THE first steps towards a community buy-out of Langholm moor have been taken after the Langholm
Initiative set up a small working group.
The group will look into the potential for buying the land which, it is believed, will be sold in lots by Buccleuch through Savills. The total area of land is 25,000.
The Initiative runs the eco-tourism project Wild Eskdale which was launched last October and is run by Kevin Cumming who takes visitors on tours of the moorland. The education work with children is carried out by Carys Mainprize.
The Initiative’s plan has been boosted after Newcastleton community council agreed at its meeting on Tuesday night to collaborate with the Initiative and with Canonbie community council on the project.
Newcastleton’s meeting was attended by Margaret Pool, Initiative chairwoman, and Alison Hutton who are both on the working group.
Newcastleton representatives met Buccleuch last week to get more information.
Of the 25,000 acres for sale, 67 per cent lies within the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the same area is covered by the Special Protection Area, an EU designation recognising the breeding hen harriers.
There are also some farms, residential properties and five miles of fishing on the Esk.
Barbara Elborn, secretary, said she had also spoken to agencies, including VisitScotland, South of Scotland Economic Partnership, RSPB, John Muir Trust, the Scottish Land Fund and Wild Eskdale.
The consultation closed on June 28 which gave them very little time but the feedback from the public sector agencies was that there was a will for the community to be heard.
She said the community council and community trust would submit a joint response, which would be forwarded to all these agencies so they would know the community wanted to be heard and to have more time to investigate.
To succeed in a right to buy, they needed 10 per cent of the community to support it which, in Newcastleton, was 76 people.
They would investigate the opportunities it offered, including eco-tourism, cycling, walking, mountain-biking, horse-riding and commercial aspects such as renewable energy and commercial forestry.
Mrs Pool said: “Our working party will put in an expression of interest in the moor and look into the feasibility of a community buy-out.
“We’d like to feel we’re communicating with other groups towards this objective. We’re thinking of a giant nature reserve. There are key species on the moor which are worth preserving.”
She said Joan McAlpine, South of Scotland SNP MSP, had offered to visit Wild Eskdale and go on a tour of the moor. Other MSPs had also responded positively to their approach.
Mrs Elborn added: “There is no doubt that the moor is an eco-tourism opportunity and the great outdoors is one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism.
“It sits at the centre of the Borderlands and there are 14 million people within its catchment.”
The South of Scotland Economic Partnership is meeting in Newcastleton next Thursday and Mrs Elborn said she would ensure this topic was raised.
She added: “With a foot in both the community council and community trust camps, it strikes me that this is an opportunity for the partnership to hit the ground running and support a number of communities to develop a sustainable future.
“The Scottish government is committed to land reform and Buccleuch owns the countryside around us. If we don’t take this opportunity to buy this land, we will never have the opportunity to buy any land.
“If we can’t do it this time because of the constraints of the consultation, we’ll never have the opportunity to buy.”
John Scott, representative of Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage community council, said that, personally, he liked the idea of the groups collaborating.
A book has now been placed in Buccleuch House to collect signatures of support.