LANGHOLM Moor showed its wildest side when a German TV crew spent four hours filming a documentary about the community buy-out last Friday.
A bitterly-cold wind and freezing rain showers swept across the moor as the hardy crew and even hardier locals did their best in the horrible conditions to tell the story of the buy-out to create the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve and what it means to residents.
The crew, who are based in ARD’s London office, are currently touring Scotland for three weeks, taking in Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Highlands and the Borders.
As well as speaking to the team at the Langholm Initiative about the buy-out they interviewed Ed Morris who manages the Borders Estate at Buccleuch.
Margaret Pool, who chairs the Initiative, and volunteer Mairi Telford Jammeh welcomed the company’s presenter, producer, cameraman and soundman to the tourist hub in Welcome to Langholm where, over coffee and cakes, they explained the history behind and process of buying the moor.
It was in May 2019 that Buccleuch announced it was to sell 10,500 acres of the moor which contained both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area, a European designation awarded for the site’s breeding hen harriers.
By last October, the Initiative had raised £3.8m, sufficient to buy 5,200 acres of the southern half of the land for sale through donations from various organisations and the public.
Negotiations continue with Buccleuch over buying the rest of the land which would mean running another fundraising campaign.
Margaret recommended that their visitors read the poem Scotland Small by Hugh MacDiarmid at his memorial.
It counters any comments, which have been made, that the moor is just “a desert”.
Margaret said: “It’s a fantastic eco-system with a range of species, including reptiles and mammals.
“There are some quite rare plants at the southern end of the valley which is a different eco-system. It’s like a mini-rainforest with rare butterflies and insects.
“It seems we have a very rare bee here so contacted a woman from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust who is coming to do a survey during the summer. It is a little black bee, peculiar to Scotland.”
Depending on whether they were successful with their bid to buy the Upper Tarras Valley, they would like to convert the former farmstead at Lodge Gill into a field centre and bunkhouse.
It was burnt down some years ago and there was only a shell left. Cooms Farm would also be included in this second plot.
Mairi told them there were many myths and legends associated with the moor and it was famous for its connections with the Border Reivers.
She said: “The Reivers knew their way across Tarras Moss and hid there with the cattle and sheep they had stolen.
“We also have the Common Moss where the Common Riding takes place and the boundaries are marked. It has a great deal of cultural significance.”
Mairi and Margaret discussed people’s sense of belonging when they went up to the Tarras Valley and that it made them feel very much at home whether they were a Langholm native or had settled here.
Andrew spends a lot of time on the moor, walking many miles and enjoying the wildlife.
He very much welcomed the buy-out and the chance the moor will be given to regenerate and, in time, find its own balance.
He said: “There used to be too many grouse when it was managed for shooting; it will have a better balance.
“Everything will find its own natural level and that’s much better.
“If we hadn’t bought it, it would probably have ended up as forestry or a windfarm so I’m very happy this buy-out has happened.
He is somewhat surprised by all the media attention the buy-out has been getting because it was such a backwater but it was a good thing, both for the project and for its funding.
He added: “There’ve been lots of hen harriers over the past 30 years or so and it’s a bit of a haven for them.”
Also joining the group on the moor was Langholm Academy pupil Cerys Gough, who has now done several interviews about the moor and what it means to young people, said she was interested in the environmental aspect of the regeneration.
Margaret now hopes the documentary will give them a boost from the German tourist market and touch base with people who care about the environment.