Two beavers have been released at Ewhurst Park, 400 years after they went extinct in Hampshire, as part of a large biodiversity project to regenerate the landscape. The North Wessex Downs AONB contributed to the funding of this project through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme.
Environmentalist Mandy Lieu has been working to regenerate natural processes and produce food sustainably at Ewhurst Park near Basingstoke, since moving there in 2020.
Once settled in, the beavers will become a cornerstone of the wider conservation efforts at Ewhurst. Beavers are a ‘keystone species’ and their reintroduction is one of the most effective ways to restore biodiversity and protect native species. Their dams create natural wetlands and meadows, ecosystems that support all kinds of smaller wildlife such as butterflies, bats, water voles and birds.
In other areas of Britain, where beavers have already been successfully introduced, the impact has been quickly noticeable. Because of this, last year the UK Government recently made the landmark decision to give the Eurasian beaver legal protection in England.
Lieu worked with a team of experts to ready the land for the beavers and built a licensed enclosure to keep them in one area of the estate, in accordance with current licensing rules. She has involved the local community in this project, speaking with local farmers and residents about the beavers and the changes they may bring to the landscape.
Speaking about the release, Mandy Lieu of Ewhurst Park said:
“I am thrilled to be able to bring beavers back to Hampshire after 400 years. It has been a very rewarding journey learning about what beavers need, how they will impact the environment around them and the benefits that they will bring to other animals and plants. I’m so grateful to my friends and neighbours who are on this journey with me. These beavers are not just for Ewhurst, but for the whole community and local area for generations to come.”
Rob West, Farming in Protected Landscapes Officer at the North Wessex Downs AONB said:
“The beavers being released at Ewhurst will be the first seen in the North Wessex Downs for hundreds of years. We are faced with incredible challenges for people and wildlife, and through Farming in Protected Landscapes the partnership is funding projects that attempt to tackle these issues, such as at Ewhurst. The North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership is delighted to be supporting the team at Ewhurst as they make a difference through proactive nature restoration and public engagement.”