A RURAL community is in a "race against time" to buy up land for a nature reserve – before it's sold off by the Duke of Buccleuch.

The company that holds the aristocrat's lands has agreed to keep 5300 acres of moorland and three residential properties off the open market to allow locals in Dumfriesshire village Langholm to launch a buy-out bid.

It'll cost £2.2 million to secure the sites and make them part of a sprawling new nature reserve.

And there's just over six months to collect the cash amidst a rush on land by big-money corporate investors.

The Tarras Valley Nature Reserve was established in an earlier buy-out which completed in March and the new move would see it double in size.

Today organisers at The Langholm Initiative have launched a public crowdfunder as they try to generate "at least" £150,000 of the needed funds. Applications have been made to major grant-making bodies and a private donor, who is to remain anonymous, has already pledge half a million pounds.

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Members of the public chipped in as much as £200,000 in the previous crowdfunder and Jenny Barlow, estate manager of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, says the team is now "aiming to repeat the impossible".

Achieving that feat, she says, would mean "doubling the benefits for people, nature and climate", protecting and restoring ancient woodland and peatland and preserving habitats for black grouse, short-eared owls and hen-harriers. That species is the UK's most persecuted bird of prey.

In a statement, The Langholm Initiative said it is in "a race against time" to secure the lands for conservation and sustainable tourism, adding that "Buccleuch’s offer of keeping the land off the open market is time limited, and the community needs to raise the funds by next May."

"We need all the help we can get to achieve a big win for wildlife, climate action and community regeneration – and a legacy for future generations," Barlow commented. "Scotland is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and it desperately needs projects like this.

"But the pressure is on. This is the last opportunity to bring this land into community ownership. If the land goes onto the open market, its price will probably surge beyond our reach – with the risk it will be bought by corporate investment firms, which are currently banking large amounts of land in the area."

The first phase of the buyout went down to the wire, with the funding target reached in the last 48 hours. It covered six residential properties as well as the landed and saw The Langholm Initiative raise a cool £3.8m, with the support of thousands of people. Donations came in from around the world in what was the biggest ever community land buyout in the south of the country. TV presenters Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin helped raise funds and South of Scotland Enterprise pledged up to £1m in support.

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Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, wants the new bid to succeed. "We were delighted that The Langholm Initiative was able to purchase the initial area from Buccleuch last year, having shown such tenacity and vision," he said. "Having reached agreement on timeline and value, we wish them every success with this next exciting phase, both for the initiative and the community."

The bid is supported by the John Muir Trust, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Borders Forest Trust and others.