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Ambitious rewilding plan stalls in Scotland

Little progress appears to have been made at the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve since last year’s community fundraising campaign.

On 24 October, the Heather Trust AGM was staged at the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve near Langholm – one of Scotland’s most enterprising rewilding projects.

The nature reserve was in the press last year after it doubled in size following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen. This was the result of the historic agreement for a further 5,300 acres of land after it successfully reached its goal of raising £2.2m. Its first fundraiser raised £3.8m to purchase the initial 5,200 acres from the Duke of Buccleuch, one of the largest landowners in Scotland.

It is, however, feared that after a highly publicised start, progress for the project has stalled. Donations to the nature reserve, which came from prominent investors such as Alex Gerko, founder of algorithmic trading firm XTX Markets, have not yet been reported to have yielded significant progress and very few regeneration experts have been employed.

The AGM featured talks from Viv Gill, the chair of the Heather Trust, and Jenny Barlow, the estate manager for Tarras Valley. The attendees were invited to walk the site to see for themselves what advances had been made with the project.

Lindsay Waddell, an upland headkeeper in the north-east for over 40 years, attended the AGM and expressed his concerns for the reserve to ST: “It was a brave move for the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to invite the Heather Trust to meet them for their AGM. It is painfully obvious for those who would like to see things happening on the ground that little is happening on that front. They have taken on a huge task at Langholm and, with the exception of the shepherd, it would appear they have little to no experience of managing anything like Langholm in-house.”

“On more or less every single issue we were told they were taking expert advice, while the colonisation of the moorland by sitka spruce trees continues apace. Given it is a Special Protection Area for hen harriers and is now well below the threshold in numbers, it must be seriously considered for denotification by NatureScot. But then that will not happen as it is now owned by the public and that would be a loss of face.”