Rivers Blackwater and Pant

After severe flooding in the village of Finchingfield in 2012 and 2014, the ‘Slow the flow’ project was launched by Spains Hall Estate in conjunction with the Environment Agency, Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust. The project aims to prevent flooding downstream in Finchingfield and the surrounding areas through water slowing measures.

Eurasian Beaver

A pair of Eurasian Beavers (Castor fiber) has been released into a small stream surrounded by 4 hectares of woodland, within a fenced enclosure on Spains Hall Estate. Once a widespread species, the Eurasian Beaver has been missing from Essex for more than 400 years after being hunted to extinction in the middle ages.


Beaver release 14 03 19 Darren Tansley 13 2

Beavers being released into enclosure, Spains Hall Estate.

Commonly referred to as ‘Ecosystem Engineers’, beavers are keystone species which shape the landscape by damming shallow water courses and creating wetland habitats.

Beaver Habitat Survey 16 July 2019 Darren Tansley 52

Beaver dam inside enclosure, Spains Hall Estate.

Slowing the flow

The real benefits for people, though, will come during heavy rain. The dams and rough wetland created by the beavers will help slow the flow from the stream, taking the peak height off any flood water heading for the village, and then releasing it gradually during dry periods.

This will be complemented by a man-made intervention on an adjacent stream, where eight leaky dams have been installed. The timber dams, which hold back water during high flow whilst not impeding flow during normal circumstances, mimic fallen trees in the channel, releasing water gradually.

29 2

Leaky dam on adjacent stream, Spains Hall Estate.

Additonal benefits

Aside from the obvious benefits to the communities downstream, the diverse wetland habitat created by the beavers will support a wealth of biodiversity. Water quality monitors set up by the Environment Agency have shown that dissolved oxygen levels in the stream where beavers have started damming, have stabilized, vital for fish and aquatic insects. In contrast, the adjacent stream, containing only man-made dams, has fluctuating dissolved oxygen levels.

In addition, the water table around the beaver enclosure has risen, allowing wet flushes to form, whereas the adjacent channel has very low water levels throughout.

With the beaver enclosure able to support up to nine beavers, it is hoped that the pair will breed and that the project will provide a blueprint for other natural flood management projects going forward.


Rivers Blackwater and Pant

WFD water body status


Project type

Natural Flood Management

Total area covered by project

13 Hectares

Project lead

Spains Hall Estate

Contact for more information

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Project partners

Environment Agency, Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust

Funding source

Spains Hall Estate, Environment Agency

Project start


Website key stakeholders:

Environment Agency logo      Essex Wildlife Trust logo           ESWT Logo 70

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting based on an original concept by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust