Entries by Elliot McCandless

Beavers are back in Hampshire after 400 years!

Mandy Lieu releasing one of the beavers into their new home (credit: Nick Upton)

Two beavers have been released at Ewhurst Park in Hampshire, marking the first time in 400 years that beavers have lived in the county. Environmentalist Mandy Lieu has been working to regenerate natural processes and produce food sustainably at Ewhurst Park near Basingstoke, since moving there in 2020. 

Once settled in, the beavers will become a cornerstone of the wider conservation efforts at Ewhurst. Beavers are a ‘keystone species’ and their reintroduction is one of the most effective ways to restore biodiversity and protect native species. Their dams create natural wetlands and meadows, ecosystems that support all kinds of smaller wildlife such as butterflies, bats, water voles and birds. 

In other areas of Britain, where beavers have already been successfully introduced, the impact has been quickly noticeable. Because of this, last year the UK Government recently made the landmark decision to give the Eurasian beaver legal protection in England. 

Lieu worked with a team of experts to ready the land for the beavers and built a licensed enclosure to keep them in one area of the estate, in accordance with current licensing rules. She has involved the local community in this project, speaking with local farmers and residents about the beavers and the changes they may bring to the landscape. 

Local children have also played an important role, with 22 Hampshire schools invited to take part in a competition run by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to name the two beavers. With many brilliant submissions, the chosen winning names are: Hazel for the female, submitted by Mount Pleasant Junior School in Southampton, and Chompy for the male, submitted by Whitchurch CE Primary School in Whitchurch. Ewhurst has a long history of growing hazel for coppicing, something beavers do very well naturally. 

In addition to Mandy Lieu, the judging panel included: Rosemary Mayfield, whose family were the high-regarded stewards of Ewhurst Park from 1950-2008; Debbie Tan, CEO of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust; Rob Needham of the Beaver Trust; and Rob West, North Wessex Downs AONB.

The North Wessex Downs AONB contributed to the funding of this project through DEFRA’s Farming in Protected Landscapes programme.

Speaking about the release, Mandy Lieu of Ewhurst Park said: “I am thrilled to be able to bring beavers back to Hampshire after 400 years. It has been a very rewarding journey learning about what beavers need, how they will impact the environment around them and the benefits that they will bring to other animals and plants. I’m so grateful to my friends and neighbours who are on this journey with me. These beavers are not just for Ewhurst, but for the whole community and local area for generations to come.”

Rosemary Mayfield said: “It is wonderful to know that beavers will be coming to live at Ewhurst, which was my family’s home for many decades. The beavers will play a hugely important part in regenerating the environment and stewarding the landscape for generations to come.”

Dr. Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Head of Restoration at Beaver Trust, commented: “We’re really pleased to see another county providing a home for beavers as part of the species’ restoration efforts across Britain. We are working towards their continued return to the wild, with appropriate licensing and management frameworks, but in the meantime enclosures such as the one here at Ewhurst remain an important part of the restoration story. We’re delighted to be bringing beavers here today.”

Rob West, Farming in Protected Landscapes Officer at the North Wessex Downs AONB said: “The beavers being released at Ewhurst will be the first seen in the North Wessex Downs for hundreds of years. We are faced with incredible challenges for people and wildlife, and through Farming in Protected Landscapes the partnership is funding projects that attempt to tackle these issues, such as at Ewhurst. The North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership is delighted to be supporting the team at Ewhurst as they make a difference through proactive nature restoration and public engagement.”

Becky Fisher, Deputy Director of Engagement at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s wonderful to see local communities, and schoolchildren especially, getting involved in this exciting beaver reintroduction project. Engaging young people is crucial if we want the next generation to develop an interest in nature and a passion for wanting to protect it as they grow up. We work with lots of schools across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and were so excited to invite those involved in our Wilder Schools programme to find a name for the two beavers being introduced at Ewhurst Park. What an inspiring way for them to learn more about this incredible species, while also connecting the action they’ve taken on their school grounds to what’s going on in their wider community.”



Scruff & Maple moved to a new home

One of the siblings exploring their new home

Two beavers from the Cornish Seal Sanctuary have moved to a new home with the Wildwood Trust, as part of an ongoing conservation project to support beaver populations and rewilding initiatives across Britain.

 

Scruff and Maple joined the Sanctuary’s Secret Creek nursery back in January as juvenile beavers. Part of a collaborative rehabilitation project with Beaver Trust, who undertake licensed translocations as part of the species’ wider restoration, the charity provided a temporary home for the pair until they were big enough to be relocated to another rewilding programme.

 

Tamara Cooper, Curator for the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, says: 

 

“We’re thrilled to see more success from this project, following the relocation of their sibling, Hamish, from the Sanctuary’s facilities earlier this year after another rewinding opportunity in April.

 

“Scruff and Maple have grown into two very healthy beavers, who have had as little human interaction as possible to ensure they build those crucial instincts to live in a wild environment.

 

“Now, our partnership with Beaver Trust and Wildwood Trust has given us the opportunity to help them move to a larger premises and continue to support their journey back to the wild, helping increase beaver populations across Britain.”

 

The two siblings are currently settling into their new home with the Wildwood Trust, near Canterbury with reports they are already making the most of their new environment.

 

Paul Whitfield, Director General from the Wildwood Trust, says, 

 

“The beavers have settled in really well and we’re looking forward to having them with us until they are ready to be released into the wild. They’re enjoying the deep pool and have already started to fell the willow and birch saplings, displaying the exact behaviours that make them ‘ecosystem engineers.”

 

“At Wildwood, we’ve been involved in the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland for many years now so we’re delighted to be part of this important collaboration, which will create new wild populations of beavers in England.”

 

“It’s been a double celebration for nature this weekend with their arrival coinciding with the long-awaited change to the law which protects wild-living beavers in England – 400 years after they were hunted to extinction.”

 

Roisin Campbell-Palmer, from Beaver Trust, the organisation managing the beavers’ translocation says:

 

“Beaver rehabilitation will continue to be necessary as part of the species’ restoration and is made possible through collaborative partnerships such as this.

“With beavers being such an iconic keystone species, we’re pleased with this pair’s transition on World Habitat Day.”

 

The move comes as the Cornish Seal Sanctuary gets ready to celebrate World Habitat Day, marking the importance of beavers within healthy ecosystems.

Beavers are a ‘keystone’ species, which means their natural behaviour has a big impact on our landscape and wildlife. 

 

By damming waterways, they pool water, which, in turn, slows the flow in rivers and streams and helps to create new wetland to support a huge diversity of wildlife – providing a home and water source for many other species, too.  

 

Wildlife conservation is at the heart of all the Sanctuary’s ethos, and, with the perfect habitat to care for beavers, it’s been an amazing opportunity to not only help restore this species, but also undertake vital research into their impact on the environment.  

Historic day for beavers in England

Beaver mum and kits on the River Otter by Nick Upton

More support needed for landowners to enable beavers’ return, say The Wildlife Trusts and Beaver Trust.

Today, The Wildlife Trusts and Beaver Trust are celebrating as beavers are now officially recognised as a native species in England and a European protected species. The new law, which came into force at midnight last night, is good news for this extraordinary mammal which can do so much to restore wetlands across Britain.

 

The Wildlife Trusts pioneered the reintroduction of beavers and are now calling for greater clarity and urgency from the Government in relation to the plans for the widespread return of the animals.

 

The Government published guidance in early September which outlines how beavers might be managed in the future. But both Beaver Trust and The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that it does not give sufficient support to landowners – and that the proposals lack ambition and detail. The charities warn that, in their current form, the plans will not deliver the widespread reintroduction of a species which scientific studies have shown can improve water quality in rivers, stabilise water flows during times of drought and flood, store carbon and boost other wildlife.

 

In 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust led a successful trial on the River Otter in Devon where England’s first wild population of beavers were reintroduced – 400 years after their extinction due to hunting and habitat loss. This trial was a great success and the Government subsequently agreed that the beavers on the River Otter could remain in the wild and spread naturally to other rivers.

 

Harry Barton, Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, says:

 

“A summer of record-breaking heat and drought has highlighted the urgency of making our landscapes more resilient to the unfolding climate emergency. Beavers have created green oases in our parched river valleys, because of their ability to store water through dam building and wetland creation. And we know they can reduce peak flows in times of flood and help improve water quality.

 

“The Government’s recent announcements on protection for beavers and their management are good news, but they lack clarity and a sense of urgency. We need a clear plan and timetable so these amazing animals can become part of the wildlife of rivers throughout England.”

 

Sandra King, Chief Executive of Beaver Trust, commented:

 

“Beavers bring such an astonishing array of ecosystem services to our landscape, this truly is an historic day for the species in England. It is thanks to the hard work and determination of pioneering individuals and wildlife organisations that the recovery of this once-native animal is able to celebrate this milestone.

 

“It remains urgent and vital that the Government delivers a clear, ambitious policy and licensing guidance to support beaver restoration in the wild. At the end of the day, if we are to welcome beavers back as a native animal our primary objective must be to target positive coexistence with beavers. A properly resourced, forward looking strategy will enable land managers and communities to do this.”

 

The Wildlife Trusts and Beaver Trust backed this call in a letter to Ranil Jayawardena, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This asked Government to take five key actions to ensure beaver reintroductions can take place on a scale and at a pace which will bring maximum advantage to wider society.

 

These actions include:

 

  1. Publishing an ambitious strategy and timeline for beaver reintroduction in English river catchments.
  2. Reconsidering the proposals for funding beaver releases into the wild. At present these impose prohibitive levels of upfront costs on groups wanting to reintroduce beaver populations.
  3. Establishing a system of financial support which will reward the farmers and landowners who provide space for beavers and their wetlands.
  4. Putting in place and then resourcing a network of Beaver Management Groups across England to support farmers, landowners and local communities as new beaver populations become established.
  5. Confirming the futures of existing wild living beaver populations (including the Tamar in Devon and the Stour in Kent) to add to those in the River Otter, Devon.

 

Ali Morse, water policy manager of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“The Government’s recent consultation on the future of beavers in England showed significant support for their widespread reintroduction. Of more than 3,000 responses nearly 70% were positive about Defra’s plans for the return of beavers. Even among the minority who objected the most common reason given was that the pace of Government plans for their return was too slow.

 

“The return of beavers to rivers across England has public support and is in line with the Governments own commitments enshrined in its 25-year Environment Plan and the legally binding target of its Environment Act 2021 to halt nature’s decline. What we need now is action.”

A New Strategy For Scotland’s Beavers

A translocated beaver swims by at Argaty Red Kites by Elliot McCandless

Today NatureScot, with support from the IUCN, have published Scotland’s Beaver Strategy for 2022 to 2045. The report which has support from over 50 different stakeholders outlines a positive and pragmatic vision for beavers in Scotland by 2045.

The 2045 vision for beavers in Scotland

The positive direction of travel outlined in the strategy follows an announcement last November that the Scottish Government intended to change its policy to actively promote translocations to support the expansion of the beaver population, to help them establish a presence in areas of Scotland outside their current range, beyond where natural expansion would be expected to reach in the short term.

Beaver Trust attended and contributed to the strategy workshops throughout, which were designed and facilitated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conservation planning specialist group, and welcomes the clear steer that conservation translocations will be used to promote the establishment and growth of more beaver populations across Scotland.

We continue to recognise that beavers can be a challenging species to live alongside in some areas but we hope that this new strategy will make a positive difference to co-existence on the ground.

Beavers are back at Mapperton after 400 years

One of the new arrivals making itself at home by Sam Rose

Four centuries after their extinction in Britain, beavers have returned to Mapperton Estate in West Dorset.

As part of the Mapperton Wildlands project, a pair of adult beavers have been relocated from Scotland to an eight-acre enclosure in woodlands near Mapperton House, home to Luke and Julie Montagu, Viscount and Viscountess Hinchingbrooke.

The pair, a 15kg male and 20kg female, were captured in the same location on the Tay river and brought down to Mapperton last week.

The fenced enclosure, which includes grilles across the stream bed, has been funded by a grant from Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL), a programme under the Dorset AONB. Further support comes from Natural England’s Seedcorn Funding.

Before their arrival, Mapperton’s Ranger/Keeper Ben Padwick was busy building a lodge for the new arrivals as well as constructing the beginnings of dams in the stream.

The beavers soon made themselves at home, moved into their new abode and enjoyed the feast of apples left for them.

Ben Padwick says: “It’s been very exciting preparing for the beavers to arrive. I have been busy clearing the old pheasant pen, creating dams, and even building them a home – and we are delighted to see them using it!

“We are looking forward to seeing their positive impact on the landscape and to giving guided tours around the enclosure to members of the public.

“It’s an incredible achievement for all the team and everyone involved with the project. Releasing a keystone species back here at Mapperton Wildlands is a huge milestone for us, especially as they have been absent from the landscape for such a long time.”

Beavers are a native British species which were hunted to extinction around 400 years ago.  They were prized for fur, meat and their castoreum glands which were used for medicines and scents.

They are known as “eco-system engineers” for the transformative impact they have on their surroundings and all the other species that live there. Their impressive dam-building skills help with flood alleviation and create new wetland habitats for invertebrates and the birds that feed on them.

 A major five-year study on the River Otter in Devon into the impacts of beavers on the English countryside concluded that the water-living mammals can bring numerous measurable benefits to people and wildlife.

Luke Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, says: “The arrival of beavers is a major milestone for our rewilding project Mapperton Wildlands.  They are such impressive animals and within a few days have already got to work building dams and creating new wetland.

“And while we recognise that they can cause problems when not properly managed, our beavers are safely contained in a well-constructed enclosure.

“We really look forward to inviting visitors to come and see the positive impact they will have on the landscape over the coming months and years.”

Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Restoration Manager at Beaver Trust added: “We’re delighted to support the Mapperton Estate in their rewilding ventures and particularly to see the beavers settling in well, in this first translocation of the season. 

“As the species’ restoration efforts continue, we hope to see beavers accepted back in the countryside like any other native wild species, particularly as they have a positive and important role to play in nature’s recovery and British wildlife resilience.”

The next guided tour of Mapperton Wildlands – including the beaver enclosure – will take place on Sunday 2 October.  Please see mappertonwildlands.com for more details.

Beavers are back at Enfield!

Beaver browsing by Elliot McCandless

Beavers will be re-introduced to London for the first time in more than 400 years thanks to a pioneering project launched by Enfield Council and Capel Manor College, London’s environmental college. 

The two beavers– a male and female, both two years old – will be released into a specially designed enclosure within the grounds of Forty Hall Farm in Enfield on 17 March.

Enfield Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Ian Barnes, has been promoting the reintroduction of native species to Enfield as part of the Council’s drive to tackle climate change and improve ecosystems. He said: “This is a truly humbling event to see these wonderful creatures back in the borough. Enfield Council is creating wilder, more natural spaces to enable biodiversity to thrive as part of our ongoing climate action strategy. Also, by exploring natural flood management techniques, such as this beaver project, we can reduce the risk of harm from flooding following extreme rainfall, protecting hundreds if not thousands of local homes.” 

Capel Manor College’s Principal, Malcolm Goodwin said: “We are delighted to be working with the leaders and water engineers in Enfield Council on this exciting, innovative and important project. We know how vital nature and biodiversity is for the health of the countryside and the wellbeing of the good people of Enfield. Our students know this too and they will have the opportunity to protect, monitor and understand the beavers and how they interact with their habitat and the local ecosystems. This is especially important as they will graduate to become custodians of the natural environment we all share.”

The project is part of a wider Natural Flood Management initiative spearheaded by the Council that will also help restore local biodiversity and river habitats.

The Eurasian beaver was hunted to extinction in Great Britain in the 16th Century, but recent studies have shown their return could bring several benefits. Beaver dams slow the flow of water through a river catchment and can reduce the impact of  flooding on homes downstream. The sponge-like wetland habitats they create enable other forms of wildlife to  flourish.    
 

Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, beaver restoration lead at Beaver Trust, commented: “We’re delighted to be returning beavers to live in such close proximity to this urban area, working with an extended veterinary team to ensure highest welfare for the animals. We’ve seen from Europe and parts of Scotland how adaptive a species beavers are given some water and enough forage. We’ll continue to work with the team to monitor their progress and all being well, we may even see offspring in 2023.”

The six-hectare area where the beavers will live has been carefully adapted to accommodate the pair prior to their anticipated dam building activities. Capel Manor College will carry out many functions as part of its education and training programme and the running of Forty Hall Farm. Enfield Council is also looking at the reintroduction of other species including goshawks and would like to support kingfisher nesting and barbel breeding.

To protect the beavers and their habitat, their enclosure will not be accessible to members of the public. A “beaver cam” will soon be installed so people can keep an eye on the semi aquatic couple, without disturbing them on site. Enfield Council will also be running a Twitter poll to name the beavers. Keep an eye out @EnfieldCouncil for the poll.