The land at Langholm Moor will be turned into a nature reserve. Photo: David Lintern/John Muir Trust

The land at Langholm Moor will be turned into a nature reserve. Photo: David Lintern/John Muir Trust

A community group in the Scottish Borders will take over more than 5,000 acres of land to create a new nature reserve.

The Langholm Initiative received an eleventh-hour donation to reach the £3.8m asking price for the moorland in Dumfries and Galloway.

The charity said its agreement with Buccleuch, the company owned by the Duke of Buccleuch’s trusts, pave the way for the creation of a huge new nature reserve to help tackle climate change, restore nature, and support community regeneration.

It said it is in discussions with a view to buying another 5,300 acres.

The Langholm Initiative launched a crowdfunding scheme to raise cash for the purchase of part of Langholm Moor. It also secured a grant from the Scottish Land Fund, subject to it raising matched funding. The fund is the Scottish Government’s body supporting community land ownership.

The charity had until 31 October to raise the funds for a deal, to avoid the Scottish Land Fund withdrawing its £1m offer, leaving the community with just months to raise millions of pounds. At times during the summer, the project appeared to be seriously at risk, it said.

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

With The Langholm Initiative still requiring substantial funding in the final weeks, £500,000 was secured from the Bently Foundation, created by Californian musician and entrepreneur Christopher Bently.

During the final week, a surge of more than £50,000-worth of donations to the charity’s public crowdfunder – including £24,000 on one day – 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 £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.

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.”

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.”

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 £1m 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 Langholm Initiative said 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, it said.

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. Realising 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.

Buccleuch is controlled by the Scott family, whose ancestor James Scott, the 1st Duke of Monmouth, was given the title of Duke of Buccleuch but subsequently executed for his part in the Pitchfork Rebellion in 1685.

The writer Sir Walter Scott was a descendent of the Dukes of Buccleuch. The present holder of the title, Richard Scott, 10th Duke, is one of the largest landowners in Scotland.

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