BEAVERS are to be reintroduced into the wild in Cumbria for the first time in half a millennium.

Cumbria Beaver Group (CBG) has announced that a licence application for an enclosed scientific trial on the Lowther Estate, near Penrith, by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been approved.

It is the first beaver trial in the North West of England.

Conservationists are delighted that the Eurasian beavers will be returning to the county.

David Harpley, chairman of CBG and Conservation Manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust said: “Evidence from trials elsewhere in the UK shows that they offer great benefits, including flood risk alleviation, improved water quality, habitat creation for other wildlife and increased revenue for the local economy through nature-based tourism.

The animals were made almost extinct in Europe some centuries ago after being hunted for the fur and oil they produce which was the main component of cosmetics.

The enclosed trial will take place at Setterah Park, between Askham and Bampton on the Lowther Estate land.

David Bliss from Lowther Estate said: “This will be a trial release to assess how beavers can restore small, modified streams within a farmed landscape and will be done under the conditions of a licence from Defra.”

He added that this trial would look specifically at how beavers fare in an upland environment.

Mr Harpley added that the group were looking into the feasibility of setting up a camera to livestream the beaver activity once they’d been released. “This would mean people could watch them close up from the comfort of their laptop or phone.”

A second licence has been applied for by a private individual at an undisclosed location in south Cumbria, which is pending approval. The aim of this trial is to assess the impact of beavers on a small stream system in an upland woodland, helping to slow the flow, the expectation of creating new habitat that’s beneficial to the surrounding environment and wildlife.

CBG is made up of the wildlife trust, RSPB, Lowther Estate and Eden Rivers Trust. CBG has undertaken feasibility studies across a number of sites in Cumbria and is working closely with local people.