IT is aiming to complete one of Scotland’s largest community buyouts and turn moorland into a vast nature reserve.

Now the Langholm Initiative has been given a £500,000 boost as it faces a race against time to achieve its dream.

The group needs £6 million for the purchase of 10,500 acres of Langholm Moor from one of Scotland’s largest landowners, Buccleuch Estates, which comprises the business interests of the Duke of Buccleuch and family.

It said a £500,000 pledge from the Dunblane-based Carman Family Foundation had kept its buyout bid alive after it appeared to be at risk.

The Initiative, a development trust set up in 1994 to improve the fortunes of the former textile town, wants to use the land -- the size of 5,600 football pitches -- to create the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

The project, thought to be Scotland’s biggest community buyout in land value to date, promises to restore globally important peatlands and ancient forests, establish new native woodlands and secure a haven for iconic wildlife such as merlins, black grouse, short-eared owls and the UK’s most persecuted raptor, the hen harrier.

The scheme was awarded £1m from the Scottish Land Fund in June but the offer was only one-third of the sum applied for.

The award is also time-limited, meaning the charity is now in a race against time to raise a further £5m by October 31 or risk losing out on the money.

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The charity is desperately trying to raise the funds from other means. Public donations have now reached £200,000, including a crowdfunding campaign that has so far raised about £120,000 from more than 2,000 donors.

An online Hen Harrier Day hosted by television presenters Chris Packham and step-daughter Megan McCubbin raised £10,000, and the John Muir Trust has also donated £100,000 – but new major funders are now essential to the scheme’s success.

Margaret Pool, chairwoman of the Langholm Initiative, said: “The Carman Family Foundation’s tremendous £500,000 support for the Langholm Moor Community Buyout is a major boost, and couldn’t have come at a better time. It really keeps the project on track.

“This kind of support makes all the difference, and we’re hugely grateful.”

Bill Carman, trustee of the Carman Family Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to be helping bring this special area into the ownership of people who take biodiversity -- both flora and fauna -- seriously.

“Langholm Moor deserves to be protected and enhanced because it is crucial we all help the natural environment stabilise and re-establish, but also because it will act as an excellent example of how humans can work together in selfless communities.

“We think it is really important the buyout succeeds, and would urge all who read this to contribute as much as they can.”

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The Langholm Initiative is working with the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and other groups to assist them, but organisers have urged anyone who can help to get in touch.

Project leader Kevin Cumming said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received, including the kind donations to our crowdfunder from some 2,000 people so far.

“We’re going to exhaust every opportunity to seize this once-in-a-lifetime chance for the people of Langholm and for tackling the climate and nature crises. We will leave no stone unturned.”

Buccleuch Estates announced its decision to sell 25,000 acres of the famous Langholm Moor last year, and recently said it was in “advanced discussions” with the Langholm Initiative over the potential sale of 10,500 acres, including nine residential properties.

A joint valuation has estimated the land at just over £6m. Langholm, once dubbed the “Muckle Toon” for its growing population and bustling mills, has seen decades of economic decline through the loss of textile manufacturing.

The Langholm Initiative says the prospective buyout offers the community the chance “to decide its own future for the first time”.

It has asked the Scottish Land Fund to extend its October deadline, while Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, has also written to the Fund to express its support for an extension.

The buyout project is also supported by leading charities including Borders Forest Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Trees for Life, and the Woodland Trust.

The Carman Family Foundation was set up to assist with projects that both enhance biodiversity and encourage people to gain knowledge and enjoyment from the newly enhanced land.