Our plans for Willington Wetlands
We want to see a Wilder Willington!
We have so much planned for our Willington Wetlands and we can't wait for you all to come and visit! Take a peek at the map below to see what we are planning to complete on site in the coming months.
* Please note the beaver enclosure has now been increased to a whopping 40 hectares!
Willington is a special place, recovering from industrial scars
Until we acquired this site in 2005, gravel has been extracted here for decades, leaving a series of deep pits across its 114 acres. We've gently helped nature and wildlife reclaim the landscape by keeping human impact low and by encouraging water to flow between the pits. These are now the vital water reservoirs at the heart of this rich wetland.
The site is already teeming with life
Many rare bird species have become resident or feed here on their migration paths including: kingfisher, reed buntings, water rail, marsh harrier, Cetti's warbler, lapwing and bittern. Thanks to a reintroduction which took place in September 2021, it is also home to beavers!
It is a key wildlife 'hub' for Derbyshire
The location and size of Willington make it a natural 'hub' for wildlife, providing links between neighbouring reserves. Our efforts are focused on protecting and enriching this nature reserve to support Derbyshire's wildlife.
Beavers at Willington
In 2009, beavers were introduced to a site in Scotland, and Willington offers equally ideal conditions. They are vegetarians, and the native plants offer our beavers all the food variety they need to thrive. Beavers manage wetlands for their own benefit, and have a large positive impact on the ecology of the whole site. For example, beaver dams would slow the flow of Egginton Brook, diverting it onto the meadows of the reserve, in turn helping keep winter flood water away from the village of Willington.
Future plans for Willington Wetlands
Our plans include a visitor centre, that will house a classroom space with views right across the reserve. It will be designed and built with sustainability in mind. This valuable facility will one day help make the wonders of Willington Wetland even more accessible.
We've planned a 5 mile circular walk, allowing visitors of all abilities to immerse themselves in the sites and sounds of the tranquil place. To complete the walk we will build a footbridge over Egginton Brook. Along the route we'll add to our existing nature watching hides, providing even more opportunity to get closer to the wildlife.
Want to know more? Living Landscapes Officer, Henry Richards answers our frequently asked questions below:
How high will the beaver-proof fencing be and will I be able to see them?
Fencing is essentially high tensile steel mesh supported by wooden posts similar to that common as stock fencing around many fields. The height of the fence above ground will be around a metre or so (<4’) apart from down the reserve track (bordering the River Trent) where height will need to be about 6’ to accommodate the flooding risk. The fence also has a ’skirt’ underground to deter burrowing. The fence being mesh will be totally transparent and will not be imposing on the landscape.
The fencing will contain the whole new beaver enclosure incorporating some 66 hectares of land (163 acres) and will be about 4.5km (2.8 miles) long.
Beaver are nocturnal, coming out to forage and maintain dams at night, the reserve has multiple viewing platforms and a bird hide, each one providing the opportunity to spot the beavers.
Will beavers impact the fish stocks?
A common misconception that beavers are like otters and eat fish. Beavers though are herbivores - they don't eat fish – at all! They browse on a diet of grasses and broadleaf plants in spring & summer switching to the bark of the upper branches (vascular growth) of trees or woody shrubs in winter. They do not hibernate so will accumulate a cache of food underwater by their lodge ready for winter.
The wetland habitats they create have in fact, been proven to help attract and increase fish stocks in many areas due to the increase in insect/invertebrate populations and improvement in water quality.
What will be the effect on water levels? Won’t the beaver increase Willington’s flood risk?
Beaver dams and habitats can reduce the flood risk and by creating wetlands that act as a giant sponge or water holding area, the downstream impact of floods on Willington can be better and more naturally mitigated.
Why have you reintroduced beavers?
Historically much of Britain’s landscaped was shaped by beavers but sadly, they were hunted to extinction about 400 years ago so bringing them back helps recover some of our lost natural heritage. In Derbyshire, we believe beavers haven't been here for over 800 years.
But this isn't just about the reintroduction of a species - it's about the reintroduction of an entire ecosystem that has been lost. Beaver are a keystone species and as ecosystem engineers, are able to quickly make a positive impact on the landscape they occupy. As they go about their day to day life shaping the wetlands for their own benefit, they have a huge impact on the surrounding areas. By digging canal systems and damming water courses, they create diverse wetland areas and homes for other animals such as otters, water voles and water shrews.
Am I able to help on the project?
How can you help?
This is the first time beavers are back in Derbyshire for over 800 years! To help show your support, you can donate to our appeal page - every little helps, and if that just isn't possible for you - sharing the appeal is great too!