Langholm Moor community buyout: ‘impossible dream’ set to come true

Press release from the Langholm Initiative, the team behind the campaign for a community buyout of former grouse moor Langholm Moor (2 November 2020).

Community’s “impossible dream” set to come through with success for South of Scotland’s biggest community buyout

The South of Scotland’s largest community buyout is set to go ahead following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen – with the community of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway raising the final funds needed in the nick of time.

A landmark community buyout agreement of £3.8 million for over 5,000 acres of land has been reached between The Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch – paving the way for the creation of a huge new nature reserve to help tackle climate change, restore nature, and support community regeneration.

Discussions will continue over the remaining 5,300 acres of land the community has expressed an interest in buying.

[Langholm Moor. Photo by David Lintern]

Benny Higgins, Executive Chairman of Buccleuch, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have reached a significant agreement with The Langholm Initiative, and this deal demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone involved is committed to working together. The community has done a tremendous job in raising the funds to make this historic acquisition, and the plan to create a nature reserve has attracted widespread support. We wish the project every success.

“Engaging constructively with the communities in which we operate as a business is important to us. We have a long-standing policy of reducing our overall footprint to enable us to invest in other projects, and will continue this policy of selling land to interested farmers, community bodies and organisations which express an interest.”

Margaret Pool, Chair of The Langholm Initiative, said: “This is an amazing result for Langholm which will live long in the memory. Our community has a strong cultural connection to this land, which has never been sold before, and securing it for generations to come means so much to so many. Huge thanks to Buccleuch for their positive engagement.”

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Land Reform, said“The completion of The Langholm Moor project is a momentous moment for land reform in Scotland. The project secured a £1 million Scottish Land Fund grant in June, and it is of great testament to The Langholm Initiative that they have secured additional funding, and worked collaboratively with Buccleuch Estates, to bring 5,000 acres of land into community ownership. I commend both The Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch Estates for enabling the buy-out to be completed. 

“This is significant news for the South of Scotland but also demonstrates that, when working together with a shared goal, local communities can be a power vehicle for change. I applaud the Initiative wholeheartedly for realising their ambition and look forward to it inspiring other community groups to drive and deliver their own projects right across the country.”  

The purchase – to be finalised by January 2021 – will lead to the creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, with globally important peatlands and ancient woods restored, native woodlands established, and a haven ensured for wildlife including rare hen harriers. The project will also support community regeneration, including through plans for the community to capitalise on new nature-based tourism opportunities.

The Langholm Initiative had until 31 October to raise the funds for a deal, to avoid the Scottish Land Fund withdrawing their £1 million offer – a proviso that left the community with just months to raise millions of pounds. At times during the summer, the project appeared to be seriously at risk.

In the run-up to the deadline, Buccleuch Estates and The Langholm Initiative agreed a revised £3.8 million price for the purchase.  

With The Langholm Initiative still requiring substantial funding in the final weeks, £500,000 was secured from the Bently Foundation. Camille Bently, Director of the Bently Foundation, said: “The Bently Foundation is delighted to support this community-led environmental project. We wish them every success and look forward to visiting the new Tarras Valley Nature Reserve in future.”

During the final week, an extraordinary surge of more than £50,000 donations to the charity’s public crowdfunder – including £24,000 on one day alone – saw the appeal’s £200,000 target achieved. Nearly 4,000 people have supported the crowdfunding appeal since its launch on 7 May.

In the final 48 hours before the deadline, and with the community still some £150,000 short of the total funds needed, The Woodland Trust agreed to contribute £200,000 to the project – taking The Langholm Initiative over the line.

Carol EvansDirector of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “We are thrilled to support The Langholm Initiative’s exciting plans with a financial contribution and help deliver new native woods set in an appropriate mosaic of other habitats at Langholm. The world faces a climate emergency and a biodiversity crisis. This initiative is a fightback against both threats.”

John Watt, Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, said: “This is a momentous day for The Langholm Initiative and the wider community, who have pulled together and worked extremely hard over recent months to meet their fundraising goal. On behalf of the Scottish Land Fund, a huge congratulations to everyone involved. We are proud to be able to support them with a £1 million award that will contribute to their exciting community ownership plans.”

Langholm Initiative project leader Kevin Cumming said: “The support for our vision has been overwhelming. We can never thank the major donors and thousands of members of the public enough for their contributions. A team of dedicated people have worked tirelessly to achieve something special here – mostly volunteers, who continued to strive to make this happen against what at times felt like impossible odds. 

“Community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration, which we want to show can be done with the environment at its heart. We hope the success here will encourage and inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK. Realizing the full potential of community ownership will take time – and the hard work is really just about to begin.”

Other major funders to the buyout include South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, Carman Family Foundation, and Garfield Weston Foundation.

Other leading charities that have supported the buyout include Borders Forest Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Trees for Life.

The Langholm Initiative, formed in 1994 as one of south Scotland’s first development trusts, facilitates projects making a lasting difference to the local area and people. See langholminitiative.org.uk.

ENDS

Timeline

* May 2019: Buccleuch Estates announces its decision to sell 25,000 acres of Langholm Moor and the Tarras Valley in its Borders Estate. 

* May 2020: The Langholm Initiative launches its campaign to purchase a large area of the moor, including through a public crowdfunder, and with the John Muir Trust donating £100,000.

* June 2020: Scottish Land Fund awards £1 million.

* August 2020: Carman Family Foundation pledges £500,000.

* August 2020: Hen Harrier Day – held online, and hosted by television presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin – raises around £10,000 for the buyout.

• Early September 2020: South of Scotland Enterprise announces up to £1 million support.

* Mid-September 2020: Garfield Weston Foundation pledges £300,000. Public crowdfunder passes £130,000.

* October: £500,000 secured from the Bently Foundation. Buccleuch Estates agrees purchase price of £3.8 million.

* End October: Public crowdfunder passes its £200,000 target. The Woodland Trust contributes £200,000 to take the overall funding appeal over the line. The community buyout is set to go ahead as the South of Scotland’s biggest community buyout in land value and area so far.

20 thoughts on “Langholm Moor community buyout: ‘impossible dream’ set to come true”

  1. Glad to see this happening although “it sticks in the craw” to see these XXXXX barons still profiting from land that was misappropriated (XXXXX) in the first place. Buccleuch will also coin it in from Wanlockhead buy-out.This land is my land: this land is your land!!!!!

  2. Very good; can’t quite see how Cunningham can say its a momentous day for land reform; its a “Buy Out” thats all; very welcome as this is but how is it “land reform”..clarifications welcome………the key to that remains reform of the vast amounts of public subsidy to the 1% and their “Sport”.

  3. Fantastic news – let’s see this ambitious project pave the way in showing how land can be managed successfully for people and nature. Top stuff.

  4. Fantastic achievement and so glad the Woodland Trust stepped in. It will be great to see the plans take shape – we used to drive through this area when I was a kid and it always struck me how effing desolate it was. Only a shame this wasn’t happening forty years ago. Well done!!!

  5. Step one close to completion ” buyout is SET to go ahead”, but not yet legally tied up.
    Still to see scrutiny of the buyout agreement and precise details of what is proposed for the land.

    1. Dougie, after the statement from Buccleuch I think they would be left with a lot more than egg on their face if they backed out or changed the rules now.

  6. Whilst accepting that this is not Land Reform in the way that most Land Reformists might see it, it is nonetheless great to see land taken away from driven grouse shooting, regardless of how that is achieved. Moreover, in 10-20 years time this project will show us what our uplands can really be like. Well done to all involved.

  7. Brilliant news – a fantastic people’s effort and so pleased that the Woodland Trust stepped in to push it over the line.

  8. As a member of the Woodland Trust I am delighted at our contribution (and my more personal one). Let’s have more of the same and buy these buggers out and return the land to as near natural as possible.

    P.S. please join the trust – have a look at the land portfolio – all there for posterity!

    1. I fully agree, Pip. John Muir Trust and Woodland Trust stepped up. Also thanks to the private trusts and all the general public contributors. Hope the Langholm Initiative can reapply for Govt. money next financial year and get the rest of the moor. Or will it have been sold by then?

    2. Totally agree too. Carol Evans who is mentioned in the post is magic – she visited our local wildlife group and was extremely supportive which included helping to increase protection for some ancient sweet chestnuts near the local CSA offices, two of the five were cut down for ludicrous, spurious reasons. Along with the RSPB the WT was incredibly generous with staff time and resources when we were running nature based events in an underprivileged area. That was a fair whack of money they came up with for Langholm, justifiably, but bloody good nonetheless. It would be fantastic if they started to become more proactive and vociferous about the need for more trees on our hills – they’ve hardly anything to lose by falling out with grouse moor owners. I remember in one issue of their newsletter Broadleaf they drew attention to the fact much of the non native, invasive plant infestations killing off native flora and fauna in our woods had been planted out to provide cover for gamebirds and that it was probably the near eradication of the pine marten that had allowed the grey squirrel to become established and drive away the red one. You certainly didn’t come away with the impression that field sports had been a boon for conservation. It would be phenomenal if the Scottish branch of the WT became a Revive partner, worth a try?

  9. Wanted to compare notes with the John Muir Trust – been a member with them for probably over 10 years but no-one there due to Covid – otherwise might have donated more. Fantastic opportunity to do something positive.

  10. The buyout cost saddened me and proved that GREED still rules the RICH.

    With the vast wealth of the estate “owner?” he could easily dismiss the loss of Langholm Moor. His wealth would hardly be dented.

    The harriers may now prosper and the barren moors become natural features again.

    Doug

      1. During the trial fledging improved but survival was very poor! Limited watchers once they leave the nest.

        Doug

  11. HI, we’re a local community group called The Penhale Conservation Trust who are trying to buy back and re-wild a 40 acre abandoned army camp on the North Cornish coast to prevent a development of 132 unwanted houses and to extend the Special Area of Conservation and SSSI which currently surround it. Can you offer any advice? Our Facebook page is called ‘Hands Off Perranzabuloe’.

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’d recommend talking to Kevin Cummings and team at the Langholm Initiative:

      https://www.langholminitiative.org.uk/langholm-moor

      Also, get yourselves a website. You need to be able to present the details of your project on one platform (i.e. what’s the problem and what do you want to do to fix it) and then use social media accounts (FB, twitter, instagram etc) to direct traffic to your website. If you’re needing to raise money then a crowdfunder page will help, which should also be linked to your website.

      Good luck with it!

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