Virtual tour gives rare peek into lives of beavers

A Holnicote estate beaver. Image: National Trust/Nick Upton

Technology is providing a window into the world of a busy family of beavers in their wetland habitat.

In a UK first, the National Trust has launched a virtual tour of its 2.7-acre beaver enclosure on the Holnicote estate, Exmoor, Somerset. Known as nature’s water engineers, beavers recreate river habitats, constructing dams and digging canals, which can slow the flow of water, reduce flood risk, improve water quality and enhance biodiversity.

An adult pair of Eurasian beavers, Yogi and Grills, were released at Holnicote in January 2020. In 2021, the pair had their first kit Rashford, the first beaver to be born in Exmoor for 400 years. In 2022, twins Russo and Toone were born.

Image: National Trust/Nick Upton

Over the past three years the beavers have constructed a large lodge in which they spend the day before venturing out at dusk. They have also built dams and created deep pools of water which offer shelter from predators and places to access and store food.

This has in turn developed habitat that suits a host of wildlife such as amphibians, bats, mammals such as otter and birds such as kingfisher, dippers and waterfowl.

Immersive footage captured over three weeks by high resolution 360° video equipment shows the beavers going about their daily lives. The footage was filmed by media company View It 360 and more will be added as the changing waterscape moves through the seasons.

Camera capturing footage for the virtual tour. Image: National Trust

“The hot weather and drought last summer, is a reminder of the significant role beavers can play in engineering the landscape and the importance of wetlands."

Ben Eardley, National Trust

Ben Eardley project manager for the National Trust at Holnicote says, “Beavers are such fascinating mammals that we wanted to find a way of sharing their antics and to enable people to find out more about these shy species. Web users are just one click away from being able to explore beaver constructed dams, ponds, canals and wetlands and see and hear some of the wildlife the habitat supports.

“Although we would always want to encourage people to get outside to enjoy nature and to see it for themselves, beavers are elusive creatures and typically most active at dawn and dusk. We therefore hope this footage will appeal to active and armchair nature lovers alike and will enable more people to see the beavers in their natural environment and how their dams, ponds and channels have created space for water and wildlife.

“The hot weather and drought last summer, is a reminder of the significant role beavers can play in engineering the landscape and the importance of wetlands. As we face into the effects of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, natural interventions like this need to be part of the solution.

“When the rest of the estate was suffering very dry conditions with parched vegetation the beaver enclosure was a lush green oasis, providing opportunities for wildlife to feed and find water.”

Eurasian beaver grooming itself. Image: National Trust/Nick Upton

The beavers are one part of the National Trust’s habitat restoration work at Holnicote, a historic estate consisting of 12,420 acres of land, much situated within Exmoor National Park.

Other projects include the UK’s first application of the innovative ‘Stage 0’ approach to river restoration, where a tributary of the River Aller has now been allowed to find its own course, creating a wetland habitat which has again attracted wildlife including peregrine falcons, grasshoppers, dragonflies, bees and wagtails.

Take the virtual tour and learn more about the project by clicking here.

National Trust ranger Nathan Foster showing the camera team around the enclosure. Image Chris Waywell View It 360