to daily strolls in local parks, many have sought a break from the monotony of life locked down out in the fresh air.

But for one small group in Loch Ness, time spent in nature is a serious business as they fight to save more than 100,000 native young trees from being lost due to the coronavirus crisis.

A team of six volunteers from Trees for Life chose to isolate at the charity’s flagship Dundreggan rewilding estate at Glenmoriston when lockdown first started, as the young trees were due to be planted.

The trees – including Scots pine, rowan, juniper, hazel, holly and oak, as well as rare mountain species such as dwarf birch and woolly willow – have all been grown carefully from seed in Dundreggan’s specialised nursery.

Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan manager, said: “We were all set for another busy season of preparing thousands of young native trees for planting on the hills by our volunteers, when the coronavirus crisis forced the postponement of this spring’s tree planting – meaning tens of thousands of young trees have not left our nursery as planned.

 “But nature isn’t in lockdown. All these precious trees have been coming into leaf, and we need to take care of them – especially in the dry weather we’ve been having. Without regular watering, they would all die. 

“We also needed to start sowing new seed now, to ensure a supply of trees for future planting seasons.”

Dozens of volunteers usually help to propagate and grow more than 60,000 trees a year at the nursery, from seed collected across the estate. 

These trees are then planted out at Dundreggan and other Highland sites to restore Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife.

So Mr Gilbert, with colleagues Abbey Goff, Emma Beckinsale, Patrick Fenner, and trainees Catriona Bullivant and Louise Cameron, opted to voluntarily isolate themselves at Dundreggan rather than at their homes when the national lockdown was announced.

They have not left Dundreggan, dubbed the ‘lost world’ , except for a few essential reasons, such as collecting prescriptions, and food is arriving at the rewilding estate via supermarket deliveries.

Mr Gilbert added: “The local Redburn Cafe has started local takeaways, so they’re an occasional treat! 

“No one has visited us for weeks now, except for delivery drivers and the postie. 

“We’re here in isolation for the long-haul if needs be – together with a growing forest for the future.”

Trees for Life bought the site for £1.65 million in 2008 and plans to open the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan in two years’ time. 

This is expected to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually – allowing people to explore the wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture, and learn about the region’s unique wildlife including golden eagles, pine martens and red squirrels.

It is also hoped that the centre will boost the rural economy by providing a new attraction on the journey between Loch Ness and Skye, and benefit the local community through at least 15 new jobs.

The core of the centre will  be the establishment of a Gaelic Resource Centre and events space, along with classrooms, a cafe and displays and interpretation.

Outdoor facilities will include fully accessible trails, a ‘children’s forest experience’ area and more challenging walks for fitness enthusiasts. 

The centre will also provide events and experiences for visitors to the area and families, schools and other groups.

As well as being an internationally important forest restoration site, Dundreggan is a biodiversity hotspot that is home to more than 4,000 plant and animal species. 

Discoveries include several species never recorded in the UK before or previously feared to be extinct in Scotland.

Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Highlands and so far has established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.