Beaver back in Sussex

Beaver back in Sussex
library photo © David Plummer

After an absence of over 400 years, the beaver is coming back to Sussex. 

These natural ecosystem engineers, which help so much with natural flood management and water quality, were hunted to extinction in the UK in the 16th Century.    

But, thanks to The Sussex Beaver Trial, a partnership led by Sussex Wildlife Trust and the rewilding project at the Knepp Estate near Horsham, there will be a re-introduction of two pairs of beaver in either late spring 2020 or in the autumn, in Knepp’s Southern Block.    

The beavers will be released under Natural England licence in two locations within a large enclosed area for a five-year period to see how they settle into and adapt to their new environment. The beavers will have over 250 hectares of land, including extensive swathes of willow, available to them, where they can roam and do what they do best – natural coppicing and natural flood management.  

Beavers are extraordinary hydrological engineers, able to build leaky dams and lodges, and create channels and deep pools. This activity will provide natural flood management benefits within the Adur catchment, as well as maintaining a base flow of water in drought conditions.  

Isabella Tree, co-owner of Knepp Estate said ‘This is a dream come true for us. We know beavers are one of the biggest influences missing from our landscape. Not only are they masters of water management, they’re hugely beneficial to biodiversity. Insects, birds, aquatic plants, fish will all gain from the intricate habitats they create. I am longing for the day when I hear a beaver tail slapping on Hammer Pond.’  

Fran Southgate of the Sussex Wildlife Trust said, ‘At least 80% of the UK’s natural wetlands have been damaged or destroyed in the past, and in Sussex it is probably closer to 95%. Wetlands are some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, and are fantastic carbon sinks, helping to buffer us against climate change too. Bringing beavers back to Sussex will start to show us what a healthy wetland should truly look like.

‘These beaver re-introductions will use the natural instincts of a native animal as a tool for restoring important wetlands. Beavers are a great example of how keystone wildlife species (a species without which whole ecosystems collapse) help to reverse other declines in wildlife, as well as helping to reduce pollution and siltation, increase natural fish stocks and more.’

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England said ‘It is great to see Sussex getting beavers back into the countryside and the formation of new partnerships to support nature’s recovery.’  

The beaver releases are being monitored as part of a national project, with specialist ecologists advising. Another licence has also been granted by Natural England for a beaver release on land owned by the National Trust on the edge of the South Downs.

The Sussex Beaver Trial is led by Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Knepp Estate, working in partnership with The University of Exeter, Southern Water, Natural England, the Environment Agency, National Farmers Union and the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust. Expert advice is provided by Mark Elliott of the Devon Beaver Trial and Roisin Campbell-Palmer, an independent beaver consultant. 



  • Adam:

    03 Feb 2020 09:37:00

    About time, hopefully we will have these magnificent creatures all across our not so green and pleasant land soon.

  • Shirley Stokes:

    03 Feb 2020 11:48:00

    Brilliant news!

  • sarah tuck:

    03 Feb 2020 17:29:00

    Amazing – be great to see these beautiful animals help look after our wetlands.

  • K:

    03 Feb 2020 23:43:00

    Fantastic – lets see them across the country

  • Krissy:

    04 Feb 2020 02:16:00

    Oh fantabuloso! Eager beavers back where they belong. Soooo exciting for Sussex, a right royal result! May they live long and prosper and make a dam(n) good job in our delightful county.

  • Louise Goldsmith:

    04 Feb 2020 08:48:00

    Excellent news.

  • Paul Barratt:

    04 Feb 2020 20:06:00

    Brilliant news ! Then hopefully some Lynx to control the deer population?

  • Chris Constable:

    06 Feb 2020 12:22:00

    Great news!

  • Alan Kenworthy:

    06 Feb 2020 13:27:00

    Great news. How sustainable will just 2 pairs of badgers be in the long term, and will they be capable of producing a viable population?

  • Linda Sims:

    06 Feb 2020 13:48:00

    Will be looking forward to seeing them. Hope it goes well.

  • Kirsti Ferguson:

    06 Feb 2020 14:39:00

    This is amazing! Thank you and Well Done to all involved!

  • Glenn:

    06 Feb 2020 15:37:00

    Having just finished reading Isabella Tree’s book on rewilding at Knepp, this is very welcome news.

  • Mel Edge:

    06 Feb 2020 16:23:00

    Wonderful news; congratulations to everyone who made this happen. I look forward to meeting them!

  • Evangeline Rand:

    06 Feb 2020 17:44:00

    I’m thrilled to hear this news and encouraged by it.
    Thanks to all concerned.

  • Ian Butler:

    06 Feb 2020 18:23:00

    A really exciting development. Does anyone know what effect beavers might have in controlling Himalayan Balsam?

  • Godfrey:

    06 Feb 2020 22:13:00

    Delighted, ecological restoration in action, lets hope we can have reintroductions of Beavers right across the country

  • Sue:

    07 Feb 2020 19:29:00

    Love this idea…but hope you’ve checked out Tierra del Fuego problems where reintroduction has caused massive ecological damage, especially trees and flooding, and they are now trying to remove them all.

  • 07 Feb 2020 21:24:00

    @ Sue: The situation is Sussex is completely different to Argentina, as the Beavers introduced there were non-native to that region. The Sussex Beaver re-introduction will be European Beavers which are native to the UK and only died out due to humans hunting them.

    Current trials in Devon and Scotland have demonstrated the clear benefits of having a wild Beaver population – including natural flood management, less sediment in the water & a increase in Frogs and other wetland wildlife. Hopefully we will see similar results at the trial re-introduction in Sussex.

  • Magda Haire:

    08 Feb 2020 10:17:00

    Such good news, what an asset to our local area.

  • 31 Dec 2020 08:13:00

    Isabelle’s Fran’s and Tony’s s comments are spot on. However, the comment “These natural ecosystem engineers, which help so much with natural flood management” is a big fat lie. Beaver’s contributions to flood management are minute and not “so much help”. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that, see (summary of plus links):
    I am all in favour of more beavers in the UK for wildlife reasons per the comments quoted in italics.

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