Beaver reintroduction at Wallington
In July 2023, a family of four Eurasion beavers were released at Wallington, on a tributary of the Hart Burn in the heart of the estate. Their release is part of efforts to renew and restore nature and the hope is that they will help create a wildlife-rich wetland landscape.
It’s the first re-introduction by the National Trust in the North of England and the third overall, following releases at Holnicote in Devon and on the edge of the South Downs. While the animals establish themselves, we’re asking people not to go to the site, to give them the chance to settle in and set up their den without disturbance.
Having once been an important part of the ecosystem, beavers became extinct in Britain in the 16th century because of hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands. This family of four have been released into a 24-hectare enclosure and they will have a significant impact on the habitat within, creating a dynamic wetland ecosystem. This introduction supports the National Trust’s strategy to restore a healthier natural environment and to improve 25,000 hectares (an area the size of 47,000 football pitches) of land for wildlife by 2025.
Nature’s water engineers
Paul Hewitt, Countryside Manager at the National Trust, said: "Much as they did centuries ago, these instinctive animals will engineer the landscape, creating a dynamic system of dams and ponds that, over time, will become a lush wetland, brimming with life.
“The BBC’s Wild Isles was a powerful reminder of the beauty – and critically, the scarcity – of British wildlife. If we are to make sure those amazing natural spectacles don’t become a thing of the past, we have to create space for wildlife to thrive. Beavers are a fantastic tool to help us do that; where they go, fish, insects, birds and amphibians follow.
"Beavers can also lessen the effects of climate change and extreme weather, both by slowing the speed at which water runs through a catchment, and therefore reducing flood risk, and by creating habitats that hold water in the landscape during times of drought.”
Where have the beavers come from?
The beavers were relocated from wild populations in the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under licence from NatureScot, by consultant ecologist Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer.
The adult female was, in fact, found to be pregnant when she was trapped in Scotland and taken into Beaver Trust’s holding facilities at Five Sisters Zoo. What followed was a series of careful health checks, sensitive care, and detailed monitoring to ensure the female and her family were calm and comfortable to give the unborn beaver kit the best chance. The team worked to create a bespoke habitat at Five Sisters Zoo, where the beaver family would have plenty of space and enrichment while awaiting the birth of the kit.
This month, a short film was released by the Beaver Trust and Five Sisters Zoo telling the behind the scenes story of a beaver kit’s birth at the Zoo and successful release at National Trust’s Wallington Estate, highlighting the work of those involved who went above and beyond to make it happen. You can view the film at the bottom of this page.
A growing number of sites in the British Isles have reintroduced beavers. The National Trust’s Wallington programme will be carefully monitored for its benefits: from water quality and floodwater management to ecology and vegetation changes, as well as a research study into how the beavers and the native, white-clawed crayfish co-exist in the same watercourse which will be undertaken by the Environment Agency. Newcastle University are creating a 3-D model of the enclosure to help monitor the habitat changes that take place over time.
The beavers form part of Wilder Wallington, a long-term project to improve prospects for nature across the 5,300-hectare estate and beyond. Other plans include encouraging the migration of pine martens, restoring historic hedgerows, species-rich grassland and areas of peatland, planting woodland and wood pasture, tackling invasive non-native species, supporting farmers to incorporate more nature into their business plans, and alleviating flooding through natural flood management.
The Wallington Beaver Family
Discover the behind the scenes story of the first beaver kit born at Five Sisters Zoo that was released at the National Trust's Wallington Estate in Northumberland, and is now thriving. Told by those who went above and beyond behind the scenes to make it possible.