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August 9, 2022

Poor stewardship pays

The largest community land buyout in the South of Scotland has been doubled in size with the fundraising target set by Buccleuch Estates reached by the end of July deadline. That’s another £2.2 million added to £3.8m already banked from the earlier purchase. With the community now embarking on programmes to restore damaged peatlands and ancient woods, expand native woodlands and address biodiversity loss, I can’t be alone in wondering what has Buccleuch been doing all these years? And if his stewardship of the land has been so poor, why is he being so handsomely rewarded? 


The south of Scotland’s largest community buyout is set to double in size, having defied the odds and hit its community fundraising campaign target.

A historic agreement for 5,300 acres of land and three properties between The Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch will now go ahead, after the Dumfriesshire town of Langholm successfully reached its goal of £2.2m by the 31 July deadline.

This will double the size of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, created last year after the buyout’s first stage raised £3.8m to purchase an initial 5,200 acres and six residential properties from Buccleuch.

The reserve aims to help tackle the nature and climate crises, while boosting community regeneration.

Success for the buyout’s second stage was only confirmed as the deadline was reached. In the closing days, thousands of pounds continued to pour into the public crowdfunder.

There were significant donations of £300,000 from Alex Gerko, founder of algorithmic trading firm XTX Markets, £100,000 from Anne Reece of the Reece Foundation, and £50,000 from the John Muir Trust.

Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’s estate manager Jenny Barlow said: “We are so grateful to every single person who has backed this beacon of hope for people and planet – together we have achieved the impossible.

“This is about a grassroots fightback against the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, and helping to create a better future.”

Benny Higgins, executive chair of Buccleuch, said: “We are absolutely delighted for The Langholm Initiative and have been pleased to work with them and support their project every step of the way.

“When Buccleuch launched its community consultation on the proposed sale of 25,000 acres of land on Langholm Moor, we couldn’t know what the community’s aspirations would be.

“To see The Langholm Initiative grow the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve from the initial 5,200 acres to almost double that is fantastic, and we look forward to seeing the evolution of the project over the coming years.”

On the reserve, peatlands and ancient woods are to be restored, native woodlands expanded, and a haven ensured for wildlife including rare hen harriers.

Community regeneration through a nature-based approach is a central aim, with six new jobs already created. Langholm was once a thriving textile centre, but the industry has declined in recent years.

In June, the Scottish Land Fund awarded The Langholm Initiative £1m towards the buyout, while an anonymous private donor made a donation of £500,000 at the appeal’s launch last October.

Nearly 3,000 people have donated to the crowdfunder since it launched nine months ago, taking it past its £200,000 stretch target to reach over £242,000. Tens of thousands of pounds poured in during the final weeks alone.

Margaret Pool, trustee of The Langholm Initiative, said: “Every single pound donated to the crowdfunder counted – each donation kept this impossible dream alive, while major donors could see from the outpouring of support that this was an inspiring, serious project of hope.

“We also hope our story will inspire other community-led nature recovery projects across Scotland and beyond. We know that communities can be powerful forces for positive change.”

Buccleuch has supported the community bid, agreeing with The Langholm Initiative a fixed purchase price in 2019 and extending purchase deadlines to give more time for fundraising. The purchase will be legally finalised between the community and Buccleuch over the coming months.