There is huge relief in an Argyll village today with the news that a rewilding project has secured funds to buy the local estate.
Tayvallich Estate in Mid Argyll, which includes an island and a peninsula twice the size of Gibraltar, went on the market last year.
The estate is home to some of the most important geological and ecological landscape in Scotland with its rare Atlantic temperate rainforest. There are also 13 tenanted houses.
Offers for over £10.465 million were sought for the whole 3,500 acres, or it was available in 13 individual lots.
Many of the tenants feared they could lose their homes as a result of the estate sale.
Highlands Rewilding acquires the £10.5 million for Tayvallich Estate
But the favoured bidder, Highlands Rewilding, has announced it has acquired the cash needed to buy it.
Highlands Rewilding raises funds from crowdfunding, financial institutions and smaller investors. It intends to carry out nature rewilding and create community prosperity.
The project owns two existing rewilding sites, Bunloit in Inverness and Beldorney in Aberdeenshire.
Founder and chief executive is Dr Jeremy Leggett, a former Greenpeace director. He made an exclusive offer to buy Tayvallich Estate for £10.5 million.
The agreement was that funds must be raised by the end of February.
Dr Leggett said: “The team is looking forward to the many aspects of work we will be able to do on Tayvallich.
“A rich tapestry of habitats onshore and offshore will provide fertile ground for our data acquisition and processing, and natural-capital verification science.
“The many activities we will be able to pursue with the local community will give us the chance to create an exemplar of community-company synergy and enshrine public integrity principles with ethical private interests.”
Community fears over sale of estate
Community concerns over the future of the estate, which employs local people on the farm, resulted in the Tayvallich Initiative being formed.
Martin Mellor, chairman of the Tayvallich Initiative, said: “There’s a feeling in the community that it is good to have a neighbouring landowner who has community prosperity and job creation at its heart.
“The school roll is getting quite low. There is a desire to ensure people are coming into the area. We feel we can make a difference.
“It’s the first time the land has been sold in quite a few decades. There was concern for the tenancies and for employment on the estate. These are things Highlands Rewilding have highlighted they will continue.
“Highlands Rewilding has an interest in community prosperity and repopulation. They recognize that it’s very important to work with local communities.”
Mr Mellor is a tenant in an estate house. He added: “It is good news because it means the tenancies will continue. There are a lot of families who live on the estate and have employment in the community.
“People were concerned about what the future might hold if tenancies weren’t continued.”
Leona Selfridge and Gary Anderson live in an estate house with their three daughters. Leona is a cleaner and works in the village shop, while Gary is a gardener and cleans the village hall.
‘We would have been forced to leave the village’
Ms Selfridge said if their tenancy wasn’t continued, they would have been forced to leave the village. She said: “There are no houses here for rent at all because there are so many seconds homes and holiday homes.”
Ms Selfridge added: “We are really happy because we had a meeting with Dr Leggett when it first came out he was looking to buy and we got really good vibes from him. His plan for the estate is really good. It’s going to be a huge thing for the village. He is the right person for the job.
“If our houses were sold, we would have been absolutely devastated. This whole year for all the families on the estate has been so traumatic. Not knowing whether we were going to have to leave. It has been really hard, but this is good news.”
Highlands Rewilding intends to close the purchase of Tayvallich Estate by the end of March. Details of the investment will be made public in due course.
The funding news comes as the Highlands Rewilding project team extend its crowdfund and fundraising campaign for a further two months until the end of April.
This was agreed to fully test investor sentiment on the back of its strengthened business case of adding another estate to its portfolio.
Are you interested in more exclusive and breaking Highland and Islands news from the P&J? If so, why not join our dedicated Facebook page