Langholm Initiative completes successful community buy out
The south of Scotland’s largest community buyout is set to double in size having defied the odds and “achieved the impossible” for a second time in two years, following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen.
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.
Jane Smallman, Chair of the John Muir Trust, said: “Congratulations to the Langholm Initiative in achieving this historic community land buy-out. The Trust has been delighted to come full circle in its support, having been able to give an initial donation in 2020 to kickstart the fundraising campaign and to now be one of several people and organisations that has helped close the gap on this second stage purchase.”
The agreement 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 from Buccleuch. The reserve aims to 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. There were significant donations from Alex Gerko, Founder of algorithmic trading firm XTX Markets, Anne Reece of the Reece Foundation, and the John Muir Trust.
Jenny Barlow, Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’s Estate Manager, 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. It’s been a rollercoaster, but the generosity and unwavering support of so many wonderful donors and volunteers have got us over the line in the nick of time.
“This is about a grassroots fightback against the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, and helping to create a better future. We are doing something so special here, and our expanding reserve is an amazing opportunity for people to visit this part of the world and be inspired by the wonders of nature.”
On the reserve, globally important 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 £1 million 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: “The generosity of so many people locally, nationally and worldwide has been amazing. Our heartfelt thanks go to every donor, supporter and volunteer who helped us overcome what so often felt like impossible odds. We are also very grateful to Buccluech for their ongoing positive engagement, which was absolutely crucial.
“This is a historic result for our community now and for future generations. 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.”
Leading charities that have backed the buyout include Borders Forest Trust, John Muir Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Trees for Life, and the Woodland Trust.
The Langholm Initiative was formed in 1994 as one of south Scotland's first development trusts. It facilitates projects making a lasting difference to the local area and people. See langholminitiative.org.uk.
The Langholm story timeline
- May 2019: Buccleuch Estates announces decision to sell 25,000 acres of Langholm Moor and the Tarras Valley in its Borders Estate.
- May 2020: The Langholm Initiative launches campaign to purchase10,500 acres of the moor, including through a public crowdfunder, with the John Muir Trust donating £100,000.
- June 2020: Scottish Land Fund awards £1 million.
- August 2020: Carman Family Foundation pledges £500,000.
- August 2020: Hen Harrier Day is held online, hosted by television presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, and raises around £10,000 for the buyout.
- Early September 2020: South of Scotland Enterprise announces up to £1 million support.
- Mid-September 2020: Garfield Weston Foundation pledges £300,000. Public crowdfunder passes £130,000.
- October 2020: £500,000 secured from the Bently Foundation. Buccleuch Estates agrees revised purchase price of £3.8 million for an initial 5,200 acres.
- End October 2020: Public crowdfunder passes £200,000 target. The Woodland Trust contributes £200,000 to take the overall funding target over the line.
- 2 November 2020: Successful deal for initial 5,200 acres announced.
- 25 March 2021: Transfer of ownership of the land is completed and announced next morning. The deal is the south of Scotland’s biggest community buyout in land value and area so far.
- 26 March 2021: Tarras Valley Nature Reserve established.
- 12 July 2021: New staff members join The Langholm Initiative to take forward the reserve’s development.
- 27 October 2021: Stage 2 of the community buyout launched, with aim of raising £2.2 million to double the size of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve by purchasing a further 5,300 acres and three residential properties from Buccleuch. £500,000 pledged by private donor.
- February 2022: Rewilding Britain donates £20,000, taking crowdfunder past £100,000.
- May 2022: Agreement reached between community and Buccleuch to extend purchase deadline by two months from 31 May to 31 July, to allow more time to raise funds from major donors.
- June 2022: Scottish Land Fund awards £1m. Public crowdfunder passes £150,000 target following donations from thousands of people worldwide; a crowdfunder stretch target of £200,000 is set.
- July 2022: Public crowdfunder passes £200,000 stretch target, raising more than £40,000 in its final three weeks and eventually reaching over £242,000.
- During the campaign’s closing days, significant donations from Alex Gerko, Founder of algorithmic trading firm XTX Markets, Anne Reece of the Reece Foundation, and the John Muir Trust combined with the crowdfunder to take the buyout over the line. This will double the size of south Scotland’s biggest community buyout in land value and area so far, and will bring 10,500 acres in total into community ownership.