A PETITION seeking support for a community buy-out of Langholm Moor will be in placed in outlets in town today.
Residents and others have two weeks to add their signatures to the petition, drawn up by the Langholm Initiative.
Any proposed buy-out must have at least 10 per cent of the population’s support so it’s vital as many people as possible add their signatures.
The petition says: “Do you, as a resident, support an investigation into the opportunities and benefits which buying all or part of Langholm Moor could bring to the community?”
The Initiative has set up a small working group and it has already meet a representative of Buccleuch to start talks over the sale.
Buccleuch proposes to sell 25,000 acres which includes Langholm Moor, along with some residential properties and farms.
In a statement, the group says: “The proposed sale should not have come as a surprise to the community, with large landowners in Scotland being encouraged to split up their land holdings and offer opportunities for greater diversity of land use and direct community involvement.
“However, the sale has come as a bit of a shock; after all, this land has never before been sold.
If it goes to plan, the public consultation (Buccleuch.com/Langholm-moor-consultation) will end tomorrow, with the sale process likely to start in late July.”
The moor is largely devoted to rough hill grazing with small areas of pasture, forestry and other land uses.
Critically, it is nationally important for its mix of upland habitats and the variety of bird and animal species it supports.
Nearly 15,000 acres is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a similar area as a Special Protection Area (SPA) to protect the nationally endangered hen harrier.
Chris Miles, former area manager of Scottish Natural Heritage in the region, writing in the E&L Advertiser, described it as “a fantastic place for nature and, consequently, for people”.
This view is endorsed by Kevin Cumming of Wild Eskdale who considers the land sale as a once in a lifetime opportunity for the community to own all or part of the land and determine how it is used in the future.
Among ideas currently being floated is creating a nature reserve with a wildlife and education centre which would draw in visitors and build on the work Wild Eskdale has started in schools and the wider wildlife tourism industry.
Being an SSSI and, hopefully, a nature reserve, the priority will always be sustainable conservation management.
With direct community involvement in planning and implementation, the management objectives will be easier to achieve and a sense of pride and interest in the moor will be nurtured.
The SSSI and SPA designations already provide significant protection but other opportunities such as small-scale sustainable farming and cottage industries could be encouraged, buildings brought back to life and areas designated for outdoor activities such as mountain biking and fell running.
The moor, land of the Border Reivers, Whita Hill and the Castle Craigs, has ‘aye been’ of historical and cultural significance to Langholm and Newcastleton.
In recent years Buccleuch has supported a number of community activities, including studies of the moor, and it’s hoped this will continue in a spirit of co-operation, allowing residents to take over the management of access.
While thoughts immediately turn to the Common Riding, the growing business of ancestor tourism shouldn’t be ignored, with Liddesdale Heritage Centre and the Gilnockie-based Armstrong Border Tours taking advantage of interest in the Reivers Trail and pursuit of family connections.
Saving the moor is vital. If nothing is done, it could simply pass to a buyer who has no interest in the community or promoting tourism, jobs and sustainable development.
The exact form the community body will take and options available will become clear only when there has been more discussion.