Woodland Valley Farm – Home of the Cornwall Beaver Project
After being introduced to their new home and each other in 2017 our beavers started work immediately on building a home and engineering the landscape around them. In Spring 2018 the pair became parents to two delightful kits and continue to bring joy and amazement to everyone who is privileged enough to see them, not just as beautiful creatures but as nature’s engineers and will do for years to come.
The Cornwall Beaver Project has been featured on the BBC’s Springwatch programme.
‘Beavers build dams that filter out pollutants, reduce flooding, store water for times of drought, and attract a huge host of other wildlife. They are also a delight to watch!’
The history of beavers in Britain
Beavers once roamed across our countryside, shaping the landscape and waterways, providing habitat for a huge abundance of fish, birds and insects.
- Native to Britain – beavers once covered the northern hemisphere from North America to Siberia, including the whole of Britain;
- Hunted to extinction – beaver fur is extraordinarily soft and warm, and felts easily, so they were in high demand for coats and hats. Plus their glandular secretions were prized as medical cures;
- Evolving alongside salmon – fish and beavers evolved alongside each other for 40 million years – so did the beaver dam teach the salmon to leap?
- Part of human history – beaver pools provided early people with places to hunt, fish to eat, furs to wear and plants to harvest – so did their lodges inspire early roundhouses?
Natural water engineering
Beavers taught us to engineer. Think of all our structures that mimic beaver technology: dams, weirs, locks, canals. As we return to “natural engineering” to help us adapt to climate change, we can learn from these remarkable animals:
- Approved by experts – beavers are such capable ecosystem engineers that they have been proposed as a tool for implementing the EU Water Framework Directive.
- Our best solution – research by the Environment Agency suggests returning England’s waterways to a good ecological condition could generate £21 billion in benefits over 37 years. Beavers may be the only way we can achieve this.
- Huge cost savings – beavers don’t need training, paying or feeding by humans, and they only need management from time to time. They know instinctively what to do and they are highly effective.
Healthy rivers mean healthy people
Beaver landscapes are special places – they feel truly wild, bursting with birdsong, the buzzing of insects, new plantlife and sunlight on water. This is good for nature and good for people too.
- Good for our mental health – by immersing ourselves in the unique landscapes beavers create, we can reconnect with nature, and improve our own health and well-being.
- Living alongside nature – we need to remember how to live better with nature if we are to farm, work and live sustainably in the future. Working with beavers can help us open our minds to a new way of collaborating with wildlife.
- Learning as we go – by collaborating with scientists, we will be able to monitor the hydrological, ecological and sociological impacts of beavers. And we will share this with young people in schools and universities. Our work will be open source and accessible to all.
Beaver wetlands bring benefits
- Clean water – beaver dams and ponds filter out pollutants such as agricultural chemicals;
- Captured carbon – beaver dams hold back silt that locks up carbon, while the huge amount of new plant growth also forms a carbon sink;
- Reduce flooding – beaver dams and pool systems slow the speed of water flowing through the system and prevent flooding downstream;
- Prevent drought – beaver pools hold water for use in periods of drought;
- Abundant nature – beaver pools provide nurseries for invertebrates, fish and amphibians; while clearings fill with wild flowers, attracting insects and birds.
‘As environmentalists we have a deep passion to educate the next generation of children and their families, that they need places where they can be immersed in the wild experience of natural landscapes closer to their homes and schools.’