Langholm community launches bid to double size of its crowdfunded nature reserve

Last year the community of Langholm in the Scottish Borders successfully raised £3.8 million to buy a knackered old grouse moor from the Duke of Buccleugh and transform it into a vast new nature reserve for the benefit of wildlife and the local community (see here).

Many blog readers supported and contributed to this fundraising challenge (thank you) and helped create what is now called the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

This year the community is fundraising once again, to ‘finish what we started’, and has launched stage two of the biggest community buyout scheme in south Scotland to buy the remainder of Langholm Moor which would effectively double the size of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

[Part of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve photographed in June this year. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The Langholm Initiative charity issued this press release last week:

Second phase of South of Scotland’s biggest community buyout launches to double size of vast new nature reserve

A community in Dumfries and Galloway is setting out to raise £2.2 million to double the size of a vast new nature reserve, in stage two of the South of Scotland’s biggest ever community land buyout. 

The Langholm Initiative charity aims to buy 5,300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties from Buccleuch, and so expand the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to 10,500 acres.

Success would boost plans for community regeneration, including nature-based tourism opportunities, and for tackling the nature and climate emergencies.

“We’re aiming to repeat the impossible and open a new chapter in this inspiring story of hope and community by doubling the size of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve – and so doubling the benefits for people, nature and climate,” said Jenny Barlow, the reserve’s Estate Manager.

The nature reserve was created earlier this year after the community’s historic purchase of a similar-sized swathe of the wildlife-rich and culturally important land from Buccleuch, in a fundraising drive described as an “impossible dream”.

There is now a race against time to secure the additional 5,300 acres. Buccleuch’s offer of keeping the land off the open market is time limited, and the community needs to raise the funds by next May.

A public crowdfunder launched today on Go Fund Me at bit.ly/LangholmMoorAppeal aims to raise at least £150,000 of the £2.2m needed to bring the land into community ownership.

The crowdfunder is being accompanied by applications to major grant-funding bodies. The ambitious plan has already been given a huge kick-start by a generous £500,000 pledge from a private donor. 

“We need all the help we can get to achieve a big win for wildlife, climate action and community regeneration – and a legacy for future generations. Scotland is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and it desperately needs projects like this,” said Jenny Barlow.

“But the pressure is on. This is the last opportunity to bring this land into community ownership. If the land goes onto the open market, its price will probably surge beyond our reach – with the risk it will be bought by corporate investment firms, which are currently banking large amounts of land in the area.”

The first phase of the community buyout in 2021 ended in success following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen, although at times it seemed seriously at risk. 

Thanks to the support of thousands of people worldwide, the Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch reached a landmark agreement of £3.8 million for 5,200 acres of land and six residential properties last October, with the funding target only reached in the final 48 hours. 

In March this year, the community took ownership of the land for the first time in its history. Work began immediately on creating the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

Benny Higgins, Buccleuch’s Executive Chairman, said: “We were delighted that The Langholm Initiative was able to purchase the initial area from Buccleuch last year, having shown such tenacity and vision. Having reached agreement on timeline and value, we wish them every success with this next exciting phase, both for the initiative and the community.”

Globally important peatlands and ancient woods are being restored, native woodlands established, and a haven created for wildlife. The moor is home to wildlife such as black grouse, short-eared owls and merlin, and is a stronghold for hen harriers – the most persecuted bird of prey in the UK.

Plans to create social and economic benefits include development of appropriate renewable energy and responsible nature-based tourism.

Langholm was once a thriving textile centre, but this industry has declined in recent years. Local people have a deep connection to the land concerned, which had never been sold before the first phase of the community buyout.

Leading charities that have supported the buyout include Borders Forest Trust, John Muir Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Trees for Life, and the Woodland Trust.

A video about new appeal can be viewed on YouTube at bit.ly/LangholmVideo.

To support the new appeal, visit langholminitiative.org.uk.

ENDS

If you can support this crowdfunder, please click here. Thank you.

9 thoughts on “Langholm community launches bid to double size of its crowdfunded nature reserve”

    1. Absolutely 100%. I doubt his ancestors paid anything for it in the first place: gifted by some monarch or other for services rendered, and the right to kick off any of the common folk who might be trying to make a living from it, because sheep / forestry / shooting generate more income.

    2. Totally agree. I’ve donated because I support rewilding, thereby putting my money where my mouth is. The statement from Buccleuch estate is nothing but empty words if they can’t do the same. For a man of his wealth £2.5million is little more than loose change.

  1. What’s really uplifting here is that the community has seen restoring nature as central to its business plans, but I’m sure for its own sake too. They really need special recognition for that because sadly it’s not as prevalent in some quarters as we might hope or thought it would be. They should be the standard, they’re not and I think we’re going to have to recognise that. When they were doing the inevitable public consultation exercise for the proposed management changes at Glenfeshie estate to kick start forest regeneration ‘community leaders’ in Kincraig were concerned that it would lead to it becoming a jungle! Then look at some of the characters that sit on the boards/committees of the Cairngorm National Park, they only seem to be qualified for that because they’re local, which let’s face it everybody is somewhere including the ignorant, arrogant, selfish, greedy and attention seeking drama queens.

    Likewise I haven’t seen any indication from any body or individual representing the Scottish crofting community that it in anyway backs effective rewilding/eco-restoration. The call instead is for any part of the country that’s a cultural landscape – i.e people have lived there which given how knackered ecologically most of the land is means that’s pretty much everywhere – should be returned to use by people. It looks to me the benefit will be for some already quite well off people, not as if kids from Glasgow council estates are going to be moved up into chilly Highland glens where they’ll at least have fresh air and nice views. I think suburbanisation and second homes fit more into the plans, certainly far more than decent eco-restoration to undo the first Highland Clearance that took trees and wildlife off the hills and means our so called National Parks are a national joke and international disgrace.

    At least in Scotland crofters don’t hold direct sway over all of rural Scotland which has meant some scope for progressive concepts in rewilding to be applied practically here. In rural Wales hill/sheep farmers like crofters use the argument of having their own language and culture which supposedly is threatened by having more wildlife, but they are the dominant land user over a far larger proportion of Wales. The result is that the actual word rewilding is taboo in parts of Wales and according to a Rewilding Britain webinar from April this year while there are dozens of rewilding projects of 250 acres and more up and down Scotland and England there’s not one – NOT ONE – in the whole of Wales. It’s pretty awful that we’ve went further up here because we have ‘sporting’ estates which can at least change management and/or hands, that’s an appalling situation it truly is. That so much conservation in Scotland has been dependent upon the whim of multi millionaires and billionaires is not a healthy situation and I feel they would be the first to say that too, but while there’s been criticism of the new ‘green lairds’ (for having money it seems, not necessarily for being nasty) there’s been deafening silence about the attitudes of others who play the victim card to justify naked self interest when often they’re subsidised to the hilt by public money coming from people a lot harder up than they are.

    This is why the Langholm buyout is really noteworthy, they’ve not just shown up traditional sporting estates, they’ve shown up communities as well, why is there a problem in acknowledging like individuals they are different some are better, smarter, kinder than others? I don’t know if any of their land forms part of the watershed for Annan or Dumfries, but good news if it does because their plans for eco-restoration will hold back more water and release it more slowly. I wonder how much the costs for doing even more on a larger scale will compare with the costs of the flood damage in that part of the world just over one weekend. It was frustrating to hear in news reports, including interviews with the public, that the issue was either the need for flood defences or to cut back on car exhaust and air conditioning because this was down to carbon emissions. I never heard one single word referring to land use being a major issue and changing it being a big part of the solution. Could the Langholm buyout have any bigger endorsement than that? Well done Langholm! I have trouble with Paypal so my cheque will be in the post.

  2. I have donated to both tranches of the appeal and wish the Langholm Trust all the luck in the world in managing it (they’ll need it!).
    I met the present Duke’s father many years ago when he gave a presentation to a local wildlife trust (in England). He came across as a thoroughly decent and principled man, no doubt affected by his being confined to a wheelchair for a long part of his life after a riding accident.
    I can’t say I feel negatively about the asking price. Their initiative is hopefully a first start in what needs to happen throughout Scotland, watching BBC Scotland’s 2-part programme “Who owns Scotland?”

    1. Done and donated. The Langholm Community buyout featured towards the end of last night’s showing of ‘Who owns Scotland’ on BBC Scotland, an investigation by Martin Geisler and Andy Wightman into who owns Scotland’s rural land. Well worth catching the repeat tomorrow (2nd November) at 11pm on BBC Scotland (channels on Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin). There is some discussion about upland management, grouse moors and raptor persecution.

  3. [Ed: Hi Jim, these are serious allegations. You’ll need to provide a source link before I can publish because I have no way of knowing how accurate/inaccurate your claims are. Thanks]

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