A CROWDFUNDER for one of the UK’s largest community-led nature restoration projects has surged past the £100,000 mark, in a race against time to buy more land near Langholm.

A “big push” is now needed to raise enough to prevent the land going on the open market, where its price will probably rise beyond the community’s reach. There are fears it may then be bought by corporate investment firms, which are land banking in Scotland.

The community of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway aims to raise £2.2 million to double the size of the vast new Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, which was created last year following the successful first stage of the South of Scotland’s biggest community land buyout.

Led by the Langholm Initiative charity, the community is trying to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor from Buccleuch, before the land is put on the open market after the May 31 deadline.

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Success would boost plans for community regeneration, including nature-based tourism opportunities, and for tackling the nature and climate emergencies.

More than 1000 people from across the UK and the world have now donated to the public crowdfunder on GoFundMe, which aims to raise at least £150,000 of the £2.2m needed.

A donation of £20,000 has been given by Rewilding Britain and Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’s estate manager Jenny Barlow said this, along with “amazing support” from many people had made the “impossible dream” another step closer to reality.

However, she warned there was still a long way to go in order to safeguard the land for future generations by bringing it into community ownership.

“A big push is needed over the next few weeks to get us over the line,” she said. “We really need people to keep donating to the crowdfunder, while we also seek support from major funders.”

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Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s chief executive, added: “The people of Langholm are showing how community-led nature recovery projects can make a real difference for people, nature and climate, and this hugely important project deserves all the support it can get. There is a unique opportunity here to bring this culturally important land into community ownership.

“The buyout is an inspiring example of local empowerment and the positive change that can happen when people come together with a bold vision. We’re delighted to add our support alongside the remarkable generosity shown by over 1000 people worldwide, and we urge major funders to back the appeal and help the community achieve something truly historic.”

The buyout’s first phase saw the Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch reach an agreement of £3.8m for 5200 acres of land and six residential properties in October 2020. On the resulting nature reserve, globally important peatlands and ancient woods are being restored, native woodlands replanted, and a haven established for wildlife.

Ensuring community regeneration through a nature-based approach is a central aim of the new nature reserve. Langholm was once a thriving textile centre, but the industry has declined in recent years.