Tarras Valley Nature Reserve

One of the south of Scotland’s largest community land buyouts, undertaken to create a large-scale nature reserve for people, wildlife and carbon capture.

Our story

by Jenny Barlow, Estate Manager for Tarras Valley Nature Reserve

In May 2019, Buccleuch Estates announced its decision to sell 25,000 acres of Langholm Moor and the Tarras Valley in its Borders Estate.

After the shock of this announcement, the local community rallied and interest grew in buying this land – with a vision of developing the vast upland moor, ancient woodland, meadows, peatlands and river valley into the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. And so, the Langholm Initiative took forward the aspiration, leading an ambitious campaign on behalf of the community to raise funds to purchase 10,500 acres of this estate, in what would be known as the ‘impossible dream’.

A huge fundraising campaign attracted £3.8m in just 6 months, including a public crowd funder which raised over £200,000 with thousands of donations from all around the world. As a result of an incredible collective response, the community was able to purchase 5,200 acres of the land, in March 2021. Building on our success, the community is fundraising again to purchase a further 5,300 acres of land, doubling the size of the reserve.

The creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve will help tackle climate change, restore nature at a huge scale and support community regeneration. The Langholm Initiative now has a team of staff in place including myself, to take forward the development of the reserve which includes creating a nature reserve management plan, planting new woodlands and developing an education and volunteering programme. This is now one of the largest community-led ecological restoration projects in Southern Scotland.

Our advice

Offering a source of hope and inspiration struck a real chord in the initial fundraising campaign. The story of our community land purchase captured the interest of people from all around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, at a dark time when people were looking for positive ways to support each other at a community level.

Starting something that involved people across the community built real grassroots momentum that led to some unexpected but very welcome partnerships and offers of help. At the start of our ‘impossible dream’ to buy this land, we did not know that we would secure funding support from the likes of the Scottish Land Fund, South of Scotland Enterprise, John Muir Trust, Carman Family Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Woodland Trust. The most important thing was to bring people together behind one common goal and simply get going in the direction we wanted to go.

Having a core operational team in place is essential when undertaking something this big. Our small team will continue to be supported by our volunteer board members as well as a separate committee to take responsibility for the nature reserve along with an amazing army of volunteers to help us on the reserve.

Our metrics

  • Habitat restoration
  • Peatland protection and restoration
  • Participants in community & education programmes
  • Number of volunteers
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Showing visitors some of the upland moor.
A peatlands restoration talk on site, by Crichton Carbon Centre.
Education programmes on the nature reserve.