ONE of the UK’s largest community-led nature and climate projects based in Scotland has received a £1m public money boost - described as a "major gamechanger".

Led by a local charity the town of Langholm has been battling to raise £2.2m for a community buyout of 5,300 acres of Langholm Moor from one of the UK's most famous grouse moors, owned by one of the UK's most powerful hereditary landowners, the Duke of Buccleuch.

It would double the size of the new community-owned Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.

But despite a surging public crowdfunder attracting donations from thousands of people from across the world – there have been fears the project could face a huge shortfall having already missed a May 31 deadline.

Now the The Scottish Land Fund has awarded the Langholm Initiative charity £1m for South Scotland’s biggest ever community buyout.

The charity remains £450,000 shy of reaching our overall target but have had their deadline extended to July 31 as part of the negotiated sale with the Buccleuch estate.

The Tarras Valley Nature Reserve was established last year, following the successful first stage of the community buyout.

Some 2,300 villagers of Langholm, a few miles north of the English border, have been working to turn Langholm Moor into a model for climate-friendly and sustainable ecological restoration, powered by small-scale wind and solar farms, spurred on by an upsurge in community buyouts across Scotland.

A year-and-a-half ago they managed to agree a deal after what was then one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen – with the community raising the final funds needed in the nick of time.

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Credit: David Lintern, John Muir Trust

This saw the community defy the odds to raise £3.8 million to buy 5,200 acres and six residential properties from Buccleuch.

“With the clock seriously ticking if we are to achieve this once-in-a-lifetime community purchase, this award from the Scottish Land Fund is a major game-changer. It has really turned the tide in our favour, and we are hugely grateful,” said Jenny Barlow, Tarras Valley Nature Reserve’s estate manager.

“Thanks to other generous donations, including from thousands of people from all over the world to our public crowdfunder, we are now just £450,000 shy of reaching our overall target. We’re going to work tirelessly to make this happen.”

A new 'stretch target' of £200,000 for the buyout’s public crowdfunder has now been set, after donations recently surged past its initial target of raising £150,000 towards the purchase.

The charity says that the ambitious scale of the buyout has meant that it has at times seemed at risk.

On the reserve, globally important peatlands and ancient woods are being restored, native woodlands established, and a haven ensured for wildlife including hen harrier, short-eared owl and merlin.

Langholm was once a thriving textile centre, but the industry has declined in recent years.

And the charity says that regeneration and creating new jobs through a nature-based approach is a central aim of the project.

The moves for Langholm Moor, famous among conservationists as the site of a 25-year-long research project into the survival of widely persecuted hen harriers on grouse moors, has been seen as significant for Scotland’s land reform movement.

On the reserve, globally important peatlands and ancient woods are being restored, native woodlands established, and a haven ensured for wildlife including hen harrier, short-eared owl and merlin.

Leading charities backing the buyout include Borders Forest Trust, John Muir Trust, Rewilding Britain, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Trees for Life, and the Woodland Trust.

The Duke of Buccleuch, a hereditary title dating to 1663, was once the UK’s largest private landowner, and the family still holds 217,000 acres of moorland, farms and forestry, and a £250m urban property portfolio.

The family’s homes include Drumlanrig castle, an estate dating back to the reign of Robert the Bruce, and the Boughton estate in Northamptonshire.