Beavering away: nature's heroes

A beaver swimming in the river at Holnicote

We've released beavers to an area of river running through the edge of Exmoor to help us tackle the challenges brought by climate change.

Watch this space for updates on how they are settling into their new home and transforming the landscape.

Earlier this year an adult pair of Eurasian beavers were released at Holnicote Estate in Somerset to improve flood management and support wildlife on the rivers we care for. 

The beavers are helping to 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. 

Beaver dam creates a wildlife-rich wetland

The beavers at the Holnicote Estate have created a dam nine months after they were introduced into their new home. This modest but effective construction, made from trees and vegetation, is thought to be the first beaver dam on Exmoor in more than 400 years.

Beavers build dams to create deep pools of water, which offer shelter from predators and allow them to access and store food. The dams, ponds and channels these creatures create have the added advantage of preventing flooding by slowing, storing and filtering water as it flows downstream. They also transform the landscape into a mosaic of wildlife havens that improves biodiversity and makes the river catchment more resilient. 

Ben Eardley, project manager at the National Trust, said: 'We’ve already spotted kingfishers at the site, and over time, as the beavers extend their network of dams and pools, we should see increased opportunities for other wildlife, including amphibians, insects, bats and birds.

'The recent rain we’ve had is a reminder of the significant role beavers can play in engineering the landscape. As we face the effects of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, natural interventions like this need to be part of the solution.'
 

Video

Eager beavers help us prevent flooding

Meet the two beavers living in a peaceful river enclosure on the Holnicote Estate in Somerset. Watch these shy creatures tentatively explore their new home for the first time.

Beavers were once an important part of the natural environment but became extinct on mainland Britain during the 16th century because they were hunted for their fur, meat and scent glands.

The pair we've released at Holnicote have come all the way from wild populations on the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under special licences arranged with Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England. Beavers can only be found in a handful of places across the country and this is the first time we've released the animals into a river enclosure.

Looking after rivers

We've released the beavers as part of a £13m project to restore the health of rivers, streams, brooks, and becks. The work will focus five key areas: the River Conwy in North Wales, the Derwent in Cumbria, the Upper Bure in Norfolk, the Bollin in Cheshire and Porlock Vale streams in Somerset.

Rangers and tenant farmers on the Holnicote Estate are working to create more space for nature by reconnecting rivers and streams to the surrounding landscape. Not only does this allow more plants and animals to flourish it also helps to guard against severe weather. 

National Trust staff and volunteers, and experts from Exeter University, will monitor the beavers we've released into this area and record the changes they make to the river. 

" Although we're introducing a species that used to live here in the wild, this project is all around creating our landscapes of the future, helping us respond to the challenges the landscape and communities now face."
- Ben Eardley, Project Manager for the National Trust at Holnicote

Fascinating facts about beavers

  • Beavers are the second-largest living rodent
  • They are herbivores, eating aquatic plants, grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs in the summer months and woody plants in the winter
  • They will often store food underwater so they can access it if the water freezes over in the winter
  • They can remain underwater for up to 15 minutes
  • They have protective eyelids to see underwater and can close both their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering
  • Beaver teeth are orange from the iron content in the food they eat

What we're doing about climate change