Guest blog – Langholm Moor Community Buyout by Kevin Cumming

My name is Kevin Cumming, I work for the Langholm Initiative charity, based in the town of Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. I hold a BA (hons) in Business Administration and an MSc in Conservation and Management of Protected Areas. Currently I manage the LI’s Wild Eskdale project which aims to promote eco-tourism in the area as well as provide outdoor education for the local community. A Working Group from the Langholm Initiative is coordinating the potential purchase of part of Langholm Moor on behalf of the local community.  I am leading this group which has the ecological restoration of this area at its heart.

Tarras Valley Photo: Kevin Cumming

‘A once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of Langholm and its surrounding area’, that was my initial feeling when Buccleuch Estates announced its intention to sell 25,000acres of Langholm Moor earlier this year. The project to purchase part of this land for the benefit of the community and the protection of its cultural and natural heritage is now well underway.

Black Grouse Photo: Kevin Cumming

The nature of this area is extremely special. Among the many great wildlife experiences, I have had on the moor, special mention must go to watching the majestic sky dancing of hen harriers, the intimate display of a black grouse lek, merlin in aerial combat with ravens and so much more over the past year. As somebody who regularly embarks on wildlife watching experiences across Scotland, I can honestly say that this hidden gem in the southern uplands can match anywhere else in the nation. This place is extremely special for birds of prey and people travel from all over the UK to share in this wonder of nature.

Many of you may be familiar with Langholm Moor, it has been the site of two scientific studies regarding land management for the purpose of driven grouse shooting. The latest of these studies, The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (LMDP), produced its final report this year. This project was meant to run for ten years and was considering the viability of trying to establish driven grouse shooting as the economic driver for conservation work of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protection Area (SPA, breeding hen harriers). It also hoped to bring some resolution to the issue of raptor persecution on grouse moors. Tactics such as diversionary feeding for hen harriers were deployed to reduce the perceived impact on the grouse. The Project was concluded early because of the apparent failure in raising the grouse numbers to a level at which they could be shot. It should be noted that in one of the years the numbers were seen to be at an appropriate level but a decision not to shoot was taken. I would also point out that grouse numbers did increase but just not to a level where a large enough surplus was achieved.

When the decision to end the study early in 2017/18 was made the people of Langholm had no idea that two years later there would be an intention to sell the land on the open market.

The natural heritage of the land is clear but it also holds immense cultural significance to local people. The annual Common Riding celebration marks the boundaries of the common moss on the moor. This incredible display of community solidarity has taken place every year for over 200 years. There are historic disputes regarding the ownership of the common moss which are still deeply felt today by the people of Langholm.  I am not from Langholm originally so can’t go into too much detail of the history of this locally important issue. What I can say is that through a community buyout, the people of Langholm will have secured the land for generations to come.

What will the community do with the land?

After an intense campaign to demonstrate community support for purchasing the land which included a petition, letters of support from local organisations, support from MSP’s across the political spectrum and written support from Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB and Borders Forest Trust, Buccleuch Estates halted the sale on the open market and agreed to allow the community a chance to investigate a purchase.

The LI is currently undertaking a feasibility study investigating how community ownership of the land could work. At the heart of this study is finding options which will generate income that allow this former grouse moor to be run as a community nature reserve. Wouldn’t it be spectacular to see a landscape that has a mosaic of habitats which focuses on species diversity rather than a single species abundance, where the additional conservation benefits are not a pleasant side effect of management but the objective of it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful that rather than excluding people from areas of conservation efforts, we find a way to allow people to re-engage with nature?

Why a community buy out?

Land reform is a hot topic in Scotland and rightly so. The vast majority of the land is owned by very few powerful and wealthy individuals. The Land Reform Act in Scotland permits communities the opportunity to purchase land and buildings that are strategically important to them. So many rural locations in Scotland have suffered from the loss of industry, in Langholm’s case the textile industry. Fortunes have been made and the noise of the textile machinery has largely now stopped, all that is left in Langholm is the silence in the empty buildings and the decay of a once thriving community. However the people of Langholm are extremely resilient and I have never lived in a place where people care so much about where they live. It inspires you to try and make a difference here. Langholm is fortunate to be situated in an area that has dramatic landscapes, beautiful rivers and is relatively close to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Carlisle. I believe that investing in the nature based and adventure tourism industry is key to the town’s regeneration. To accomplish this the community must have control over the land that is so closely connected to the area’s heritage.

Development and Conservation

I remember sitting in a university lecture many years ago and having a lively debate with the tutor on development vs conservation. In my mind I couldn’t comprehend how they are thought as polar opposite ideas, that to have one you cannot have the other. To me they are two sides of the same coin. Where humanity has gone wrong over the centuries is development with a disregard for nature rather than development designed for nature. Here at Langholm, under community ownership our aim is to conserve and improve the environment while providing the infrastructure, management and opportunities that encourage people to feel part of conservation.

Fundraising

Earlier this year the LI were delighted to raise enough funds to carry out its feasibility study into community ownership of Langholm Moor. A significant portion of that came from a successful crowd funding campaign. In total around £13,000 was raised in private donations. It is likely that if ownership of the moor is to come into community hands for the purpose of conservation then another crowd funder will be required. We anticipate setting up a second crowd funder for the purchase of the land to create a community run nature reserve in early 2020.

Will you be one of the people that helps change what was once a field of slaughter into a haven for nature for generations to come? Please keep up to date with the project via our facebook page or you can contact me kevincumming@langholminitiaitve.co.uk

Photo: Kevin Cumming
Likes(72)Dislikes(8)
Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.


24 Replies to “Guest blog – Langholm Moor Community Buyout by Kevin Cumming”

  1. What a fantastic project. How niece it is to have the chance to buy a grouse moor for nature instead of seeing it bought by another rich and privileged individual or consortium intent on continuing the fields of slaughter.Very best of luck with the project happy to contribute to the next crowd founder appeal.

    Likes(29)Dislikes(6)
        1. Kevin,

          At last someone who recognises that development and conservation are two sides of the same coin!

          I wish you all the best in your venture.

          Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  2. Brilliant stuff Kevin and so good to see an emphasis on conservation as the way forward economically. This is especially welcome in southern Scotland which so often gets overlooked. I would say there's a really brilliant opportunity for demonstrating natural flood alleviation work in Scotland that's falling behind compared to what's happening in England. There are no less than four trials with beavers in England specifically to see their capacity to reduce flooding. More proposed schemes to do the same thing in other parts of England seem to come in by the day. In Scotland - absolutely zilch!! Even a demonstration site here where volunteers have put in leaky dams (as at Belford and Hardcastle Crags) on a moorland stream to replicate beaver ones and how they reduce flood peaks would be a big step forward. Best of luck with your plans!

    Likes(16)Dislikes(0)
  3. My partner and I spent 4 days last summer in this area and we spent some time in Langholm. We had never visited this part of the Borders before. The sole reason we came was to see the new woodlands being created by the John Muir Trust at Glen Lude and the Borders Forest Trust at Carrifran & Talla. What we saw really heartened us and we thought the area was fascinating. We spent money on local accommodation, cafes etc and explored the local towns and villages. Unfortunately we didn't see any birds of prey but that will surely change if these community land purchases continue. We will come back for another stay and definitely contribute to the Langholm crowd funder as we did to the first one.

    Likes(11)Dislikes(0)
    1. Great comment
      People will visit Langholm for nature - this is the way forwatd

      Likes(4)Dislikes(0)
    2. Hi Carol,
      Im gald you enjoyed the area. If you do make it back up this way maybe book a wildlife experience with Wild Eskdale and see some of the amaizng birds of prey!
      We have been in conversation with both the John Muir Trust and Borders Forest Trust as well as others. There is a lot of goodwill behind the project!

      Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  4. I have long wanted to see a pilot scheme for managing these moorsin a better way. Count me in for my modest contribution.

    Likes(7)Dislikes(0)
    1. Thanks Robert, we appreciate it!

      I don't see many Seago's about...its my wife's maiden name! Small world.

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  5. I got married in Langholm, in the Town Hall and under a huge photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon. I stated at the time that although getting married might be a small step for a man, it was a huge leap for HeclaSU! May I wish you all the very best with your enterprise and I will most certainly donate to any crowdfunding you ask for. I just wish more local communities would bite the bullet and start to put an end to the feudal system of land ownership that prevails across so much of Scotland to this day.

    Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
    1. It is so important that rural communities like Langholm have a say in their future and that of course includes land use!

      Likes(1)Dislikes(0)
  6. Will you be pressuring the Scottish Parliament to extend beaver reintroduction to the South then? It is ridiculous that South Scotland is missing out, and that fly fishermen have such a stranglehold on the rivers there.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(3)
    1. The Tweed Foundation which is supposedly one of the more progressive hunting, fishing, shooting organisations threw a massive strop when the official beaver trial at Knapdale was announced. They pretty much demanded that all the beavers were to be rounded up at the end of the trial, which they decided in advance would be useless scientifically of course. If any beavers did turn up on the Tweed I wouldn't bet on them being there long. A vociferous element of the angling fraternity has been calling for the 'control' of otters for some time using the same line that's been used with buzzards - that they are a threat to other wildlife. It's quite shocking how this message has been picked up by some of the general public, which is inevitable if it's not challenged which it rarely has been so far. This subject isn't getting the attention it deserves, it's certainly noticeable the number of trolls on Chris Packham's FB who are anglers, especially carp anglers.

      Likes(5)Dislikes(3)
      1. "especially carp anglers"
        Got a typo in there. 🙂

        But yeah, and the bunch of dry fly snobs just up and to the west a little are exactly the same. There is a hatred for anything new, or old as it were in this case, in this country. It is sickening.

        Likes(2)Dislikes(3)
  7. I remain unconvinced, of the economic case ( short of a ban on driven shooting) ,for the widespread replacement of active grouse moors, with wildlife watching ventures.
    However, in this instance, the plan may have something going for it.

    Likes(1)Dislikes(3)
    1. Such a good news story, followed the Langholm story over recent years but only ever dreamed of outcomes like this. So important this project succeeds - good luck and there's lots of folk out there who will support this.

      Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  8. Good luck with this - its been a long journey from the killing fields of the 1980s and before. This could be a wonderful project...

    Likes(3)Dislikes(3)
    1. Great to hear of this project to regain Langholm Moor.
      But when DaveDick refers to 'the killing fields of the 1980's' he must be unaware of the local anger and disquiet at the killing of nature going on on Langholm Moor in the 1880's!

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  9. A very well-presented blog, Kevin. It will work, there is no doubt, because the site has everything and adding value to it will make it a tremendous destination. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the group in Langholm. Life will start to thrive, rather than be cut short

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  10. A great project that deserves success and Kevin is the perfect person to take it further. We wish him and the project every success and will contribute to it.

    Likes(4)Dislikes(1)
  11. As an ageing raptor worker (Harriers & Merlins ) who has seen too many things I didn't want to see, I welcome your project with all my heart. It's also good to see the community have a chance to care for the land and bring back to life, as at Carrifran.

    You will have my support when you fundraise.
    Andrew

    Likes(2)Dislikes(0)
  12. Well you’ve got some balls lad that you feel you can point out “where humanity has gone wrong over the centuries”. Best of luck to the project but where is the money going to come from to manage the land to allow the species you want to see flourish, flourish and prevent it being taken over by a select few species of well adapted predator and scavenger?

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Comments are closed.