Trusts bid to buy historic land for £1m

a RARE opportunity to safeguard a 5,400-acre piece of Borders wild land that may once have sheltered William Wallace is being attempted by the Dunbar- based John Muir Trust and the Borders Forest Trust.

They are in a race against time to raise funds to purchase the Talla and Gameshope estate in the Borders, on the open market at an asking price of £1.1 million, and need to have money committed before making an offer this month.

It lies at the heart of the historic Ettrick Forest, a wild and remote place which for centuries provided a sanctuary for the dispossessed and a refuge for rogues and rebels, but now only exists in isolated remnants.

For more than 500 years, from its earliest known history as a royal hunting forest in the 12th century the wild land of the Talla and Gameshope estate provided a stronghold for legendary figures such as William Wallace and a battle ground for the endless feuding across the Scottish border as well as the lawless activities of the Border reivers.

The two trusts see this sale as a once in a generation opportunity to bring a very special part of Scotland under conservation management.

John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust, said: “This is the finest area of wild land in the Scottish Borders. The scale of the hills and crags is breath-taking and yet it’s highly accessible from central Scotland and the north of England. There are 12 splendid hills over 600 metres in height as well as the magnificent valley of the Gameshope burn running from a high mountain plateau down to the Talla reservoir.”

“We have a unique opportunity to protect and enhance this area. In ten years’ time this property could sustain a flourishing mosaic of young woodlands and open hill tops, but we’re relying on support from members of the public to make that happen.”

John Hunt, chairman of the Borders Forest Trust said: “This is a rare opportunity to restore a network of hills and valleys on a landscape scale, providing habitats extensive enough to be truly sustainable.”

If their bid is successful the two organisations will work together to manage the property with the help of volunteers, to benefit key wildlife such as the golden eagle, black grouse as well as rare mountain plants.

The Borders Forest Trust and John Muir Trust are inviting pledges of support from the public.

Anyone who wants to contribute to this exciting venture should contact: Kate Barclay, fundraising manager, John Muir Trust, 0131 5540114, or Louisa Finch, communications and fundraising officer, Borders Forest Trust, 01835 830 750.