The landmark agreement of £3.8million for 5,200 acres of land and six residential properties was reached between the Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch Estates last October, after the community of Langholm’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 Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to help tackle climate breakdown, restore nature, and support community regeneration.
Margaret Pool, chairperson of the Langholm Initiative, said: “Together we’ve achieved something which once seemed impossible, and today we can 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 and tireless volunteers, and to Buccleuch for being so supportive and positive in their approach.”
Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, 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 Langholm Initiative all the very best with this.
“Buccleuch has been reducing the footprint of its landholdings in the last decade and, having sold approximately 30,000 acres of land in this period to farmers and community organisations, we will continue to reinvest revenue from land sales into a variety of business projects across the farming, forestry, renewable energy, and leisure and hospitality sectors.”
The Langholm Initiative has set up Tarras Valley Nature Reserve for the day-to-day running of the ambitious new venture, and is currently recruiting two new 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 new nature-based tourism opportunities.
Discussions are continuing between The Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch over another 5,300 acres of land the community wishes to buy, and which could double the size of the new nature reserve.
After the launch of the community’s fundraising drive last May, The Langholm Initiative had until 31 October to raise the funds for the deal, to avoid the withdrawal of a £1m offer from the Scottish Land Fund. At times the project appeared to be seriously at risk.
Other major funders supporting the project are South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, The Carman Family Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Bently Foundation.
The charity’s public crowdfunder, supported by nearly 4,000 people from around the world, reached its £200,000 target after a surge of over £50,000 in donations during its final week, including £24,000 on one day alone.
In the final 48 hours, with the community still some £150,000 short of the total funds needed, The Woodland Trust agreed to contribute £200,000 – taking The Langholm Initiative over the line.
Leading charities that have supported the buyout include Borders Forest Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Trees for Life.
The Langholm Initiative now aims to show how community ownership can be a catalyst for regeneration with the environment at its heart, and hopes its success will inspire other communities in Scotland and across the UK.
The Langholm Initiative, formed in 1994 as one of south Scotland's first development trusts, facilitates projects making a lasting difference to the local area and people. See langholminitiative.org.uk.