THE options for the future management of an area of Langholm moor in community ownership were thrown into the ring at a meeting last Thursday.
The Langholm Initiative working group, which is leading a bid to buy part of the moor from Buccleuch, held a public consultation with the consultants who have been appointed to carry out a feasibility study.
Nearly all the site the group would like to buy is within the Site of Special Scientific Interest and would range in size from eight to 12,000 acres.
It comprises land, farms and other buildings, all of which the Scottish Land Fund would help to buy. Buccleuch has given the community until next March to come up with a bid.
When the sale was announced in May,
The Langholm Initiative made an expression of interest and set up the working group.
The community had to get the support of 10 per cent of the population, 290 people, but 833 signed a petition.
There was also support from the Common Riding members, OutPost Arts, Muckle Toon Adventure Festival, Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk community council and Canonbie community council.
Letters of support came from the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Borders Forest Trust and MSPs.
About 40 people attended the event and put forward their ideas ranging from a bunkhouse to a woodland burial site.
Kevin Cumming, who manages the eco-tourism business Wild Eskdale and is project manager of the group, said: “It was a great chance to update the community and give them some insight into how everything is going.
“Having the large maps and getting people around the tables to discuss their ideas was an exciting step in the process.
“Our team of consultants did a great job of explaining a bit more about community ownership to the audience and I think they engaged well with them.
“The next step is for the consultants to come up with a number of options as part of the feasibility study.
“We’re very excited about this part; it’s where we really start to see the hard work deliver some results.
“For a project of this scale considerable work has gone on behind the scenes, including fundraising, application forms, meetings and phone calls. It’s great to see the project kick off in such a positive way.”
Other ideas included eco-tourism, better land management, bunkhouse, visitor centre, field centre, native woodland regeneration, heather management, protecting hen harriers, managing visitors to reduce disturbance, housing development, small-scale renewable energy, retaining the wild goats for tourists and more accommodation if eco-tourism increases.
Other proposals were developing a tourist attraction at a working farm, glamping / camping site, photo safaris, improving the roads to include parking places for views, archaeology trail and catering for outdoor activities, like walking and mountain biking.
Duncan MacPherson, who lives on Harris, where there are two trusts, said 17 years ago the North Harris estate was put up for sale for more than £4m. It was a traditional sporting estate with lots of designations.
The community partnered a private buyer who bought the castle and salmon fishings, while they bought the land for £2m which it was able to fund with the Scottish Land Fund and donations from other bodies, like the John Muir Trust.
Some money is raised by leasing the deer stalking and doing monitoring work for Scottish Natural Heritage.
Mr MacPherson was employed as the first land manager. The trust built business units, one of which employed 15 people.
He said a trust office in Tarbert employed seven people and upstairs were flats for young people who couldn’t find accommodation.
A housing association built six houses and brought in 20 people to live on the island.
It ran a recycling centre with the council and had an eagle observatory which had produced a fantastic result for tourism. There were also wind turbines and a hydro scheme.
Mr MacPherson said: “The question for us is what are your solutions for Langholm? What are your ideas? How can the community make ownership of part of the moor happen? What will deliver real benefits?”
If anyone has ideas they can email firstname.lastname@example.org