At a secret location in the rolling pasture of west Devon lies a marshy patch of farmland protected by £35,000-worth of solar-powered electric fencing. This isn’t to keep people out but to restrain the tree-chomping, river-damming residents of these three hectares. Outside the fence is a typical small valley, with a trickle of a stream, willow thickets and pasture grazed by cattle. Inside the enclosure, the tiny stream has been blocked by 13 dams, creating pools and half-metre-wide canals. These have been built by Britain’s newest wild mammal, the beaver, which uses its waterways like we do – to transport goods. And as the beavers have coppiced trees, the willow thicket has been replaced with sunny glades of wild flowers – marsh thistles, watermint, meadowsweet – which dance with dragonflies and butterflies.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017