A NEW nature reserve in the uplands of Dumfries and Galloway has doubled in size with the legal completion of the south of Scotland’s largest community buyout.

Organisers hailed it as a “moment of history and hope for nature, climate and people”.

The landmark agreement of £2.2 million for 5300 acres was reached between charity The Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch after an ambitious community fundraising campaign.

With the official transfer of land ownership finalised last week, the Langholm community has achieved its original goal of raising a total of £6m to create a 10,500-acre reserve to tackle the nature and climate crises and boost community regeneration.

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Chair John Hanrahan said: “This is a moment of history and hope. It shows how communities can achieve the remarkable when people work together, even when the odds seem impossible.

"Huge thanks go to the thousands of people who went above and beyond to make this happen, and to Buccleuch for working with us so positively throughout.

“The climate and nature emergencies are among the biggest long-term threats facing us all, and restoring nature on a large scale is one powerful solution. We are hugely proud to be playing our part, and we hope our story will inspire other similar projects across Scotland and beyond.”

Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “The Langholm Initiative has shown what can be achieved with a strong, forward-looking plan. For myself and the Buccleuch team, it has been a pleasure to be part of this story, and we look forward, with Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, to what can be achieved by them in the future.”

The buyout’s first stage made global headlines in 2021 after the community raised £3.8m to purchase an initial 5200 acres and six residential properties from Buccleuch. This led to the creation of the community-owned nature reserve in one of the biggest projects of its kind in the UK.

The additional 5300 acres now added to the reserve include internationally significant peatlands, the headwaters of the River Tarras, and three properties including a working upland sheep farm.

A community-led plan will shape the next five years of priorities and activities. Six new jobs have already been created on the reserve.

"Emerging opportunities include conservation grazing, regenerative farming, woodland and peatland restoration, and a possible field studies centre, alongside increased eco-tourism through hiking trails.

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A haven will be ensured for wildlife, including rare hen harriers, the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey.

The buyout’s second stage was launched in October 2021. A public crowdfunder raised more than £242,000 thanks to donations from almost 3000 people worldwide. An anonymous private donor made a donation of £500,000, and the Scottish Land Fund awarded £1 million.

But success was only confirmed as a July 31 deadline was reached, with donations of £300,000 from Alex Gerko, philanthropist and founder of algorithmic trading firm XTX Markets, £100,000 from Anne Reece of The Reece Foundation and £50,000 from John Muir Trust.

Buccleuch’s support for the buyout included agreeing on a fixed purchase price and extending purchase deadlines to give the community more time for fundraising.