Peaceful Community Fights Back Against Local Landowners Plans For High Caliber Shooting Ranges

Eskdalemuir is a wild and peaceful place, teeming with wildlife.  It is characterised by forestry and farming, by its historical and archaeological features – the Iron Age hill forts and stone circles.  It is home to a creative community of artists, writers and musicians alongside a large, peaceful Buddhist community at the Tibetan Buddhist Centre of Kagyu Samye Ling.

Samye Ling is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Scotland, with people coming from all over the world to visit, to attend retreats and to learn meditation and mindfulness.

The first range at Over Cassock appeared in 2017 and was operated until March 2020 by Gardners Guns, when its operation was taken over by the 50 Caliber Shooting Association (FCSA).  The range at Clerkhill Farm, owned by Eskdalemuir Forestry (a Kronospan Company) was built in June 2020 and is also operated by Gardners Gun’s who ran their first competition at the Clerkhill range in July 2020.

The prolonged and significant noise levels are causing significant nuisance and distress to the local community. Both ranges have been built without planning permission and according to D & G Police, should not be operating.

A petition on Change.org has garnered over 10,000 signatures in 5 days, calling for public consultation.

Local residents say that the ranges are detrimental and incompatible to the character and amenity of the area and local landscape. Gardners Guns site the economic boost to the area, the local community strongly disagree saying the operation of the range is damaging to local businesses, who cater to tourists who come to Eskdalemuir to enjoy the peace and quiet, to relax, walk and cycle, visit the archaeological sites and attend retreats and mindfulness courses.  The Eskdalemuir  community welcomes appropriate development, that builds on and enhances the peaceful nature of the area.  However the development of the ranges is incompatible with existing uses and detrimental to the development of eco and cultural tourism.

These ranges are an escalation of the commercial shooting operations that Clerkhill Farm and Gardner’s Guns have developed since 2018.  There was no commercial shooting in Eskdalemuir prior to this time, despite Clerkhill Farm’s statements to the contrary.  The commercial pheasant and duck shooting enterprise has been the subject of numerous complaints. The distress caused by increased noise levels and disruption to the community are well known by the operators and many locals find the shooting of live animals distressing.  Clerkhill Farm have built and are using, two duck ponds for the purpose of shooting, neither of which has planning permission.

Shooters on the range are using high calibre rifles (of the type the Scottish Government hope to ban) to hit targets and metal gongs on a 2km long shooting range.  The applications submitted seek to avoid being classified as a major development with the required public consultation.  Indeed Dumfries and Galloway Planning Department told the Community Council that both would be treated as major development, then appeared to do a U turn.  The applicants argue that the area of change of use can be calculated by just including the buildings, bunds and some of the targets rather than using the whole area of the range.  The range measures over 16 hectares, yet the planning application says it is just 1.18 hectares.

Residents ask why it is not being treated as a major development, having been told by D & G Council Planning Dept that it would be.

Residents would also like to know why breaches of Covid lockdown regulations by shooters from England have not been dealt with, and how US Air Force Special Forces were allowed to run military training operations at Clerkhill Farm. Furthermore residents are concerned that the owners of Clerkhill Farm intend to offer the estate up for use by the military, internationally.  Responding to enquiries from the Eskdalemuir Community Council the  local Police Scotland firearms officer  initially reported no knowledge of the USAF operations. However, after a visit to the site by local police and MoD the operation stopped. Police Scotland, later reported that Police Scotland Control had been notified.

Abbot Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche said “I am the abbot of Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, the largest and most highly respected Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Europe.
Samye Ling has been here more than 50 years now and we have always tried to be good Buddhists and especially to be good neighbours to the forestry company who owns most of the land in our area.  
When I first arrived here, there was no forestry but since then there has been extensive commercial planting all around our valley.  Logging trucks travel along local roads at all times of day, even during the night.  Our monastery sometimes almost shakes with the noise as several of them go by, often in the early hours of the morning.  But we have tried to be tolerant and have never complained about it.
Some time ago shooting rights were given to a contractor for bird shoots.  Sometimes the participants’ vehicles are parked very close to our monastery grounds.  We have a lot of very tame birds in Samye Ling, it’s like a peaceful sanctuary for them.  They feel safe here because nobody harms them and so there is a large number of little birds and bigger ones too.  They are used to our peaceful environment and the sound of gunshots is terrifying for them all.
Now I hear the US forces will be training on a long range (up to 4km) high velocity firing range within two kilometres of Samye Ling on forestry land.  
Thousands of people come to Samye Ling for courses and to meditate.  They all feel strongly opposed to this plan. I have many friends from around the world who are determined to raise their voices in opposition to it.
So I humbly request the forestry company to please reconsider this plan.”


After repeated appeals to police and planners they are now calling on the council and all the area’s political representatives to take action.

Latest Articles