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 buyout of a large tract of land in the Scottish Borders has been completed.

The legal transfer of the 5,200 acres of moorland near Langholm paves the way for the creation of a new nature reserve.

The Langholm Initiative charity bought the land from its owner Buccleuch after a major fundraising and crowdfunding exercise in 2020. The £3.8m target was raised with just hours to spare. With the transfer of ownership finalised, the community now owns the land for the first time in its history.

Margaret Pool, chair of the Langholm Initiative, said: “Together we’ve achieved something which once seemed impossible, and we can celebrate as a new era begins for this special land with which our community has such a deep and long-standing connection.

“Our sincere, heartfelt thanks go to so many people for making this historic moment for Langholm happen – including the generous donors and tireless volunteers, and to Buccleuch for being so supportive and positive in their approach.”

The Langholm Initiative has set up Tarras Valley Nature Reserve for the day-to-day running of the new venture, and is currently recruiting two new members of staff who will oversee the nature restoration project.

Globally important peatlands and ancient woods will be restored, native woodlands established, and a haven created for wildlife including rare hen harriers, the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey. Plans for community regeneration include new nature-based tourism opportunities.

Discussions are continuing between the Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch over another 5,300 acres of land the community wishes to buy, and which could double the size of the new nature reserve.

Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “To have concluded the sale to the community is a fantastic achievement, and a great example of what can be achieved when communities and businesses like Buccleuch engage openly with one another and work to a common goal. This was achieved by goodwill and working together, following voluntarily all the relevant guidance and protocols.

“We look forward to seeing the plans for the area coming to life over the coming months, and wish the Langholm Initiative all the very best with this.”

After the launch of the community’s fundraising drive last May, the Langholm Initiative had until 31 October to raise the funds for the deal, to avoid the withdrawal of a £1m offer from the Scottish Land Fund. At times the project appeared to be seriously at risk.

Other major funders supporting the project are South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, the Carman Family Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Bently Foundation.

The charity’s public crowdfunder, supported by nearly 4,000 people from around the world, reached its £200,000 target after a surge of more than £50,000 in donations during its final week, including £24,000 on one day alone.

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

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 said it now aims to show how community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration with the environment at its heart, and hopes its success will inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK.

The Langholm Initiative was formed in 1994 as one of southern Scotland’s first development trusts.

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