Beavers to be reintroduced at Valewood in the South Downs

Project
A beaver swimming in a river

A beaver reintroduction programme has been licensed for Valewood, on the National Trust’s Black Down estate in the South Downs. The reintroduction will take place in Spring 2020 as part of the Wilder Valewood project.

The project is generously supported by the Black Down and Hindhead Supporters of the National Trust, who have launched an appeal to raise £50,000 to enable the reintroduction to take place. The project is also supported by a grant of £68,866 from Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the Landfill Communities Fund Scheme.

Having once been widespread around the British Isles, beavers became extinct in the UK in the 16th century. Small populations have been re-established by UK conservationists in recent years. Now these fascinating mammals are being given a whole new start in a healthy environment at Valewood, on a stream that forms the border of West Sussex and Surrey. 

David Elliott, Nigel Quick and Derek Gow discuss the Wilder Valewood project
Staff discuss the Wilder Valewood project
David Elliott, Nigel Quick and Derek Gow discuss the Wilder Valewood project

Through this pioneering trial it is hoped that beavers can once more become an important and integral part of the ecological process at Valewood, contributing to the health and richness of the wildlife here and also giving future generations the chance to get to know these special residents. This work is part of the Trust’s strategy to restore a healthier natural environment and improve 25% of our land for wildlife by 2025. 

" Beavers are nature’s water engineers and create remarkable wetland habitats that benefit a host of species."
- David Elliott, Lead Ranger

David Elliott, National Trust Lead Ranger for Valewood, said: “Beavers are nature’s water engineers and create remarkable wetland habitats that benefit a host of species. We have a really exciting few years ahead of us. There are just a handful of sites in the British Isles that have reintroduced beavers. This is a new approach in managing wetland sites for wildlife, using natural process as a tool. 

“The beavers will live along the stream at Valewood and gradually create little ponds, dams and rivulets. They will make a habitat that is perfect for them and for many birds, amphibians and invertebrates - vibrant and alive with dappled light under coppiced trees. We will be monitoring the programme every step of the way with our research partners."

We are working in collaboration with expert beaver ecologists Derek Gow and Roisin Campbell-Palmer. A UK-born breeding pair will be reintroduced in a secure, fenced enclosure on the small streams at Valewood, where they will start to engineer the habitat for us.

" As a conservation charity it’s vital that we lead by example in helping to protect the environment and champion sustainable practices."
- Jane Cecil, South Downs General Manager

Jane Cecil, General Manager for the South Downs said: “As a conservation charity it’s vital that we lead by example in helping to protect the environment and champion sustainable practices. Our roots are in the South Downs – the National Trust’s co-founder Robert Hunter lived a stone’s throw from Valewood. These precious places in the South Downs have been entrusted to us and we want to do the very best for them and their wildlife.”

Bob Daniels, spokesperson for the Black Down and Hindhead Supporters fundraising appeal said: “Your donation will enable us to bring these captivating animals to Valewood, in an innovative conservation project, which is among the first of its kind for the National Trust. The project is a great example of the things we can do locally to positively influence species decline, which is sadly an increasingly prominent feature of global headlines.”

The plans, approved by Natural England, will see these fascinating mammals released into enclosed areas at both Valewood in the South Downs and Holnicote on the edge of Exmoor in Somerset in spring 2020.

These two beaver introductions will be the first made by the National Trust, linking to its ambitions to create priority habitats for nature and to increase the diversity of species and wildlife numbers on the land in our care.  

A beaver swimming in a river

Support our work at Valewood 

Find out how you can support the work at Valewood. All donations will be gratefully received and will help us create an outstanding habitat for wildlife. To donate email the Black Down and Hindhead Supporters of the National Trust.

Viridor Credits, Landfill Communities Fund