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£300k moor buyout boost

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By Abbey Morton
Farming
£300k moor buyout boost

A ‘GAME-CHANGING’ sum has bolstered southern Scotland’s biggest land buyout attempt.

The Garfield Weston Foundation – a family-founded grant-making Trust that supports charities across the UK — has pledged £300,000 for the Langholm Moor Community Buyout.

The total now stands at £3.1million as the October 31 deadline date draws near.

Langholm Initiative, an award-winning charity, is aiming to to buy 10,500 acres of moorland, jointly valued at £6.4 million, from Buccleuch Estates to create the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

The charity and Buccleuch Estates also have an agreement for a smaller option, with the community purchasing around 5200 acres of land, including six properties, jointly valued at £4.2 million. Discussions are ongoing.

With the community facing a race against time to raise the money for either deal, the Garfield Weston Foundation has weighed in with support, which has been welcomed by the Langholm Initiative.

Chairwoman Margaret Pool said: “This generous support from the Garfield Weston Foundation could well be a game-changer for the Langholm Moor Community Buyout.

“All the signs are that momentum is now building towards a successful outcome.

“Just months ago we had a daunting mountain to climb, but the summit is now in sight.

“It’s still going to be hard work to get there, and the clock’s ticking.

“We’re asking people to help achieve something special by supporting our crowdfunder, and for major funders to get in touch.”

The purchase — whether for 10,500 or 5200 acres — would be South Scotland’s biggest community buyout in land value and area so far, and would lead to the creation of a vast nature reserve.

Peatlands and ancient woods would be restored, native woodlands established, and a haven provided for the area’s remarkable wildlife – including hen harriers, the UK’s most persecuted bird of prey.

Director of the Garfield Weston Foundation Phillipa Charles said: “Our trustees are delighted to pledge support as they recognise the important environmental value of this land, and they were also impressed with the ‘never give up’ attitude of the community and those involved in the project.

“We hope others are inspired to help at this crucial final stage.”

After the Scottish Land Fund awarded the project £1 million in June – hugely welcome but a third of the amount requested, and with the condition the purchase be completed by 31 October – the buyout appeared at serious risk.

The community was left with weeks to raise the remaining millions.

Although the Land Fund has now changed its condition from a purchase being fully completed to all necessary funds for a purchase being raised, the Fund’s 31 October deadline remains.

But the buyout has continued to receive wide support due to its vision of tackling climate change, restoring nature, and supporting community regeneration by bringing jobs and visitors to the area.

Last month, the Dunblane-based Carman Family Foundation pledged £500,000, and earlier this month the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency announced up to £1 million financial support.

A public crowdfunding appeal has now passed the £130,000 mark, with donations made from around the world.

Another £80,000 of direct public donations has been made, and the John Muir Trust has donated £100,000. To find out more and to support the crowdfunding appeal, visit langholminitiative.org.uk.

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