Image for Scotland to get new nature reserve as community ‘achieves the impossible’

Scotland to get new nature reserve as community ‘achieves the impossible’

A community in Scotland has completed one of the country’s largest ever grassroots land buyouts – and is now turning the estate into a nature reserve

A community in Scotland has completed one of the country’s largest ever grassroots land buyouts – and is now turning the estate into a nature reserve

Scotland is to get a new nature reserve thanks to the determined efforts of a rural community, which has completed one of the biggest grassroots land buyouts in the country’s history. 

Under the aegis of the Langholm Initiative charity, the community raised £3.8m to buy 5,200 acres of land from the Duke of Buccleuch. The sale, agreed in October, was completed on Friday. It followed a six-month crowdfunding campaign that reached its target two days before the deadline.

At times, the scale of the challenge seemed impossible to comprehend. “We had from March to October to raise millions of pounds at the start of a global pandemic, for a project that had never been done before,” Kevin Cumming, a Langholm Initiative board member, told Positive News.

But with people reassessing their relationship with nature during lockdown, the Langholm Initiative captured the collective imagination. Donations came flooding in.

“There was a clear desire for this to succeed,” said Cumming. “Having over 4,000 people from all over the world donate to a crowdfunder is quite humbling. It’s an unbelievable achievement.”

Margaret Pool, chair of the Langholm Initiative, added: “Together we’ve achieved something which once seemed impossible. A new era begins for this special land.”

Other major funders that supported the project include South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, The Carman Family Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Bently Foundation.

Scotland

The Langholm Initiative will restore habitats and create a sanctuary for wildlife, including birds. Image: Brian Taylor

With the sale now complete, work will begin on transforming the Langholm Moor estate into the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. Peatlands and ancient woods will be restored, native woodlands established and a haven created for wildlife including hen harriers (main image, above), the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey. Plans for community regeneration include new nature-based tourism opportunities.

According to some estimates, Scotland has the most unequal land ownership of any country in the western world. Community buyouts are part of a renewed effort to make the ground more even, so to speak.   

The Langholm Initiative says it wants to highlight how community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration with the environment at its heart. It hopes its success will inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK to bring more land under collective ownership.

Main image: A female hen harrier. Credit: Andreas Trepte

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