SOUTHERN Scotland’s largest community buyout has been legally completed after one of the most ambitious fundraising campaigns ever undertaken.
It paves the way for the creation of the 5,200-acre Tarras Valley Nature Reserve in Langholm.
The landmark agreement of £3.8m for the land and six residential properties was reached between the Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch last October after the community’s six-month fundraising drive reached its target in the final two days.
With the transfer of ownership finalised, the community now owns the land for the first time in its history.
Work is to begin immediately on creating the reserve to tackle climate breakdown, restore nature and support community regeneration.
Margaret Pool, who chairs the Initiative, said: “Together, we’ve achieved something which once seemed impossible.
“We can now 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, tireless volunteers and Buccleuch for being so supportive and positive in their approach.”
Benny Higgins, Buccleuch’s executive chairman, 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 Initiative all the very best with this.
“Buccleuch has been reducing the footprint of its landholdings in the past decade and, having sold about 30,000 acres in this period to farmers and community organisations, we will continue to reinvest revenue from land sales into a variety of business projects in the farming, forestry, renewable energy and leisure and hospitality sectors.”
The Initiative has set up Tarras Valley Nature Reserve for the day-to-day running of the venture and is currently recruiting two members of staff who will oversee the landscape-scale, nature-restoration project.
Globally-important peatlands and ancient woods will be restored, native woodlands established and a haven ensured for wildlife, including rare hen harriers, the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey.
Plans for community regeneration include nature-based tourism.
Talks continue between the Initiative and Buccleuch over another 5,300 acres which the community wants to buy and could double the size of the nature reserve.
At an informal, socially-distanced gathering on the moor on Tuesday to mark the sale’s completion, Margaret said: “From the centuries’ old custodianship of the Buccleuch family the moor and reserve has been passed to that of the Initiative.
“We hope the trading company, Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, will prove a worthy custodian.
“As the founder of the conservation movement, John Muir, said: “In the wilderness lies the hope of the world”.
“Never could these words be truer as we battle climate change and loss of habitat.
“He also said: “In every walk with nature one receives more than he/she seeks”.
“Through our work here, let us open the eyes of others to the treasures of nature and the beauty of our border hills and valleys.”