Forty Hall Farm chosen for beaver release project

Beaver reintroduction will be a first for London, reports James Cracknell

Forty Hall Farm is currently home to pigs, cattle, sheep and goats, but could soon also play host to Eurasian beavers (inset)
Forty Hall Farm is currently home to pigs, cattle, sheep and goats, but could soon also play host to Eurasian beavers (inset) (credit for beaver image: The Wildlife Trusts)

Forty Hall Farm has been revealed as the location for a beaver reintroduction programme that would bring the semiaquatic rodents back to London for the first time in 400 years.

The Dispatch revealed last spring that a beaver release trial was being planned in the borough, with the location at that time unknown. Although beavers have been reintroduced in several rural locations around the UK, very few sites in London are considered viable.

The project in Enfield will see a collaboration between the council and Capel Manor College, London’s only specialist environmental college. The trial will see beavers introduced within the borough’s Green Belt at Forty Hall Farm, as part of a wider natural flood management initiative along Turkey Brook, which flows through the farm and the council-run Forty Hall Estate.

Eurasian beaver were hunted to extinction in Great Britain in the middle ages but recent studies have shown that their return could help to restore river habitats. Described as a ‘keystone’ species, beavers’ dams can act as natural flood barriers and also create wetland habitats where other forms of wildlife can flourish.

Ian Barnes, the council’s deputy leader, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity.

“Rewilding and landscape restoration form a key component of natural flood management. By introducing Eurasian beavers in an enclosed release trial, we will have the opportunity to increase our understanding of a UK native species, while helping the surrounding environment.

Flooding along the Turkey Brook at Forty Hall Estate in January this year
Flooding along the Turkey Brook at Forty Hall Estate in January this year

“This is also a great chance to work closely with Capel Manor College and the wider local community, to learn about biodiversity, sustainable water and the ecosystem. It is hoped that this project will also provide an opportunity to engage with, educate and inspire school children.”

The council hopes to release a wild adult breeding pair and their offspring in an enclosed six-hectare site. Capel Manor College will carry out many functions as part of the college’s education and training programme and the running of Forty Hall Farm.

The project is subject to appropriate approvals, consent and licensing applications, including a Natural England Wildlife Licence.

Mathew Frith, from London Wildlife Trust, said: “We welcome this news and the return of beaver into London; the key will be to monitor what happens to the landscape following their introduction into the site, to help inform other proposals.”