Buccleuch to sell Langholm Moor

Press release from Buccleuch Estate (30/5/19)


Buccleuch announced today it intends to sell a substantial landholding the Scottish Borders, including Langholm Moor.

Following a review of land on its estates, 25,000 acres – stretching from Auchenrivock in the south to Hartsgarth in the north – are being marketed from Buccleuch’s Borders Estate. Alongside the Moor, much of the area is currently part of Buccleuch’s farming operation. There are also a small number of farm tenancies, which will continue as they are under new ownerships and blocks of forestry.

In line with the Scottish Land Commission’s protocol on community engagement, Buccleuch will consult with the local communities about the proposed sale, inviting responses to a short questionnaire, which will be available online (www.buccleuch.com) or in local community hubs.

Langholm Moor was the site of two major scientific projects relating to moorland management, the latter of which – the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project – was completed two years ago.

[Photos by Ruth Tingay]

Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said: “The completion of the Langholm Moor project gave us an opportunity to look at what moor’s future should be within the wider Buccleuch portfolio of landholdings. That review led us to the conclusion that marketing the moor area for sale was our preferred option.

The decision is very much in line with our business’s stated aim of reducing the Buccleuch footprint while enabling us to invest in priority projects.”

Buccleuch has instructed Savills to handle the proposed sale.


That’s an interesting move. Could it be linked to the findings of the forthcoming final report from the Langholm 2 project, which ended prematurely three years ago?

Some in the game-shooting lobby argued the project wasn’t worth continuing because they weren’t being allowed to kill some raptors (buzzards, mostly) which were supposedly responsible for low grouse densities, preventing the reinstatement of driven grouse shooting at Langholm. However, conservation scientists argued that the grouse population had recovered sufficiently to meet the population density threshold required for viable grouse shooting, and that this had been achieved without the need to kill any raptors. And besides, the scientific evidence had shown that the buzzards (and hen harriers) at Langholm just weren’t that interested in eating red grouse.

It’ll be interesting to see the final report, due out this year we think, especially now that more scientific papers are emerging from the Project scientists’ desks, and to put those findings in to context when wondering why Buccleuch has decided to sell up now.

29 Responses to “Buccleuch to sell Langholm Moor”

  1. May 30, 2019 at 1:48 am

    What would be the possibility of a major conservation or anti bloodsports group or a coalition of such organisations or, better still, a community buy-out – purchasing estates like this to turn them into conservation areas or reselling them without shooting rights and an in perpetude no-bloodsports clause in the sales contract? Money might be lost in the sale without shooting rights but money recouped could be used to purchase more grouse moors and bring those into the 21st century too.

    • May 30, 2019 at 7:49 am

      I have copy of book written by a local lamenting the devastation to wildlife that occurred on Langholm Moor by shooting interests written in late 1800’s . I have another quoting locals at the same time saying nobody could recalll even a penny had come to the adjoining remote village In 100 yrs from the shooting interests on Langholm Moor.
      My parents used to dig for turf on Holm Hill on Langholm Moor- and remembered when the remains of a trunk of a great oak tree was found at the top of the hill- this could be transformed if a community buyout – or a community payback – happened.
      Nowhere in Scotland deserves this more than here- for far too long the Clearances that happened in this area have been written out of history- Crofting happened in this area too but again this has been forgotten and locals denied the rights given to other parts of the country , despite valiant efforts
      it’s time for major change

  2. 4 Les Wallace
    May 30, 2019 at 2:11 am

    If the studies have had an influence on this decision, could that have been compounded by concerns about the forthcoming Werrity review? Probably way too easy to read too much into these things, but a little tantalising perhaps. I’m sure Mark Avery has made the point that we could have a Berlin Wall type situation with grouse moors. With very little warning behind the scenes a tipping point is reached and confidence in the system collapses suddenly. What happens when DGS moors start to be seen as risky rather than sound investments and DGS has lost its lustre? Maybe a while away yet, but if/when the collapse starts will it look like this?

    • 5 Northern Diver
      May 30, 2019 at 1:01 pm

      Exactly what I was thinking. Are they trying to sell up now before the price of grouse moors collapses when new regulations/licenses are brought in (hopefully) and criminality is finally punished?

  3. 6 matthew dalby
    May 30, 2019 at 4:24 am

    Lets hope there is a community buyout, as I can’t imagine any conservation organisations being interested, and the only alternative would be the land becoming an intensively managed grouse moor. If only the Revive coalition had the funds to purchase and restore the estate they could use it as a practical demonstration of how formerly intensively managed grouse moors could look when managed for biodiversity rather than large grouse numbers.

  4. 8 Ben Gun
    May 30, 2019 at 7:47 am

    They wanted high densities of grouse only ……..to use one of the shootings much used statements…to many of any animal is not good for the countryside, everything needs to be balanced.

    Funny they didn’t think the grouse population needed to be balanced.

  5. 9 Mike Cheesman
    May 30, 2019 at 8:34 am

    Perhaps we should approach ANDERS HOLCH POVLSEN, billionaire Danish businessman who’s Scotland’s largest private landowner and part of a group of Danish businessmen who are committed to reverse years of land mismanagement by rewilding parts of the Scottish Highlands – he might just be interested for the right reasons – see Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/21/danish-billionaires-anders-and-anne-holch-povlsen-say-plan-is-to-restore-scottish-highlands

  6. 10 Lisa
    May 30, 2019 at 8:50 am

    This is such a shame. Isn’t the moor one of the strongholds for breeding hen harriers in Scotland? I also know of a wonderful initiative called Wild Eskdale which is aiming to bring eco tourism into the area and offering wildlife tours on the moor. Let’s pray for a community buy out, one which is for conservation and not grouse shooting!

  7. 11 Dave Morris
    May 30, 2019 at 10:34 am

    No need to pray, the legislation is already in place. Part 5 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 gives local community groups a compulsory right to buy for the purposes of “sustainable development”. Part 5 is not yet “commenced” but the Scottish Parliament is expected to complete this process and make part 5 operational in 2020. A local community group, as defined under the Act, needs to be established now, with a view to making Langholm Moor one of the first purchases made under this legislation. This 2016 Act will transform the pattern of land use in Scotland over the coming decades and, as regards grouse moors, that process needs to start at Langholm.

  8. May 30, 2019 at 11:22 am

    This is about money, pure and simple. For some reason[s] the estate cant make money out of grouse shooting here so is selling up…similarly with hill farming ….Having seen the level of criminal killing under the Driven Grouse regime of the recent past, Im glad to see a change here…but be careful about what replaces it. We have far, far more than enough conifer plantation in D and G as it is .Almost anything but that.

    • 13 Les Wallace
      May 30, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      And there seems to be far more political support for this type of commercial afforestation than the real promotion of reduce, reuse, recycle and the circular economy that would avoid much of it and create more jobs. How much forestry here is to provide crappy disposable wooden pallets when we might be able to replace it with reusable ones made from recycled plastic (perhaps collected from beach cleans)? How much is to provide virgin fibre for toilet paper when we could be using lower grade waste paper collected from kerbside recycling schemes to make it? This is a bit of digression from raptor persecution, but if we need to counter the argument that grouse shooting saves moors from conifer plantations and we want to promote conservation as an alternative we have to look at this.

    • May 30, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Dave,

      It’s an SPA so there’ll be restrictions on what can and can’t be done with the land.

    • May 30, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      Fully support your words Dick and a certain Scotgov Minister’s tripling of the conifer grant , pushing up the price of agricultural land far beyond the reach of farmers,has been suggested -as being a main reason for large landowners selling off land tecentlyTenant farmers are being evicted to make way for more dense conifer-as you say the very last thing that area needs more of Anyone who attended the bursting at the seams meeting on the topic of conifers and farming evictions held last year in the Buccleuch Halls could have no doubt at the locals anger at the eviction of local farmers for more conifers.
      We cannot allow this land to be sold off so the wealthy can reap the benefits of tripled conifer grants, and the tax breaks included. Along with conifers comes major removal of any animal or bird likely to affect profit-plus use of large volumes of chemicals used to enhance plant growth

      • 16 John Gallacher
        May 30, 2019 at 3:50 pm

        It probably is about money but then again we live in a capitalist system unless there’s been a revolution since I last checked the news headlines.

        I agree we need to reduce consumption and fully embrace reduce, reuse and recycle but to suggest that wood fibre solely ends up as toilet paper is ridiculous. I’m keen to see the evidence that planting grants have been tripled – someone needs to tell the Cabinet Secretary that that’s a lot of public money to make toilet paper.

        It’s about renewable resources and where we source them from. Maybe we plant trees in someone else’s backyard? We should also put some thought into the other environmental services provided by woodlands such as carbon sequestration and catchment resilience. This of course was very eloquently put by David Attenborough: https://www.ourplanet.com/en/video/how-to-restore-our-forests/

        The debate over agriculture versus forestry could be more constructive if we avoided emotive and questionable terms such as eviction. It might just be that many marginal hill farmers are willing to sell their land to realise some sort of pension. It might also be that sheep farming does not make a profit before subsidy and with the future of upland agriculture looking increasingly uncertain.

        This discussion, as suggested, is not a diversion from raptor persecution. When comparing driven grouse shooting and forestry it is clear that one abides by the law in relation to raptors, checking for nests and, if present, avoiding them or creating a buffer zone to ensure their success. Within forestry a lot of time and effort is applied to protected species including working with members of Raptor Study Groups when it comes to Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk et al.

        • 17 carol
          May 30, 2019 at 9:41 pm

          what interesting comments John!
          For evidence of the fact conifer planting grants were recently tripled by a present Scottish Minister , why not ask the Woodland Trust, or any of our lovely ladies now at the top of Scottish Forestry, such as the Chief Forester of Scotland, who I was lucky enough to chat to recently at a woodland conference.

          You also suggest the word ‘eviction’ is too emotive. It was certainly the term used repeatedly by both Conservative and SNP MSP’s to describe actions being taken in this precise area at the absolutely packed Langholm meeting referred to. Those present at the meeting made it abundantly clear the farmers were not leaving willingly, and that message was the one that brought those two generally diametrically opposed politicians to work together to try their utmost to help their constituents on this matter

          Can I also suggest that Brexit presumably means another source of grants used on Langholm Moor will go. Looking in amazement at the lack of any sign of bird or animal life on the moor one day, but new expensive extensive fencing over the top of the moor,a passing local tradesman advised me the new fencing had cost well over a million pounds and had been paid for by the EU-all purely for grouse purposes he said. He then said his emotive state at having spoken about the dearth of wildlife to be seen there so often would carry him up the remaining hills home on his bike more easily

        • 18 dave angel
          June 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm

          Between afforestation and windfarms it’s almost as if there’s a deliberate policy to extirpate the curlew from Scotland.

        • 19 Les Wallace
          June 3, 2019 at 3:30 pm

          Yes it would be ridiculous to say that wood pulp is solely being used to make virgin fibre toilet paper which is why I didn’t say it, and in fact you’ll notice I also mentioned timber being used to make disposable wooden pallets. How much of the new afforestation will be for avoidable crap would be really good to know. I suppose you were in such a rush to get on your high horse you didn’t want the facts to spoil it. Incidentally using virgin fibre to make bog rolls with is ecologically disastrous and ludicrous, right up (or down) there with killing raptors because you think you can then shoot a few more pheasant or grouse. There are plans to turn a large area of Finland’s forests in their lakes region into a source of fibre for lovely super soft bog roll for Chinese botties (the recycled stuff isn’t good enough for all those new consumers it seems) and Americans aren’t any better only 2% of toilet roll sold there is recycled fibre. The result is a fair whack of Canada’s boreal forest is turned into bog roll including two hundred year old trees…. unnecessarily. A bit closer to home in Scandinavia their forests are going this way too, and to meet the potentially never ending demand they’re being replaced with conifer schemes like ours. Extinction Rebellion could do a really good job if fighting this was on their agenda. https://www.google.com/search?q=greenpeace+toilet+paper+sweden+velvet&oq=greenpeace&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j35i39j0l2.5703j0j4&client=tablet-android-lenovo&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

      • 20 johnmgallacher
        May 30, 2019 at 5:45 pm

        Well, it is all about money unless there’s been an overthrow of capitalism since I last checked the news.

        I agree we need to reduce consumption and embrace reduce, reuse, recycle but to suggest home grown wood is used for nothing other than toilet paper shows a singular lack of knowledge about an industry that is worth £1 billion annually to the Scottish economy. Factor in the ecosystem services too and consider carbon sequestration and flood resilience and perhaps helping taking the pressure off tropical and boreal forests. We are of course one of the World’ largest importers of wood products. So, if we don’t grow it here then where?

        If you buy the argument that forestry grants have tripled to create a mountain of toilet paper then best alert the Cabinet Secretary.

        This is a question of resources and growing demand fuelled by a growing population. I’m of an age where the World population has tripled since I was born! All this eloquently put by David Attenborough: https://www.ourplanet.com/en/video/how-to-restore-our-forests/

        The on-going debate about upland agriculture versus forestry is an important one but not helped by emotive language such as eviction. Worth remembering that there is no profit before subsidy when it comes to hill farming which has fuelled, in George Monbiot’s words, “sheep-wrecked bowling greens with contours” and there’s plenty of this in Dumfries and Galloway too. And maybe many hill farmers are keen to sell as one way of securing a pension as uncertainty grows about grant assistance going forward.

    May 30, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    The process should start at Newcastleton with the Holm hill being taken over by the same families whose ancestors had the common grazing for 100’s of years before/ when they were all turfed out of their coothy dens at lovel ycastleton to the swamp called a planned village. If they could protect it from encrouchment by 5G transmission they could make a bomb(pun not intended).

  10. 22 Jull Willmott
    May 30, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Reading the writeup of the Langholm Moor project, I was concerned that along with the assurances on Buzzards and Hen Harriers, there was no mention of protection for the Mountain Hare, ( which is Britains only Native Hare, the brown hare being a Continental import ).
    Whilst I hope for a good outcome of the sale, I can’t help thinking the timing is very convenient, with the new legislation coming in next year.
    It would be good if a consortium of folk in Conservation could buy it up, rewilding could only be to the good for the whole of that environment.

  11. 23 Stephen Frost
    May 31, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Surely this a major opportunity for the RSPB to acquire and control what could be an internationally important new RSPB reserve? Expensive I am sure but it would serve as a national template and remove a potential area of Raptor Persecution permanently from the map of Scotland.

  12. 24 Davie
    May 31, 2019 at 8:34 am

    It will sell and end up a commercial grouse moor or it will end up a dead end for wild life. Loose loose for every one.

  13. 25 Alan Cranston
    May 31, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    I would be interested to know how the land reform legislation deals with land value in this instance. Somewhat related; I hope that conservation organisations do not bid for the land. The community should come first and conservation interests must not bid up the value of a land asset whose value is declining.

    • 26 carol
      May 31, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      Yes this really is a special case. And every single person who visits that Moor and drives up and down one very long very exposed steep hill after another for 10 miles needs to think of the villagers who were forced to find a home – build it themself- in that village as the only place they were allowed to put down roots, after the namesake was destroyed. With no roads or pavements or bridges to their village,until locals built them initially themselves, the villagers had to carry whatever they could trade by foot across that long winding road to Langholm to try to trade their goods, then walk back with whatever they had or hadn’t traded.
      Even the first couple of miles on either end of the walk ihas the gradient of the steepest part of The Mound in Edinburgh.

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