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Rewilding notebook: our visit to Langholm Moor

The town of Langholm in the Southern Uplands of Scotland has a storied history of astronauts, communism and textiles, but it’s the next chapter in the Langholm story that we came to hear about. Our hosts were Margaret (Mairi) Pool, Alison Hutton and Kevin Cummings from the Langholm Initiative, a community group that’s working to buy and subsequently restore up to 10,500 acres of their neighbouring Langholm Moor. Their vision is expansive: take climate action, promote responsible nature tourism and set an empowering precedent for other rural communities to follow. As we walked with our hosts across the moors and discussed their plans, it was difficult not to get caught up in the excitement.

Langholm Moor

Langholm moor, even before its ecological-restoration, is a thing of beauty. The area has proved a stronghold for breeding pairs of Hen Harriers, a nationally rare bird of prey once extinct in the UK. Visitors on the lookout for Langholm Moor’s natural riches might also come across the likes of red squirrels, short-eared owls and black grouse (and if such sightings pique your interest, visit Wild Eskdale for responsibly run nature tours on the moor).

The moor also plays a significant role in the day-to-day life of the Langholm community. A discreet road running through the land makes it accessible for everyone in the town to visit, and Mairi, Alison and Kevin professed to trying to get up to the moor daily. The number of walkers we came across indicated this affection for the moor was widely shared.

Vision for Ecological Restoration

The Langholm Initiative aims to achieve large-scale ecological restoration through a combination of reversing the draining of the peatlands (peatlands also being particularly effective carbon sinks), encouraging natural woodland generation and promoting the regeneration of the varied habitats in the area to secure its biodiversity long-term. A key goal is for Langholm Moor to become a National Nature Reserve (NNR) within five years. Referred to as the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, this status would grant it added visibility as well as additional governmental protections over and above those afforded to it by the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protected Area (SPA) designations already held. This isn’t just good news for the natural world and those who cherish it, Langholm Moor will also be a centre for sustainable and responsible outdoor tourism and environmental education, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.

It’s difficult to grasp the significance of the Langholm Moor Community Buyout from the statistics alone. The fundraising target of £6.4 million and the aforementioned 10,500 acres certainly give a sense of the scale, but the historical context is more revealing. The history of land ownership and management in Scotland is complex. We have neither the space nor the requisite expertise to give it proper attention in this post, but hundreds of years of concentrated land ownership combined with often myopic land management practices have led to some tensions between land owners and stakeholders, as well as significant degradation of Scotland’s ecology. The Langholm Moor Community Buyout, the largest of its kind in southern Scotland, thus marks a consequential change in approach not just in how the land is owned and run, but in its singular commitment to the land’s ecological health. Since the introduction of the Scottish Land Fund in 2001, a groundswell of community projects like Langholm has been developing. You can read about a number of these at this link.

Help make this vision a reality

This momentum is promising, but we mustn’t fall foul to complacency at this opportune time for nature in the UK. If an ecologically-restored and carbon-sequestering country with thriving rural economies and land managed by and for local communities is a vision you can get behind, please do consider supporting the Langholm initiative! Its success would take us one decisive step closer to this vision of the UK becoming a reality.

The deadline for donations is in two weeks on October 31st, which was given by the Scottish Land Fund due to the way the funding year works. The full cost of purchase is £6.4 million, but there is a smaller 5,200 acre plot option at £4.2 million. The team of community volunteers have already done an incredible job raising £3.1 million and are hoping to raise £200,000 through private donations. It really is a brilliant project to get behind and the target is tantalisingly in reach.

Any size donation or any steps to get the message out would be greatly appreciated by all. Please do click here to donate and for more information. Our thanks in advance.

And thanks again to our wonderful hosts Alison, Mairi and Kevin for taking the time to show your vision for the moor!

From left to right: Young Wilders Jack, Anya and Oscar (Molly is taking the photo!), Mairi, Alison and Kevin

Looking out onto Langholm Moor from the road

Mairi explaining to Jack their vision for the moor!

The discreet road running through the moor means it is accessible for everyone in the town to come and visit


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