On March 14th Beavers returned to Essex after being extinct for 400 years. They are part of a Natural Flood Management (NFM) Project on Spains Hall Estate to reduce flooding to the village of Finchingfield.
Two European Beavers, bred in Devon by Derek Gow, were released into an enclosed compound within a small woodland. They will be left to shape their environment, which includes a small watercourse and 2-3 springs. The quality and flows of water leaving the compound will be monitored by the Environment Agency to see how the presence of these animals change these factors. There is also a time lapse camera in situ so the behaviour of the Beavers can be observed to see the changes they make to their habitat. The time lapse camera footage and water monitoring data can be viewed on the Spains Hall Estate website (www.spainshallestate.co.uk).
In another part of the Estate, on a different watercourse, a number of leaky dams have been installed to simulate, what we hope, the beavers will do in their compound. These dams will hold water back but still allow a small amount of water through, so they will not act as a complete barrier. This will slow the flow through the area reducing the velocity of the water hitting Finchingfield during high flows. These dams should also reduce the levels of sediment travelling downstream so water quality should be improved. Again, all data is being collected by the Environment Agency and available on the Spains Hall Estate website.
These NFM methods can then be compared to see which shows the greater changes in water quality and water flows. This is a great opportunity to see how well man-made features compare to natural methods that are now missing from the UK environment.
There was a Beaver release event on Friday 15th March when various representatives from the local area attended to see the work that had been done (unfortunately the Beavers did not make an appearance). Attendees were able to get a free sample of a beer in honour of the occasion; Essex Beaver. This is brewed by the local Shalford Brewery and available in the local Finchingfield area.
We look forward to seeing how the new inhabitants of Finchingfield get on and if there is pitter patter of tiny kit prints in the near future.