Situated on Dartmoor in the damp south west of the country with the Trenchford stream running through the heart of the land, Moor Barton Wilding is rich in different types of wetland. From open and sunny marshy glades filled with flowering mint and butterflies, to dark and dripping bogs with rotting elders and willows (perfect for rare willow tits), wetlands are one of our most fascinating and precious habitats.
Over the past several hundred years, wetlands, marshes and fens across the UK have been drained causing us to lose more than three quarters of the area that they would have once covered. The resulting decline in many of the species who depend upon this habitat makes it an imperative to preserve the wetland that we have left and do everything in our power to restore it where we can.
In addition to putting up nesting boxes for dippers and grey wagtails, at Moor Barton Wilding we are mostly allowing our existing areas of wetland simply to express themselves rather than actively managing them. However, we are also working to create new areas of wetland. The most exciting way that we have done this has been to introduce beavers to the land.
In years gone by, up to a third of the UK would have been beaver engineered. The wetland within our seven acre beaver enclosure is completely created and managed by our new beaver friends and provides a fascinating insight and a felt experience of what much of the UK would have been like. The behaviour of beavers slows and spreads water, gradually reuniting a stream with its flood plain. Already our beavers are turning the section of the Trenchford in their enclosure from a canalised stream into a network of slow moving pools and lakes. These slow moving pools attract insects and dragonflies as well as frogs and other amphibians, who in turn encourage more species, some of which have rarely, if ever, been seen at Moor Barton before such as herons, kingfishers and grass snakes. Less than three weeks after the beavers arrived, we saw our first snipe. These creatures truly are ‘the bringers of life’!
The wetland areas, beaver engineered and otherwise, at Moor Barton are ripe for further species introductions such as willow tits and water voles, who will then play their part in helping to maintain the area. We’ll keep you posted!