A COMMUNITY buyout project seeking to double the size of a nature reserve is battling to raise £400,000 in just two weeks.

Earlier this year the Langholm Initiative created the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve in Dumfries and Galloway.

This was after raising 3.8 million pounds to buy 5,200 acres of former grouse muirland from the private landowner the Duke of Buccleuch in 2020.

Now they seek to buy a further 5,300 from the Duke at a cost of £2.2 million.

However, with only two weeks to go until the July 31 deadline the community development trust is facing a £400,000 shortfall.

Jenny Barlow, Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’s estate manager, said: “We need one last big push to help us make history happen and get us over the line.

“We are urging major donors to come forward and asking people to keep donating to our crowdfunder. Every pound gets us one step closer.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase for people and planet. It really is now or never for one of the UK’s largest community-led nature recovery projects to double its scale.”

READ MORE: Major community buyout on Buccleuch Estate is legally completed

Last month the Scottish Land Fund awarded the Langholm Initiative £1 million towards the buyout and the project’s crowdfunder has surpassed its £200,000 target.

But despite other major donations and the backing of numerous charities, including the RSPB, Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust, the goal of doubling the size of the nature reserve appears to be jeopardy.

The reserve contains globally important peatlands, which are key components in natural carbon sequestration.

The reserve’s wardens are also ensuring that the area’s ancient woodland is restored and providing habitats for wildlife including short-eared owls and merlin.

Earlier this year thirteen hen harrier chicks fledged on the reserve, with two being fitted with satellite tags with the help of the RSPB.

The Duke of Buccleuch was once the UK’s largest private landowner and the family still possesses over 200,000 acres of land and a £250 million urban property portfolio.

The target for the Initiative’s previous purchase of land was reached just two days before the deadline.