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Beavers set to return to urban London landscape in a publicly accessible reintroduction site in Ealing!
Eurasian beavers, one of the most impactful, native ecosystem engineers will be returning to Ealing for the first time in 400 years. This collaborative project will give people access to a rewilded landscape to experience firsthand these animals’ incredible abilities to create nature rich wetlands. As a fully accessible site, this project stands to be the first of its kind in an urban setting in the UK. As wild populations in Kent and Oxfordshire inevitably move closer to London, this is an incredibly important component of the project, preparing people to live alongside this species once again. Not only will it give people the chance to learn about these animals and their incredible behaviours but will provide key learnings on how we can coexist together.
Ahead of the reintroduction, Paradise Fields, a ten-hectare area of woodland and wetlands in urban Greenford in the north of the borough, has undergone a feasibility study to get baseline data on existing wildlife. Just last month, our licence application to Natural England, which was supported by the Beaver Trust, was accepted. Since then, we are delighted to have received funding from the Mayor of London as part of his Rewild London 2 Fund. This support will drive the project forward through physical preparation of the site, baseline ecological surveys and establishing monitoring activity and community engagement.
The project is a collaboration between Ealing Wildlife Group, Citizen Zoo, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Ealing Council with support from Beaver Trust. Its core objectives will be:
- To return beavers to an urban setting for the first time in over 400 years for their intrinsic value to nature.
- To show how we can manage beavers in the urban context including monitoring
flood mitigation effects in an urban river catchment.
- To enable their natural ability to create new, better and more ecologically inclusive habitat for a wide range of other species, on-site, with a view to later reintroduce threatened water voles, now considered locally extinct
- To show how people in urban areas can coexist with these charismatic animals in a way that will allow us to scale these efforts throughout the rest of London
In recent weeks, the team has been busy working with the local community to prepare the site for fence installation. This has involved removing trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the site to provide access for vehicles and machinery. By preparing the site now, the team is targeting a date as early as autumn this year to release a pair of beavers onto the site. Once released, a short period of site closure will give the new arrivals time to settle and acclimatise, after which it will be open to the public to experience an immersive beaver landscape. Paradise Fields is a 10-hectare site in the Greenford area of Ealing.
Dr Sean McCormack, vet and Chair of Ealing Wildlife Group says:
“Many people assume beavers are a wilderness species, when in fact we’ve just forgotten how closely we used to live alongside them. We’re so excited to study how beavers interact with an urban river catchment and, crucially, with urban communities. Beavers are a keystone species, manipulating habitat to create biodiverse wetlands where many other species can thrive. Their activities can help combat and adapt to impacts of climate change through carbon capture, reduce flood risk by slowing water flow in times of high rainfall and mitigate drought by holding more water on the land.”
Elliot Newton, co-founder of Citizen Zoo welcomed the beaver licence approval and funding announcement, commenting:
“We are hoping to challenge perceptions, and demonstrate how London too, can embrace these ecosystem engineers as we strive for a healthier, wilder future in which our Capital can become a leader in urban rewilding. This will greatly benefit not only wildlife populations but local communities too.”
Head of Restoration at Beaver Trust, Dr Roisín Campbell-Palmer was also pleased to hear of the licence approval, stating:
“Now that beavers are back in Britain, learning to coexist with them is fundamental to the species’ successful restoration. We look forward to continuing to support the team to make the most of this superbly located site.”
The Ealing Beaver Project is offering a talk on the project with guest host and
beaver ambassador Megan McCubbin on Monday 03rd April (19:00). Check out the event calendar
for all the details.
Ealing Wildlife Group are a local community conservation group and applied for the project licence from Natural England. They are focused on bringing nature back to urban areas and engaging local people with green spaces. They have spearheaded a number of other successful conservation projects in the area including driving the increase in birds of prey in the borough, developing a community nature reserve and reintroducing the threatened Harvest Mouse to
the borough after local extinction.
Citizen Zoo is a social enterprise harnessing the power of community for urban nature conservation and rewilding. They set up the London Beaver Working Group to explore the possibilities of beavers returning to or being reintroduced back into London. They have also been successful in their own reintroduction programmes for Water Voles on the Hogsmill River in Kingston and the Large Marsh Grasshopper in Norfolk. In 2022 they began restoring Kingston’s largest nature reserve by adopting rewilding principles.
Friends of Horsenden Hill are a community of volunteers dedicated to preserving the cultural and natural heritage of historic Horsenden Farm, Hill, Wood and Meadows. They support a cooperative of enterprises including coppicing and hedge laying, forest school, community Orchards, vegetable growing alongside mental health charity Mindfood, a brewery, a bakery and much more. They also help support regenerative conservation projects including a small holding with rare breed livestock conservation grazing in collaboration with the site Ranger and other initiatives with Ealing council and Ealing Wildlife Group.
Ealing Council have pledged to support the project by sponsoring the initial outlay on infrastructure such as fencing, gates and grilles to enclose the site. This project will benefit a variety of priority species on Ealing’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) including Water Voles and Great Crested Newts. Of particular interest to the Council and local residents, hydrological modelling has indicated that this project may significantly reduce flooding downstream around Greenford Station and surrounding streets.
Beaver Trust is a climate and nature restoration charity restoring beavers to regenerate our landscapes. They provide practical solutions to help people live alongside beavers and support legislation that rebuilds ecosystems and strengthens climate resilience in a time of ecological and climate crisis.
For more information visit beavertrust.org
Media contact: Eva Bishop – 07733171883 / email@example.com
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
“We are now facing dual climate and ecological emergencies worldwide, which further threaten our ability to survive on our planet. Despite the harm inflicted on the natural world, we have the power to make amends, and I am committed to ensuring that London is at the vanguard of efforts to reverse the trends of
declining biodiversity and the destruction of nature.”
“Rewilding allows nature to take the lead and is an exciting way to create healthier ecosystems and allow humans and wildlife to live together more harmoniously. I’m proud that London is leading the way once again and excited to see what can be achieved with this further £1m of funding. We’re cleaning up our city, re-establishing lost species and reconnecting people and nature as we build a greener, fairer city for all Londoners.”
Licence applicant Dr Sean McCormack, vet and Chair of Ealing Wildlife Group, believes that communities and councils can work together to create suitable space for wildlife, and that the Ealing Beaver Project can demonstrate how urban rewilding projects can help connect diverse, urban communities with the value of nature.
Dr McCormack said:
“Many people assume beavers to be a wilderness species, but in fact we’ve just forgotten how closely we used to live alongside them. And we’ve forgotten the rich tapestry of life they can bring as engineers of healthy ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems clean our water and air, reduce flooding and drought, capture
carbon to tackle climate change and boost biodiversity. We’re so excited that our site, Paradise Fields, has been considered suitable and granted this licence to study how beavers interact with an urban river catchment but crucially also with urban communities being able to experience them on their doorstep. We’re itching to get started and to get the community further involved too.”
Elliot Newton, co-founder of Citizen Zoo sees this as a unique opportunity to put cities and urban rewilding on the map:
“Across Europe and North America, beavers are known to thrive alongside urban communities. Bringing a range of benefits from increasing the resilience to the challenges of climate breakdown and enriching people’s daily lives, as they encounter these magnificent mammals in their local greenspaces. Here we
are hoping to challenge perceptions of Londoners and demonstrate how London too, can embrace these ecosystem engineers as we strive for a healthier, wilder future in which our Capital can become a leader in urban rewilding. Which will greatly benefit not only wildlife populations but local communities too”.
Jon Staples, the Ealing Council park ranger for the site is thrilled to be part of a pioneering urban rewilding project that will see volunteers taking ownership and to explore a new way of thinking, turning some traditional land management practices on their head.
“As humans we manage urban green spaces for public wellbeing and for wildlife, but this will be a unique opportunity to let the wildlife engineer a landscape with minimal intervention from us. We will step back and leave it to the beavers to do what they’ve done for tens of thousands of years. It will be a fascinating journey.”
Martin Smith, former Ealing park ranger and Chair of Friends of Horsenden Hill Chair said:
“The Friends of Horsenden Hill are excited to be involved in this first truly urban London beaver reintroduction and look forward to the day they arrive.”
Dr Roisín Campbell-Palmer, Head of Restoration at the Beaver Trust and licenced ecologist supporting the project believes the Ealing project to be truly unique, offering new insights not previously seen in more rural reintroduction projects.
Dr Campbell-Palmer said:
“It’s been wonderful to watch the project team involve the Ealing community as the project developed. Now that beavers are back in Britain, learning to coexist with them is fundamental to the species’ successful restoration. We look forward to continuing to support the team to make the most of this superbly located site.”
A fundraising appeal has been started to support further infrastructure costs and ongoing delivery costs. If you would like to contribute to this exciting urban rewilding project, you can find the donations page here: https://www.citizenzoo.org/get-involved/appeal-page/.
If you would like to watch a webinar on London Beaver reintroduction to hear more about this exciting project, you can find it on YouTube: