The past 11 months have been challenging for the team at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust – whether in terms of keeping nature reserves open for visitors and in good shape for wildlife without the usual level of support from volunteers due to lockdowns or the difficulties of working from home.
Despite this we’ve continued to make amazing progress with some really exciting projects. In the south of the county we secured ownership of the Attenborough Nature Reserve, fulfilling an ambition first mooted in the 1960s. Here in North Notts we’re on the brink of being able to bring back beavers to the county after a gap of at least 400 years.
The sheer scale of Idle Valley Nature Reserve, off North Road, Retford, at almost 400 hectares, has always been a challenge. Over the past few years we’ve been investigating ways to harness the power of nature to help create better conditions for wildlife and we now have the exciting opportunity to bring beavers back to our county to work their magic. We’ve been busy ‘beavering away’ behind the scenes, doing research and surveys as well as working with national experts to see if beavers could help us unlock more of the site’s amazing potential for wildlife. A key element of our recent work has been reviewing the potential for the reintroduction of native species with input from experts and partners through our Species Recovery Framework.
Alongside facilities to help us manage water levels and the expansion of our conservation grazing programme we firmly believe that beavers are the answer. We’re now busy putting everything in place so we can hopefully welcome beavers later this year. This work has been given real momentum thanks to the support of Severn Trent Water through their Great Big Nature Boost and we’ve recently launched a fundraising appeal to ensure we can make this happen and truly transform the site.
We’ve also launched an online survey to give people living locally the opportunity to share their thoughts on the exciting prospect of the beavers’ return, and on the potential of further species reintroductions. To help give us a sense of the resilience of the local landscape the survey also provides an opportunity for people to record a snapshot of the wildlife they’ve seen or heard recently in their gardens and local area.
As we respond to the combined ecological and climate crisis we have to be prepared to think big; to find new ways to restore nature. It is no longer enough to simply hang on to the habitats we have left. We must put nature back and reconnect areas of good habitat across the landscape.
Beavers are a native species that was hunted to extinction in the UK centuries ago. The reason we want to bring them back is that they are far and away nature’s finest ‘wetland engineers’, driven by a relentless desire to create ideal breeding and feeding grounds. As they dig, build dams and create deep pools, beavers help restore the delicate balance of wetland life for many plant and animal species. At Idle Valley Nature Reserve their 24/7 efforts chewing through and bringing down trees and shrubs will help us manage scrub and create more diverse habitat. Controlling scrub has been a constant challenge at the site and the beavers return will undoubtedly benefit the wetland birds the reserve is known for, as well as otters, water voles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
To make this happen Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust urgently needs the help of the Nottinghamshire public to raise £250,000. With your support we can bring beavers back and set our county on a path to a wilder future. Donations will help cover vet fees and transportation costs for the beavers as well as vital training of volunteers and staff. Funds will also help us accelerate the restoration of habitats across Idle Valley Nature Reserve and support a resurgence of wild nature across the county.
We’ve now seen the positive impact beavers are having on wetland sites across the country and 2021 looks set to be a record breaking year for The Wildlife Trusts' beaver programmes. Dorset and Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts look set to bring back beavers this year too and we want Nottinghamshire to be next.
Whilst the scale of the Idle Valley Reserve is what makes it so challenging to care for, the space available means that we now have the opportunity to create ‘beaver heaven’ and with expert advice we plan to create one of the largest secure enclosures for beavers in England. Whilst many projects have released just one or two adults, we will have space for up to three families of beavers – increasing the potential benefits for wildlife and providing amazing wildlife watching opportunities too!
As well as restoring precious habitats and helping wildlife on site we hope that our efforts will inspire others to act for nature. The opportunity to catch a glimpse of a such an exciting species here in North Nottinghamshire will hopefully provide interest in the reserve and in our work and demonstrate that whilst wildlife is clearly in trouble – we do have the power to act for nature.
It will be thrilling to see communities of plants and animals developing together as a result of the beavers' actions. They can impact the landscape in ways far more complex and quicker than we could ever achieve without them. The expansion of our conservation grazing programme with more cattle and sheep, will further transform the site.
The beavers would be securely separated from the River Idle and closely monitored. Whilst there is very little prospect of them escaping into the wider landscape, the impact on wildlife will be seen beyond the boundaries of the nature reserve. As the site attracts and supports more wildlife, species will move out into the wider landscape. The wider Idle Valley is already an exciting place to watch wildlife and bringing back beavers to the nature reserve will only make this better. Many locals already appreciate what they have on their doorstep but we believe that exciting times are just around the corner.
As we embark on a truly ambitious nature recovery mission to establish a wildlife network across Nottinghamshire, with up to 30% of land and water given back to nature by 2030, large-scale restoration of habitats on sites in our care, such as the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, will be vital.
Get Involved – help us bring back beavers
We’d be delighted if MADE readers could take part in our online survey and participation will only take a couple of minutes. Your answers will help us gauge local opinions on beavers and other potential reintroductions - If you’re excited at the prospect of beavers returning to our county you can make a donation or support our work by becoming a member.
Details of the survey and how you can support this exciting initiative can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/beavers