A WATERY valley near Haslemere hit the headlines as one of just two sites to see the re-introduction of beavers by the National Trust.

Valewood in Black Down will be the new home of a once-common ‘keystone’ species that has been extinct in the UK since the 16th century.

Following successful introductions of small colonies of beavers in Scotland and Devon by other agencies, the National Trust announced on November 20, it had got licences from Natural England for reintroductions at sites in Black Down and on Exmoor.

A pair of Eurasian beavers will be released into a fenced enclosure on the nature reserve adjoining Black Down in spring 2020.

Black Down head ranger David Elliott first raised the possibility 18 months ago of reintroducing a keystone species known for the positive effect it has on its environment.

Welcoming this week’s announcement, he said: “Beavers are nature’s engineers and can create remarkable wetland habitats that benefit a host of species including water voles, wildfowl, craneflies, water beetles and dragonflies.

“These in turn help support breeding fish and insect eating birds such as spotted flycatchers.

“There are just a handful of sites in the British Isles that have beavers. This is a different way of managing sites for wildlife – a new approach, using a native animal as a tool.

“The beavers will live along the stream at Valewood and gradually create little ponds, dams and rivulets.

“They will make a habitat that is perfect for them and for many birds, amphibians and invertebrates.”

The pioneering project is supported by Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the landfill communities fund scheme with a grant of £68,866.

Black Down and Hindhead supporters of the National Trust are enthusiastic backers of the Valewood release and have launched an appeal for £50,000 for wildlife habitat improvements to help ensure the project succeeds.

Spokesperson Bob Daniels said: “We are absolutely delighted and want to make this project as personal as possible for the people of Haslemere by raising funds within the community.

“Committee members have already been very generous and we are hoping to involve local organisations that might be interested, because of the beneficial environmental impact.

“We are hoping local schools and groups will get really involved and we can generate cash that way.

“We have had so much enthusiastic support for this already.”

* Donations welcomed and full details at www.haslemere-nt.com . See also www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blackdown