Three pairs of Eurasian beavers are to be released by the National Trust in Southern England next spring. Two will go into a secure enclosure on Exmoor and one on the border of West Sussex and Surrey. Beavers were hunted to extinction three to four hundred years ago for their fur and meat but there has been an escalating campaign to see them rereleased to ease flooding and improve biodiversity. They create dams causing pools to form that stop flood surges down streams and rivers. Not everyone is pleased, some farmers are not convinced whilst anglers are concerned about fish migration. Release necessitates a licence from Natural England which was conditional on the beavers being kept in fenced enclosures of 5 to 10 acres so that activity can be monitored and wider spread prevented.
Rewilding at Blenheim
High Park is a wooded area of the Blenheim Estate originally created by Henry I in the 12th century as a royal deer park. Around 90% of the woodland trees are oaks making it the greatest collection of ancient oaks in Europe. At least sixty of them are thought to date back to mediaeval times. In an interesting project to encourage natural regeneration of this ancient woodland, a herd of the rare British White breed of cattle will be released, 44 cows and a bull, to roam freely amongst the trees.
It has been one of the wettest autumns on record for many parts of central and southern England. This has been a serious problem for arable farmers trying to establish autumn crops and to harvest potatoes and sugar beet. There have been some dry days in the deluge, especially last week when drilling was possible on light chalk soils, but much of the heavier land destined for winter wheat has still to be planted. With a glut of spring barley, many farmers will try to get the wheat into the ground, but there is no sign of a prolonged dry spell. The only consolation is that many crops were sown in December 2012 and yielded remarkably well.
Tick-borne Parasite Identified
A tick-borne parasite never before seen in the UK has been identified in sheep in north-east Scotland. Babesiosis is an animal disease caused by the organism Babesia venatorum but it can also infect humans. It is widespread in China and parts of Europe, there have been two confirmed infections in Italy in the past twenty years. It causes flu and jaundice type symptoms and can be fatal. Following on from the recent identification of tick-borne encephalitis in this country, public health officials have warned that extra vigilance is required when walking through countryside where ticks may be prevalent. Lyme Disease, another tick-borne disease, is already common in the UK.