Deputy leader Amelia Womack recently took time out to visit the site of the soon-to-be introduced beavers in the Forest of Dean.
Local Green councillor Sid Phelps took Amelia to the proposed site – a steeply wooded valley just upstream from Lydbrook, the village he grew up in and the location of several incidents of ‘flash-flooding’, the most recent in 2012.
Sid told Amelia how the suitable topography and location, and the enthusiasm of the locals, came together with the vision of the local Forestry Commission (FC), which manages the land, to create the plan to reintroduce beavers there this spring.
Sid has knowledge of flooding from his previous work at the Environment Agency and understands the heartache flooding can bring, saying: “I was aware of the success of Stroud Greens in natural flood attenuation methods in the rivers there, and I’d already met with the FC to explore the possibility of something similar.
“When I heard that the FC was toying with the idea of utilising beavers for flash-flood attenuation upstream of Lydbrook, I immediately saw what a wonderful idea this was – so much so that when a by-election was called last spring, I made it a personal election pledge to support such an initiative.”
Sid continued: “From there on in, the ‘campaign’ took on a life of its own. The local press picked up on the idea from my election leaflet, but with the FC preferring to sit on the plans ‘for the time-being’, I attended a site photoshoot on my own and, within a week of the story appearing, lo-and-behold, a public meeting was called by the Commission!”
The meeting was very well attended, with Sid commending the job the FC did in presenting the case to the public, and it was clear that voters in Lydbrook understood the benefits that working with nature could bring them.
“I was fortunate to win the by-election and was keen to realise my election pledge,” Sid said. “However, as summer turned to autumn, the word ‘in the woods’ was that although the FC were keen to press ahead, they’d been given strict instructions by Defra to sit on it.
“As we now know, the project has finally been given the go-ahead by the new Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and we’re looking forward to the introduction of the beavers in the spring.
“Sometimes, spotting an opportunity and giving it a little push can yield a wonderful outcome.”