A group of villagers in the west coast of Scotland have achieved a remarkable feat of securing ownership of a large area of land that will be used for rewilding and creating affordable homes for local people.
A landmark deal with a rewilding firm
The villagers of Ardgour, a small community in the Lochaber region, have signed a landmark deal with Rewilding Britain, a charity that promotes restoring nature and wildlife to degraded landscapes. The deal involves the purchase of 1,500 hectares of land from the Ardgour Estate, which has been owned by the same family for over 600 years.
The purchase price of £1.6 million was raised through a combination of grants, loans and donations from various sources, including the Scottish Land Fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the John Muir Trust, and hundreds of individual supporters. The deal is the largest community land buyout in the Lochaber area, and the first to involve a partnership with a rewilding organisation.
A vision for nature and people
The land, which covers a diverse range of habitats such as woodland, peatland, grassland and coastal areas, will be managed by the Ardgour Environmental Trust, a community-owned charity set up for this purpose. The trust aims to restore the natural processes and ecosystems that have been damaged by centuries of overgrazing, drainage and invasive species, and to enhance the biodiversity and resilience of the land.
The trust also plans to create new opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy and benefit from the land, such as eco-tourism, education, volunteering, recreation and health and wellbeing. One of the main objectives of the trust is to provide much-needed affordable housing and workspaces for the community, which suffers from a lack of available and suitable accommodation.
The trust hopes to build up to 20 new homes and a community hub on the land, using low-impact and sustainable design and materials. The homes will be allocated to local people who meet certain criteria, such as having a connection to the area, being in housing need, and contributing to the community.
A beacon of hope for the future
The Ardgour community and Rewilding Britain have hailed the deal as a historic and inspiring achievement that could serve as a model for other communities and landowners who want to pursue similar goals. They believe that rewilding and community ownership can offer a solution to some of the challenges facing rural Scotland, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, depopulation, and social and economic inequality.
Rebecca Wrigley, the chief executive of Rewilding Britain, said: “This is a hugely exciting and ground-breaking partnership which shows what can be achieved when communities and rewilding organisations work together with a shared vision for people and nature. We hope this will be the first of many such collaborations across Britain, as we work towards our goal of rewilding 30% of Britain’s land and sea by 2030.”
Linda MacLachlan, the chair of the Ardgour Environmental Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted and relieved to have finally completed the purchase of this land, which is so important to our community and our future. We are very grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way, especially Rewilding Britain, who have been instrumental in making this happen. We can’t wait to get started on our plans to rewild the land and create new homes and opportunities for our community. This is a dream come true for us, and a beacon of hope for others.”