Wanlockhead group seeks Buccleuch estate land buyout

Wanlockhead is famous for its gold panning, with Scottish and British Championships held there (''Pic by Rodger Price)
Wanlockhead is famous for its gold panning, with Scottish and British Championships held there (''Pic by Rodger Price)

Villagers in Wanlockhead are ready to take on Britain’s largest private landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch, in a bid to buy part of his estate.

At a public meeting in the village, which has a population of only 150, in last weekend’s snow the former mining community backed proposals for a community buyout, arguing that the area would be better off under community ownership,

The idea of a community buyout had been present in Wanlockhead since neighbouring Leadhills villagers started their land buyout process two years ago.

The hills around Wanlockhead are run primarily as a moor for grouse shooting. Spoil tips are visible, with no environmental clean-up since the mines closed in the 1960s, and now there are plans for a huge windfarm around the village.

Villagers at the meeting discussed an alternative vision for the village to transform it into a tourism centre, capitalising on its mining heritage and recreational opportunities on the Lowther Hills.

Representatives of Community Land Scotland and the Scottish Government were there to explain how the government could help them own and manage the land.

South of Scotland MSP Claudia Beamish, who is on the Rural Affairs Committee currently scrutinising land reform legislation, told villagers that would help communities like Wanlockhead to put forward successful buyout bids.

“We were absolutely delighted with the turnout,” said Steven Gillespie, a member of the buyout steering group.

“And we are confident, because there is a lot of support from the government and other bodies to help us every step of the way.”

Villagers attending the meeting provided well over the 10 per cent support legally required to create a community company which will register an interest to buy the land, and then draw up feasibility studies into what can be done with the land.

Wanlockhead is home to the Lead Mining Museum and the Miners’ Library, as well as many other historically significant sites.

The surrounding area offers opportunities for community-scale energy, geo-tourism which would offer geologists the chance to explore the area’s rich history, and mountain biking, hill walking and even skiing.

Green Party activitist Janet Moxley said after the meeting: “Like the community up the road in Leadhills, local people in Wanlockhead ought to have power over the land around them, yet vast swathes of it are owned by huge estates.

“I fully support this move to bring power closer to local people for the benefit of the community and for generations to come.”

And Claudia Beamish told the Gazette afterwards: “I am delighted to be able to offer support to the group at Wanlockhead.”