This past week or so I’ve been clearing along the track towards Glen House, opening up views of Creag Mhor as you come across the bridge and finally opening up areas down to the burn.


As I was working I realised, as yet another alder came crashing down, that essentially I’m doing the work of a beaver. These furry, crepuscular creatures that are native to Scotland have only recently been reintroduced with populations now living in lochs at Knapdale, and on the river Tay. Beavers are keystone species and wetland ecosystem engineers, meaning they manipulate and engineer their environment to suit their needs, and they are second only to human beings in this respect. This ecosystem engineering comes through felling trees for food and shelter and by building dams to create pools in which they can remain hidden from predators.


There are many misconceptions about beavers, in particular that they eat fish! Beavers are herbivorous and will eat grasses and forbs and other greenery during the spring and summer months, during the colder seasons beavers fell deciduous trees in order to strip and eat the nutritious bark. They will fell a variety of trees but favour aspen and willows, possibly due to the salicylic acid which is a derivative of aspirin.

Primarily I was opening up these areas by the river to stop the place looking like a jungle and so residents and visitors could actually get there to enjoy it, but there are also ecological benefits to clearing along the riverside. Creating a diverse mix of habitats from dense woodland to open areas allows for a greater diversity of plants and animals, and in a more natural system these wet wooded areas would be managed and kept open by beaver. It’s a beautiful stretch of river but until now all you could see was a dense crowd of alder and ash with rhody starting to creep in, now a lovely riverside walk is emerging and enjoying the burn in full spate or spotting a trout in the peaty water is possible.




Beavers naturally fell trees in their territory, for food, shelter and occasionally in order to build a dam. Eurasian beavers tend to dam much less frequently than their American counterparts and do it on a much smaller scale. Many tree species will coppice and it is one of the reasons beavers, trees and water work so well together, it’s even thought that man learnt the technique of coppicing from beavers. Once an area has been felled, and wooded areas naturally thinned, the beavers eventually abandon the site and move on, these ‘beaver ghost towns’ are excellent habitat for numerous plants and animals. They create a diverse mix of dynamic habitats in a natural and sensitive way and all for free!

As I’m cutting away, I was piling up all the brash in neat piles and chopping up trunks for firewood when I remembered what I’d learnt about the importance of woody debris in a healthy river system. As trees die or are felled by beaver and fall in to the river there are important benefits:

– Stabilisation of river banks and beds

– Trapping and retention of sediments and organic matter

– Increased floodwater storage and regulation of running water by decreasing velocity

– Provides valuable habitat for feeding and nesting birds, bats insects and fungi

– Provides habitat for fish and creates niche habitats

– Supports invertebrate life cycles

– Improves water quality

– Stores carbon

So although it may not look so neat and tidy I have left some brash piles in the overflow channel and allowed some trees overhanging the river to fall in and become part of a healthy river system.

Although we won’t be reintroducing the beaver to Torrisdale anytime soon, they may well make their way down Kintyre before long, and we’ll be able to enjoy a diversity of river and woodland habitats, all thanks to some very cheap little workers. Just make sure you protect your favourite garden trees or they’ll be gnawed. treats depression, vegetative-vascular disorders, and is also indicated for cardiology ifthe problem it associated with nerves.

For more information on beavers in Scotland go to

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