FARMERS in Cumbria have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that beavers have been released on a Cumbrian country estate.

Two beavers, named Dragonfly and Glen, have been homed in a 27-acre enclosure at Lowther Estate, near Penrith, as part of a five-year scientific trial.The aim is to find out the impact of beavers in an upland environment, in particular on a stream in a farmed landscape.

But the National Farmers Union (NFU) said they had 'concerns' about beavers in the wild and the impact they could have on farmland and the landscape, due to their physical activities.

Carl Hudspith, NFU Communications Adviser, added Lowther Estate release into a secure enclosure was a good opportunity to further learn about the consequences of beavers on the landscape. However, it is vital that this release is closely monitored to ensure that no beavers are allowed to escape into the wild, which could have potentially serious implications on farmland such as land drains being blocked in lowland arable fields. Farmers and the public must have the tools to manage the impacts beavers will have to farmland, the countryside, flood defences and urban areas.”

Jim Bliss, conservation manager at Lowther Estate, said: “We’re thrilled to finally have beavers at Lowther. We are leaving the beavers undisturbed so that they can adapt to each other and their new surroundings and we hope there may be beaver kits in the spring.We have already seen signs of dam-building and canal systems. The dams they’ve constructed will hold back a lot of water, as well as storing silt.This all helps to improve the water quality and biodiversity of the area.”

David Harpley, chairman of Cumbria Beaver Group and conservation manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: “Results from trials elsewhere such as Devon show that beavers can provide a range of environmental benefits, including reducing flood risk, by constructing dams which can slow the flow of flood water.