Beavers set to return to Hampshire after 400 years in nature restoration scheme

Beavers are set to be released into an enclosure on a former shooting estate which is being restored for nature and sustainable food production. The introduction of the

semi-aquatic mammals – whose actions create wetlands and wildlife habitat where they live – to Ewhurst Park marks the first time in 400 years that they have lived in

Hampshire. They are being introduced to an enclosure in the 925-acre estate near Basingstoke which once belonged to the Duke of Wellington and is now owned by model,

entrepreneur and environmentalist Mandy Lieu. Ms Lieu sees the beavers as a key part of transforming Ewhurst, an estate made up of parkland, farmland and woodlands, into an

“edible landscape” that restores nature at the same time as producing food. Beavers were once widespread but were hunted to extinction in Britain in the 16th century for

their fur, glands and meat. They are now found living wild on a number of rivers in Scotland and England through official trials and illegal releases or escapes and have

also been introduced into enclosures in a number of English counties. Last year, the Environment Department (Defra) followed the Scottish Government’s lead and gave beavers

legal protection as a native species in England, although conservationists are still waiting on a strategy for supporting their return to the country. There is a growing

body of evidence from reintroduction sites that beaver dams slow the passage of water through landscapes, cutting flood risk downstream and also conserving water in times of

drought.