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Ealing Beaver Day

On Thursday May 26th at 7pm we’re delighted to be hosting our friends from Beaver Trust at Horsenden Farm (Horsenden Ln N, Horsenden, Greenford UB6 7PQ) to give an evening talk followed by a panel discussion to answer some of the questions and concerns arising from our public consultation on beaver reintroduction in Ealing. Our project partners Citizen Zoo, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Ealing Council will be there too to answer questions and join the discussion. Gathering in the courtyard from 7pm, Perivale brewery will be open to provide refreshments. Talk starts at 7.30pm.

Translocated Eurasian Beaver (Photo: Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Beaver Trust)

Earlier in the day we’re hosting a couple of guided tour talks and walks at Paradise Fields to explain our proposed beaver reintroduction in situ. We expect to see and hear lots of wildlife. All welcome. 1pm and 5pm for guided walks starting at the underpass from Westway Retail Park (via McDonalds car park, postcode UB6 0UW), but drop by all day from 1pm.

Paradise Fields aerial view (Photo: James Morton)

Ealing Beaver Reintroduction Project: statement of intention.

We are excited to announce that we intend to apply for a license from Natural England to reintroduce Eurasian beavers to Ealing in a controlled enclosure trial at Paradise Fields in North Greenford. This is a joint project between Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG), Ealing Council, Citizen Zoo and Friends of Horsenden Hill, supported by experts at the Beaver Trust. Ealing Council have agreed to provide ranger support and partial financial backing from Section 106 developer funding to improve the local environment and provide community benefit. We will be seeking further funding for the project in order to make it happen should our application be successful.

Site scoping visit at Paradise Fields, January 2022. Left to right: Jon Staples (Ealing park ranger), Martin Smith (Friends of Horsenden Hill), Sean McCormack (Ealing Wildlife Group & London Beaver Working Group), Róisín Campbell-Palmer (Beaver Trust), Elliot Newton (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group), Ben Stockwell (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group).

Following a series of visits, Paradise Fields has been identified as highly suitable habitat for beaver reintroduction, and as a flagship London rewilding project. The intention is to enclose most of the 10 hectare site and uniquely to allow visitors to enter an immersive experience in a rewilding beaver landscape. Studying the impacts of beavers in the urban landscape in an enclosed trial setting at first is very important before wider free-living beaver reintroduction is considered, or before natural recolonisation occurs over the coming years.

Free living wild beavers are already as close to London as Medway in Kent to the South and Oxfordshire in the west. Natural recolonisation is almost an inevitability. Learning to live alongside beavers is something that landowners, local councils, residents, conservation organisations and other stakeholders are going to have to do in future. And excitingly today, the 17th March 2022, Forty Hall Farm in Enfield released a pair of beavers into a woodland enclosure under license in a joint project by Capel Manor College and Enfield Council, the first beavers to live in London in 400 years.

The key objectives of our proposed project are:

1) Learn to manage beavers in the urban context including monitoring flood mitigation effects in an urban catchment


2) Habitat and biodiversity improvements on site, with a view to later reintroduce water voles,  now considered locally extinct 


3) Public engagement of local urban communities with nature, biodiversity and nature based solutions/ecosystem services

Public engagement with the proposed beaver reintroduction is absolutely crucial to all involved in the project. We will be asking site users to modify behaviour to some degree like in taking care to close gates, not to litter, to walk dogs on lead, sticking to paths, cyclists will need to dismount to enter and exit, report any fence damage and so on. And for that reason we recognise there may be concerns from local residents or site visitors about a project of this nature, so we are launching a public consultation survey to request feedback, insights and so we can answer any concerns raised. Please do take part in the survey here, where you can also sign up to our beaver project mailing list:

https://forms.gle/mFPmYdkzDTWQCMbJ9

For more information on why beaver reintroduction is being considered in London, and the associated benefits of projects such as this, here’s a talk by our friend and colleague Elliot Newton from Citizen Zoo:

For further information on beavers and the ecosystem services they can provide, please take a look at the Beaver Trust website (https://beavertrust.org/) and the short film ‘Beavers without Borders’:

For more information or press enquiries please contact hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com.

Bringing Beavers back…to Ealing?

Left to right: Jon Staples (Ealing park ranger), Martin Smith (Friends of Horsenden Hill), Sean McCormack (Ealing Wildlife Group & London Beaver Working Group), Róisín Campbell-Palmer (Beaver Trust), Elliot Newton (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group), Ben Stockwell (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group).

An exciting meeting of various stakeholders took place on January 17th 2022 to scope out the potential for an urban beaver reintroduction project in London. Ealing Wildlife Group are entering talks to partner with Ealing Council park rangers, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Citizen Zoo to apply for a licence for an enclosed urban beaver reintroduction trial.

Sean McCormack exploring Paradise Fields, one of the proposed locations for a London Beaver reintroduction trial

We recently invited the Beaver Trust, London Beaver Working Group and Citizen Zoo to come and assess the proposed release site, Paradise Fields in Greenford, Ealing. And the feedback was very promising and positive that the site is suitable and our proposal would be supported.


Beavers are coming back in the UK landscape and it won’t be long before they reach more urban areas. Indeed there are already free living beaver populations as close to London as Medway in Kent to the Southeast and Oxfordshire to the West. So we need to learn to live alongside them when they do arrive. An enclosed trial in the urban setting therefore could provide us with a lot of learning opportunities.

We are keen to set up an enclosed urban trial in Ealing to assess and monitor:

  1. how beavers can mitigate flooding in the urban landscape
  2. how urban communities engage with beaver reintroduction, rewilding and wildlife reintroduction
  3. how beavers can alter urban wetland habitats and improve their biodiversity
  4. how beaver-human-landscape conflicts can be mitigated in the urban landscape
  5. how we can bring back other threatened or locally extinct wildlife species such as harvest mice and water voles using beavers as ecosystem engineers

Here is a great talk by our friend at Citizen Zoo, Elliot Newton, explaining why bringing back beavers to London is a good idea:

For further information or press enquiries please contact hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com

Update 21st Dec: Ealing Council have withdrawn Junction 2 proposal. (Ealing Council set to host Junction 2 music festival at Horsenden West meadows)

21/12/21 5pm UPDATE: Ealing Council have now turned down the proposal to host Junction 2 music festival following urgent talks today.

We are angry and disappointed to have learned in recent days that Ealing Council has agreed to host Junction 2, a dance music festival with up to 15,000 attendees at the ecologically important meadows of Horsenden West. The proposal appears to have reached the event planning and approval stage, yet neither Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) or Friends of Horsenden Hill (FOHH) have been consulted. This despite both groups being significant stakeholders in habitat management decisions and conservation activities on site. Consultation with stakeholders after a decision has been made and permission granted is not a proper consultation.  

Please sign our petition asking Ealing Council and Junction 2 to consider another more appropriate location for this festival, and read below for more information on why it should not go ahead at this precious site for Ealing’s wildlife and biodiversity.

Petition: https://chng.it/RLZyRVwg

Horsenden West meadows by Sean McCormack
Junction 2 music Festival main stage. Photography for LWE by ShotAway/ Chris Cooper. shotawaydotcom on instagram

Why is Horsenden West unsuitable to host a music festival? 

Horsenden Hill and Horsenden West meadows are a Grade 1 site for London, a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) of the highest priority category – Metropolitan importance, one of 6 such sites in the borough. They are the Queen’s Coronation meadows for London and are outlined as an important site for many priority species in Ealing’s updated but yet to be publicly launched Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). The site is one of the best sites in Ealing for nature conservation and biodiversity with extremely sensitive, rare and threatened flora and fauna, some found nowhere else in the borough. It is a priority site for Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status, something that both FOHH and EWG have advocated for and supported for several years and that Natural England has approved but has yet to be signed off by the Council.

Horsenden West meadows and hedgerows by Caroline Farrow

EWG’s recently launched ‘Rewilding Ealing’ initiative has reintroduced a locally extinct and nationally threatened species, the harvest mouse. Initial efforts have focused on Horsenden West as the best and largest expanse of suitable habitat Ealing has to offer. So far 187 harvest mice have been released here with hundreds more scheduled for release in early 2022.

Harvest Mouse by Cathy Gilman

The meadows are one of the best examples of wildflower-rich grassland in Ealing which has been decades in the making with careful management under a high level stewardship scheme. Over the past 3-4 years as part of EWG’s joint barn owl conservation project with the Council rangers, more of the meadows and field margins are being managed as rough grassland. This is to encourage greater species diversity and crucially to increase small mammal populations. We’ve seen an upsurge in numbers of Kestrels, Little Owls, Red Kites, Barn Owls, weasels and the first reported sighting of a stoat for many years as a result. 

Horsenden West meadows by Sean McCormack

What harm will this festival cause?

To host a massive music festival on these sensitive meadows and rough grassland will significantly degrade their value and suitability for all of these species, being trampled underfoot by thousands of revellers. Junction 2 is set to take place on June 3rd and 4th 2022, a sensitive time in the life cycle of both the wildflower meadows and many of the wildlife species they support.  

In order to prepare for that timeline we believe significant works to allow site access would need to happen imminently, ahead of the birds’ breeding season. Considering the crew, vehicles, equipment and infrastructure needed for such an event we have no doubt some of the 300 year old hedgerows would need to be removed or at least badly damaged and fragmented. It would also mean that the meadows and rough grassland would need to be mown early, at the peak of the meadow flowering season and butterfly breeding season. Wildflowers would therefore fail to set seed in 2022. Noise and light pollution along with such a level of human disturbance would almost certainly guarantee that any owl chicks in our nest boxes would die as their parents will not be able to provision them with food for two days and nights at this critical time.  

Little Owl chicks in an EWG nest box at Horsenden on 14th May 2021.
Photo: Sean McCormack

Could this damage be undone?

This is not damage that can be mitigated for or paid for afterwards as compensation. These precious habitats and ecosystems took years to establish and create. No amount of money from Junction 2 to undo the damage will have them recover. We are living in a climate and biodiversity crisis, something Ealing Council has said they are keen to play a role in addressing. Presumably if this happens in 2022, with all the associated costs and effort to provide infrastructure to host an event of this scale, then this will become an annual event. Altogether devaluing the nature and integrity of the site. The crowds attending this event will undoubtedly have an impact across the site outside the event space itself and in surrounding neighbourhoods too. 

Junction 2 Photography for LWE by ShotAway/ Chris Cooper. shotawaydotcom on instagram

Is this a legal matter?

Yes, there are serious legal ramifications for hosting an event like this on such an ecologically important site. Horsenden Hill and Horsenden West are home to various legally protected, rare and threatened species such as Great Crested Newts, Bats, Badgers, Brown Hairstreak Butterflies, Dyer’s Greenweed, Barn Owls, Common Lizards and many more. It is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, of the highest priority for protection in London’s biodiversity strategy. We are seeking advice to bring legal action against both Ealing Council and Junction 2 if this goes ahead for directly and indirectly damaging or destroying protected species and their habitats.  

Great Crested Newt handled by an ecologist under license at Horsenden.
Photo: Sean McCormack

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

The ask at this point in time is simple. Please sign our petition asking Ealing Council to find an alternative location to host this festival. 

Please sign our PETITION here

We would strongly suggest a more urban park with amenity grassland. Horsenden West is not a park, it is a nature reserve and entirely inappropriate for this kind of event. Junction 2 cannot go ahead at Horsenden West meadows. 

Signed

Dr Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS

Founder and Chair, Ealing Wildlife Group

Martin Smith

Chair, Friends of Horsenden Hill 

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