National award for 'magical' Essex beaver project as third set of new babies arrive

Watch Hannah Pettifer's piece on the beaver family here

A ground-breaking conservation scheme using beavers to combat flooding near an Essex village has won a national award.

A pair of beavers were introduced three years ago at the Spains Hall Estate in Finchingfield near Braintree.

They have just given birth to their third set of young - or kits - and are busy transforming the landscape to prevent flooding.

There are now eight beavers on the estate and they have transformed what used to be a ditch into a series of interlinking pools.

In just two years the beavers have turned what was a ditch into a large pond which can hold far more water Credit: Spains Hall Estate

The pools slow down the flow of water into the village during wetter months and release water during drier periods. Since their introduction, the village below has not flooded.

Now the project has won a national award for small scale nature conservation from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

The award has been given to the estate and its partners, Essex Wildlife Trust, Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency.

One of the beavers in the water Credit: Simon Hurwitz

Archie Ruggles-Brise, from the Spains Hall Estate, said: "We're in a small corner of Essex nobody really knows we're here, the beavers are just doing what beavers do and yet somebody somewhere has decided that this is worth recognising.

"If our success can inspire some other people to do other things like this, even bigger scale, that confidence building is what we need to move the conversation along."

Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK 500 years ago but in the past ten years they have begun to be reintroduced in places.

Wildlife photographer Simon Hurwitz runs tours to see the animals and has been monitoring the beaver family over the past year.

His highlight was seeing the two new kits for the first time.

"Just suddenly one morning I saw a kit swimming along and in front of it was this other smaller kit swimming backwards and then I realised it was actually on the back of its mother, it just looked scared, clinging on for dear life."

"You come here, you relax, enjoy it all, immerse yourself into, you've heard the dawn chorus here, it's this cacophany of sound and then you see a beaver, it's magic."