The Lake District was once teeming with life, undisturbed by that most invasive of species - human beings. The valleys in particular were densely forested and marshy, which is evident at High Street, where Roman conquerors chose to build their road going over the fell rather than through the bog of the valley below.
Over thousands of years, the woodland was cut down and the larger wildlife was hunted to near or complete extinction. Lynx were hunted to extinction by 700AD. Bears died out in the 9th Century. Wolves lasted until the 14th Century, and beavers could still be found in Great Britain up until the 1500s.
A balance must be struck, however. Plans to reintroduce Lynx elsewhere in the UK have often attracted fierce criticism from the farming community, and anything that could potentially harm the agricultural traditions of the Lake District, which stretch back thousands of years, must be weighed up against the benefits.
The Lakes is a playground to some, but a livelihood for others.
Beavers to find home in Lake District
Eurasian beavers are to be released into Cumbria's Eden Valley to examine how the species thrives in upland environments, conservationists have announced.
Beavers have been absent from England for 400 years after they were hunted to extinction for their fur, meat and scent glands. But efforts to return the species to other parts of the UK are already underway across east and west Devon, Essex, the Forest of Dean, Somerset and the South Downs.
The Cumbria Beaver Group, which includes the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, Eden Rivers Trust and the Penrith-based Lowther Estate, will release a beaver couple and up to four kits onto an 11-hectare fenced enclosure of woodland on the estate’s grounds.
The beavers will be taken from the Tay catchment in Scotland where beavers have been living wild since escaping or being illegally released, David Harpley, chairman of Cumbria Beaver Group said in a statement.
Harpley who is also the conservation manager at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said the trial would help provide evidence of the impact beavers could have in the upland landscape.
"Not only do you have flood alleviation benefits, you have improved water quality, increased invertebrate production, increased numbers of frogs and other amphibians. It all seems strongly positive," he said.
He said that the beavers are expected to be released in March.