The National Trust has announced that Exmoor’s Holnicote Estate has been chosen as one of two areas in the UK where beavers will be introduced to help rivers help manage climate change.
“We’re releasing beavers at Holnicote in Somerset and Valewood on the edge of the South Downs to improve flood management and support wildlife on our rivers. The beavers will help make areas of the river more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring. The dams they create will hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash-flooding downstream, reduce erosion and improve water quality.”
River Aller, Exmoor in Somerset
Reconnecting our rivers and streams to the surrounding landscape guards against severe weather and attracts a greater variety of plants and animals. In what is the first project of its kind in the UK, we’re trialling groundbreaking work to protect our rivers from climate change and flooding and protect wildlife. We’ve partnered with the Environment Agency and European programme Interreg 2 Seas Co-Adapt to restore a tributary of the river Aller, which passes through the Holnicote Estate.
The waterways that flow through these confined sites in Porlock Vale respond rapidly to rainfall, and pose a flood risk to settlements downstream. We’re working to slow the flow of these streams by reconnecting them with the floodplain – allowing the wider landscape to absorb the effects of the weather. This will also improve conditions for wildlife that lives in the streams such as eels and brook lampreys, as well as otters and the resident bat population that forages and breeds nearby.
According to an article in The Telegraph, Ben Eardley, project manager for the National Trust at Holnicote, said: “Our aim is that the beavers become an important part of the ecology at Holnicote, developing natural processes and contributing to the health and richness of wildlife in the area.
“Their presence in our river catchments is a sustainable way to help make our landscape more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring.”
Two families of beavers will be released into two wooded enclosures in Porlock Vale which will be fenced so the impact of the animals on the local ecology and the river can be assessed and understood with the support of Exeter University and other organisations.
The Guardian quotes Eardley: “The beavers will help us achieve a more natural flow pattern, slowing, cleaning and storing water and developing complex river habitats. The dams the beavers create will hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash flooding downstream and reduce erosion and improve water quality by holding silt.”
The beavers will be transferred from Scotland, where they have been successfully breeding since being reintroduced in 2006. The National Trust beavers are expected to breed and when the young become mature they will need to be moved, possibly to other sites owned or run by the charity.
A footpath will run close to the pens on the Holnicote estate which will allow members of the public to catch a glimpse of the animals.