SNP MSP for South Scotland Joan McAlpine took to the hills last week to see first-hand how eco-tourism could make a success of the proposed community buy out of Langholm Moor. The MSP’s visit came as Buccleuch estates announced they would put all 25,000 acres of the Langholm moor up for sale, but would allow the community time to explore how they could best make a bid using Scottish Government right-to-buy legislation.
Ms. McAlpine discussed the plans with project leaders at ‘The Langholm Initiative’ and was shown round the moor by the ‘Wild Eskdale Project’, who use the money generated by eco tours for education projects. The MSP said many people would be unaware of the rich wildlife on the moor, which is the best place in the UK to see displays of black grouse and also hen harriers. Kevin Cumming of Wild Eskdale, accompanied by Margaret Pool from the Langholm Initiative, explained how the moor, which has been declared uneconomic for grouse shooting, could generate income through conservation and measures such as a visitors’ centre, walking trails, and education courses – all of which could generate tourist income and jobs for Langholm itself.
Speaking about the project, Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“Langholm has had considerable challenges in recent years, most recently with the move of EWM to Carlisle. However it is a town with enormous potential for tourism and the proposed buyout could help deliver those benefits. Langholm Moor is also very significant in the Common Riding and so it seems appropriate that it should be owned by the people of the town – in fact many locals tell me it is their birth right already.
“The Scottish Land Fund was established to help communities make the best of land through ownership and has been given millions more recently by the current Scottish Government to help more communities. It and has been mainly used by communities in the Highlands – although local successes include Lochmaben Castle Loch and the land around the lighthouse on the Mull of Galloway. The 25,000 acre sale of Langholm Moor would, should it go ahead, be by far the biggest sale to a community in South Scotland. But we must remember that the Government has provided the Land Fund with additional money for exactly this purpose.
“The very special environment of Langholm Moor could also help obtain donations from environmental charities, and of course if more visitors are encouraged to come, they will spend money in Langholm, supporting local businesses. I spent a great day with Wild Eskdale learning about the spectacular biodiversity on the moor, seeing everything from slow worms to marsh orchids. It is a hidden gem and the buyout offers a chance to make more of it for everyone’s benefit. It’s good that there is cross party and wide community support and the important thing is that everyone keeps talking to agree the strongest possible bid.
In a recent exercise to gather community support, the Langholm Initiative group achieved over 800 signatures to an open letter expressing their plans, already surpassing the necessary ten percent requirement for Scottish Land Fund applications.
Kevin Cumming, Project Leader at Wild Eskdale said:
“The Langholm Initiative and in particular the Wild Eskdale project were delighted to host Joan McAlpine MSP. It was a great chance to share and discuss our various projects. We are very thankful to Joan for her ongoing support regarding the potential community buy out at Langholm Moor. The potential for nature based tourism in Langholm and the surrounding area is great and being able to demonstrate this in person was a wonderful opportunity.”
“I first met Joan at a parliamentary event earlier this year. We had discussed the possibility of a visit to have a closer look at our Wild Eskdale project and we are thrilled that she has made the effort to visit.”