Interesting to see an article by Graham Mole on beavers and their impacts on among other things cricket bat willow.

I would like to make a few points about this extraordinary British mammal, based not on fear or prejudice, but on my experience of living with this species on my farm in Cornwall, and observations in Devon, Perthshire and Bavaria.

Firstly, beavers fell trees but the vast majority are not killed but coppiced, particularly where they need material to build dams and lodges. They will also eat the bark and leaves of some species. If an owner or manager has trees which are of value they are very easily protected, either by an application of PVA glue and sand, or by simple wrapping with mesh. This applies as much to an oak, ash, or beech as to cricket bat willow, and is no more than one might do to protect a tree from deer.

Secondly, in headwaters beavers will build dams. If they live in water which remains 60 to 100 cm deep or more, the damming activity will cease as they have no need to do it. This behaviour is the method by which beavers materially alter flood regimes and reduce flood risk. We have observed flows leaving our beaver site reduced by 50 per cent compared to pre-beaver rainfall events.

If the water level from a dam is too high for the landowner to tolerate it is a very simple matter to limit the extent with a water levelling device. Beavers in headwaters may also block culverts, but again it is a very simple matter to install a beaver deceiver.

Where there is serious potential for conflict is in flood plain farming. Flood banks can be compromised and fail because of beavers’ tendency to burrow. This issue is at the heart of the conflict in Strathmore and Strathearn in the Tay catchment in Scotland. Flood banks can be protected, as can be seen in Bavaria, or beavers can be controlled by trapping or shooting.

Besides controlling high flows, beavers also provide reserves of water which are incredibly useful to farmers (and wildlife) in drought (in our case in 2018 we were able to irrigate pasture because we had so much water to hand). A beaver stream also makes an outstanding firebreak and reserve of water for firefighting. Their wetlands are vibrant with insects, birds, amphibians, mammals and fish, and carbon stocks rapidly build up.

We should not be sentimental about beavers, though. We really need to have a clear management policy, with actions up to and including lethal control so that conflict is quickly resolved. But we must remember that restoring beavers will bring our waterways to ecological integrity. Comparing this species to grey squirrels or coypu fails to appreciate the native status of this animal. The Eurasian beaver is as British as a bulldog.

If any readers want to find out more please look at the Beaver Trust website ( or visit the Cornwall Beaver Project.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Jones

Woodland Valley Farm, Ladock, TR2 4PT


Charles Dutton makes a compelling case for not reintroducing the Eurasian beaver, which used to be native to Britain, but became extinct here some 400 years ago.

I was amazed to learn that we have the majority of chalk streams in the world, obviously something that would seem worth preserving. Our local river, the Darent, has suffered problems in the past, sections even drying up at times, mainly due to over extraction of water. I would think that another potential problem is the last thing we need.

READ MORE: Beavers taking a bite out of cricket

Leaving aside the illegal releasing of beavers (who would do this and why and where do they get them?), it would have given a more balanced view to hear from the advocates of the proposal for reintroduction, as to what they see are the main benefits. I am all for wildlife diversity, but I feel that in this case the possible detrimental effects outweigh the benefits.

We grew cricket bat willow along streams running through the farmland on the estate I worked for in NW Kent during the ’80s and ’90s. They were a lucrative crop, planted on otherwise unused land and requiring very little maintenance. We realised £250–£300 per tree on a 15–18 year rotation, and the buyer sent in his own contractor to do the felling.

Finally, you included a lovely picture of a weeping willow. Unfortunately, the bat willow is a more conventional shape, and a somewhat less attractive tree. Perhaps there could be scope in the future for an article on the growing of cricket bat willow?


Tony Fish

Sevenoaks, Kent, TN15 0DJ


I was very disappointed to read Graham Mole’s article in the June 2020 edition of Forestry Journal that gave a platform to Charles Dutton’s views on the reintroduction of beavers.

As someone who has worked on a major chalk stream restoration project in Norfolk, what was blatantly obvious to me was this: the only thing which had damaged the riparian environment there was constant human interference. This was mostly from agricultural run-off and canalisation by drainage boards after WWII for agricultural intensification (coupled with over-abstraction, both for domestic use and irrigation of crops). Another major problem is the slowing of the flow by over-widening and deepening of channels which results in silt (rich in phosphate and nitrate nutrients) that settles on riverbeds and covers spawning gravels. This results in algal bloom, excess vegetation growth, and an overall drop in the oxygen levels available to fish (such as trout and salmon).

Beavers have been proven to produce ponds that remove the sediment which stifles fish eggs, preventing hatching. Any river which has these ponds has been shown to be a far cleaner and far more productive fishery than those without. Beavers also create the benefit of reduced flooding by slowing peak flows in existing channels, in conjunction with tree planting. Man-made dams from woody debris such as are being employed now to reduce flood risk are a poor substitute for the natural work of the beaver.

Obviously, there may be some conflict between humans and newly reintroduced species that have been absent from the British countryside for hundreds of years – but this is the year 2020, not 1820. The Victorian ideals that caused us to trap, poison or shoot anything we found inconvenient are no longer appropriate. We all must adapt to improve the natural environments that we manage.

Beaver damage pales into insignificance when compared to the damage that deer and grey squirrels pose to the establishment of woodland in this country. The forestry profession needs to show itself to be adaptable and multifaceted in its ability to encapsulate ecosystem management that produces excellent habitats as well as productive forestry. Attitudes that set us back 200 years (such as those held by Charles Dutton) deserve no credence.

The research and the facts are all out there, and at the end of the day how hard is it to build a fence? Hundreds of thousands of acres were fenced to establish forests when rabbits numbered well into the millions before myxomatosis took hold in the 1950s.

I believe the rhetoric expressed by Charles Dutton to be outmoded and dangerous for an industry such as forestry, which is trying to project itself as a forward-thinking, environmentally conscious agent in the fight for our planet. This blatant misinformation does no-one any favours.


Mr. J Caley

Shouldham, Norfolk

READ MORE: Charles Dutton's response