Diggers destroyed the old flagship education centre of a Surrey wildlife organisation to make way for new facilities – despite an ongoing appeal for the last £85,000 needed to fund the project.

Work began on Surrey Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) new education centre in Nower Wood, Leatherhead on Wednesday, June 15, as buildings dating back 45 years were demolished.

The Trust plans to replace them with three bright new classrooms in a single-storey centre surrounded by 81 acres of ancient woodland.

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An artist's impression of what the new building will look like. Pic credit: Graham Whitehouse, GWP Architects

But despite a £22,540 grant from the Veolia Environmental Trust to improve the landscape around the centre and more than £1million in donations from SWT members, local members and donors, the Trust is still short of funds for the project.

Janet Baker, 78, a volunteer at Nower Wood for over 30 years, swam an 80-lap sponsored swim, to raise money for the project.

And David Drummond, from Dorking, donated £50,000 to the appeal in honour of his late wife Anne who was a volunteer biology teacher at the SWT.

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But Aimee Clarke, Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Director of Education, People and Wildlife, says £85,000 is still needed. However, Ms Clarke expects the new centre to be ready in time to welcome its first students in the New Year.

She said: “We are so excited that after all the planning, fund-raising and dreaming, the project is now actually underway.

“We still have a lot of money to raise to ensure all our plans can go ahead, but the creaky old 1970s wooden buildings are gone, so there’s no going back now!

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“The race is on to find the funds to finish what we’ve begun.”

Mole Valley District Council granted planning permission for the new centre in February 2015.

The council’s planning committee approved the demolition of six existing buildings and the construction of a new centre provided that local wildlife is protected and that disabled people have adequate access to the centre.

A spokeswoman for SWT said: “The scheme has been designed to minimise disruption to wildlife on the site.

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“Species such as newts (pictured above) and reptiles were captured and moved to a safe location and topsoil containing a woodland seed bank and bluebells was collected and saved for future replanting.

“The design of the centre and its surroundings will open up Nower Wood to new audiences, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.”

Around 8,000 visitors of all ages visit every year to take part in pond-dipping, bug hunts, tree identification, mammal studies and environmental surveys.

The Nower Wood fundraising team are appealing for public donations.

For more information and to donate, visit http://www.surreywildlifetrust.org/discover-and-learn/education-centres/nower-wood-new-build

Or to buy a ticket for the fund-raising raffle to win a luxury holiday in Scotland, visit www.surreywildlifetrust.org/holiday-raffle