How the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is helping beavers return to the Trent Valley

PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 April 2020

Beaver Photo: Nick Upton/ Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Beaver Photo: Nick Upton/ Cornwall Wildlife Trust

derbys wildlife trust

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is enlisting the help of some rather special wetland management experts!

Willington Wetlands Photo: George BirdWillington Wetlands Photo: George Bird

By the end of this year the Trust hopes to have introduced a family of beavers into their new home at the stunning Willington Wetlands nature reserve in the Trent Valley. A former gravel extraction site, it was sensitively restored by former owner Hanson UK and bought into Trust ownership in 2005.

This is the first time in 800 years that beavers have returned to Derbyshire, and will be the next exciting phase in plans to create a wilder Willington. These plans are all part of a bolder approach to nature conservation, land management and natural solutions that will help to manage flooding and climate change.

Beavers are often referred to as eco-engineers and their abilities are extraordinary. When they return and begin to settle into their new surroundings, they will create dams to slow the flow of water, diverting it onto the wet meadows of the reserve and away from the nearby village. As well as creating these natural flood defences, plants and healthier soils will absorb more carbon and help to reduce its impact on our rapidly changing climate.

The Trust’s approach to looking after Willington Wetlands has involved caring for its rich mosaic of habitats, including extensive areas of reedbed, to attract and protect a diverse range of wildlife including bittern and Cetti’s warbler. Across the Trent Valley, conservation work is designed to mimic natural processes, reintroducing those which once would have occurred in the area. Staff and volunteers spend many hours cutting and stacking invasive willow trees from within and surrounding the reedbed –an approach that mimics the beaver’s behaviour.

Beaver Photo: Nick Upton/ Cornwall Wildlife TrustBeaver Photo: Nick Upton/ Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is now calling on wildlife enthusiasts, including its members, for support with its ambitious plans. Donations towards their crowd funding campaign via their website are hugely welcome and will be used for beaver-proof fencing and works to make the reserve ready for the new family, keeping them safe and healthy in their new home. There are also plans to expand the reserve, create a new circular footpath with a footbridge to link the reserve to Willington village and the Trent and Mersey Canal, new wildlife watching screens, hides and information for visitors.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive Dr Jo Smith said, ‘This is one of our biggest and most exciting appeals yet – the potential benefits for our wildlife and communities are huge. With people’s help, we will bring beavers back and rewild the much loved reserve at Willington to create a wilder future for Derbyshire. Beavers are fantastic, natural engineers and a natural solution to help slow the flow of water, reduce flooding risk and enrich habitat for more of our precious wildlife.

Willington’s central location in the Trent Valley makes it the perfect place to host the first family of reintroduced beavers in the region. It’s hoped more people will be able to visit, enjoy the beautiful area and marvel at the beavers’ engineering ingenuity, whilst surrounding communities will benefit from natural flood reduction and prevention measures.

Willington reedbeds Photo: George BirdWillington reedbeds Photo: George Bird

One day, in the near future, it is hoped that beavers will be recognised as a native and legally protected species in England, as they are in Scotland. Beavers have already been introduced successfully into fenced enclosures by other Wildlife Trusts, including Cornwall, Devon and Gloucestershire, where benefits include slowing the flow of water, improving the wetland habitat for other wildlife and to the local economy through eco-tourism.

Find out more about the Trust’s plans and appeal at www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk

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