DESCRIBED as the finest area of wild land left in the Borders, the Talla and Gameshope estate is the subject of a frantic scramble to raise funds so that it can be purchased and protected for future generations to enjoy.
The Borders Forest Trust, together with fellow conservation charity, the John Muir Trust, need to raise more than £1million to help purchase the estate’s 5,400 acres.
The two organisations – which are seeking pledges of support from the public – are in a race against time to raise funds to purchase the land, which is on the open market at an asking price of £1.1million, and need the cash committed before making an offer some time this month.
The 5,400 acres (2,160 hectares) of spectacular upland hill country includes the summits of Great Hill, Molls Cleuch Dod, Carlavin Hill and Firthhope Rig.
It lies at the heart of the historic Ettrick Forest, a wild and remote place which for centuries provided a sanctuary for the dispossessed and a refuge for rogues and rebels such as freedom fighter William Wallace and the Border reivers, but now only exists in isolated remnants.
Today, it remains a relatively remote area, but its formerly wild and natural qualities have been largely tamed due to overgrazing.
The two trusts have come together because they recognise that this sale is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring a very special part of Scotland under conservation management.
They are sharing their experience and resources because they also share a vision for the future of this important area. John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust, believes the estate is the finest area of wild land in the Borders.
“The scale of the hills and crags is breathtaking and yet it’s highly accessible from central Scotland and the North of England,” he explained.
“There are 12 splendid hills over 600m in height, as well as the magnificent valley of the Gameshope burn running from a high mountain plateau down to the Talla reservoir.
“We have a unique opportunity to protect and enhance this area.
“In 10 years’ time this property could sustain a flourishing mosaic of young woodlands and open hilltops, but we’re relying on support from members of the public to make that happen.”
John Hunt, chairman of the Borders Forest Trust, said that after centuries of overgrazing, the land is seriously degraded in biological terms and there is huge potential for ecological restoration to bring back natural, more diverse vegetation and greatly enhanced wildlife.
“Talla and Gameshope lies at the heart of the historic Ettrick Forest and borders Carrifran Wildwood [the major woodland restoration project in the Moffat Hills]. Linking these properties would bring a large connected area under conservation management,” said Mr Hunt.
“This is a rare opportunity to restore a network of hills and valleys on a landscape scale, providing habitats extensive enough to be truly sustainable.”