Somerset estate offers rare peek into life of beavers with launch of online tour

They can be seen chugging around their watery domain like small furry tugboats, gnawing away at saplings or nuzzling up to each other. The sound of babbling water and birdsong provides a pleasing soundtrack.

Related: The Guardian view on beavers: a spur to hope for nature’s recovery | Editorial

A new online tour is being launched on Thursday of an enclosure on the Holnicote estate in Somerset that is home to a family of five beavers. In what is billed as the first of its kind, the tour allows viewers to navigate through the 2.7-acre Exmoor enclosure where two adult beavers and their three offspring live and work.

So far, there is four minutes of footage available but as the National Trust project continues, the idea is to add more.

Other wildlife captured include kingfishers, stoat, roe deer and bull finch, all of which are believed to have benefited from the changes the beavers – nature’s engineers – are making to the area.

Ben Eardley, the project manager for the National Trust at Holnicote, said: “We wanted to find a way of sharing their antics and to enable people to find out more about these shy species. Web users can explore beaver-constructed dams, ponds, canals and wetlands and see and hear some of the wildlife the habitat supports.”

The two adult beavers were released three years ago with a key aim of slowing the flow of water through the landscape to reduce flooding, as well as to help hold water in the landscape in times of drought and improve river quality and biodiversity.

Eardley said: “They have 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. It’s also turned the surrounding land into a mosaic of nature-rich rare habitat, including wetland and standing deadwood.”

The pair, Grylls and Yogi, have had three kits, Rashford, Russo and Toone (named after footballers), their births a sign of how well the beavers have settled in.

“The beavers have constructed a large lodge in which they spend the day before venturing out at dusk to get busy feeding and constructing more wildlife-rich wetland,” said Eardley.

“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. 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.”

  • The online tour will be available on