WHEN Tony Perriam discovered that a reservoir five minutes from his front door was being sold at auction he knew it would make the ideal picnic spot for his young family.

But the purchase of lot 64 - just over 17 acres of water, pasture and scrubland - for their private use also puts him at the forefront of a 21st-century land grab.

With the likes of Scottish Water and Network Rail selling redundant land, auctioneers say that picnickers, wildlife enthusiasts and amateur developers have an unprecedented chance to buy pockets of the Scottish countryside.

Mr Perriam, 42, yesterday described Stobshiel reservoir in East Lothian as the perfect retreat for his wife and three children.

''Our family love the area. It was an opportunity to buy a little bit of heaven in the Lammermuirs and we will just go up there when we want to enjoy it in our own way, nothing more than that,'' said Mr Perriam, a chartered surveyor.

''We will probably potter about, enjoying the solitude, have picnics - perhaps a bit of sailing, with the permission of our neighbours.''

He paid (pounds) 16,500 for the reservoir, which has been publicly owned for the past 94 years.

Scottish Water has raised almost (pounds) 7m since its formation in 2001 by disposing of unused assets, including Cairngorm House in Inverness, the former headquarters of North of Scotland Water, which sold for (pounds) 3.3m.

It sold 16 properties last week through SVA Auctions in Glasgow, with two lots fetching double the pre-auction valuation.

Shaun Vigers, director of SVA, said some of the plots had been bought by farmers and owners of adjoining land but a new breed of buyer was filling the auction rooms.

He said sales that 10 years ago attracted 150 people today pull in more than twice as many potential bidders, fuelled in part by TV shows such as Grand Designs and Bargain Hunt.

''The market for land and housing development sites remains exceptionally strong,'' he said. ''There is a lot of interest in auctions on TV.

''People are wanting to put money into things that they can see. With land and buildings you can go there, see it and enjoy it.''

Previous Scottish Water properties that have been bought for redevelopment have included a redundant water treatment works at Sunnylaw, near Bridge of Allan, which is being turned into a house. It sold for (pounds) 143,000 two years ago. Similar properties had sold for (pounds) 50,000 in the past.

A former water treatment works at Stobshiel was bought last year with its new owners planning to convert it into a home.

Mr Vigers said the disused sites offered the ultimate water feature.

''Towns have expanded or things have been rezoned and there is tremendous pressure on brownfield sites.

''Any property with an industrial use qualifies as brownfield and you can do things with it,'' he added.

Last week's sale generated more than (pounds) 400,000 for Scottish Water.

As well as Stobshiel reservoir at Humbie, lots sold at the auction included Carhurlie reservoir, near Leven, in Fife, former depots at Dalbeattie, Lochmaben, Duns, Castle Douglas and Forfar, and tracts of land throughout Scotland.

Peter Cook, Scottish Water estates manager, said: ''We were very pleased at the amount of interest in the wide range of properties which were auctioned last week.

''The levels of revenue generated by the auction sale of redundant properties was very encouraging.''

Scottish Water is now looking at a range of other properties for possible submission to a further auction at the end of April, with cash generated being reinvested.