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The builders that could “SOLVE” Hall Farm

You probably already know that SOLVE Hall Farm stands for Save Our Loddon Valley Environment at Hall Farm, and I suspect you are also already aware of our campaign to stop the proposed building of 4,500 houses at Hall Farm as part of the “Loddon Valley Garden Village”. So which builders could possibly “save” our Loddon valley environment? Once again it is nature to the rescue. No It's not "Bob the Builder" we need but bobbing beavers!


“More than 60% of people support beaver reintroductions. The fact is beavers are the hottest story in conservation, streaking ahead of the wolf and lynx in popularity”.


“Beavers are a keystone species, which means they exert a disproportionately important effect on the larger ecosystem. They engineer abundant river systems, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a lifetime. Studies show that active beaver wetlands can welcome up to a third more species across the food chain, compared to wetlands without beavers.”


Having taken advice from flooding experts for our alternative vision for Hall Farm one of the recommendations was for log dams and “swales” or natural ponds that store water temporarily before releasing it slowly, allowing the soil to absorb most of the water. This is in stark contrast to hard landscaping such as brick, concrete or other construction materials, that allow very little water to be absorbed and most of it to run off into drains and culverts. This then creates a greater risk of flooding downstream. See this Blog post for more detail:

https://www.green4grow.org/post/do-you-know-your-swales-from-your-culverts


And natural log dams and ponds are the beavers specialism. It strikes me that the Loddon at Hall Farm already has an almost perfect environment for beavers. Take a look at some of the photos in our gallery here. Of course even more trees would be even better for them, but it would also be good for carbon capture and biodiversity.


This story is a bit old, dating from 2008, but beavers were found to be happily living near Oxford.

https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/2137447.beaver-settles-thames/#:~:text=Four%20hundred%20years%20after%20beavers,the%20wild%20throughout%20the%20winter.

This story is a bit more recent, and claims beavers have been found living in London.

https://metro.co.uk/2022/03/17/beavers-are-native-in-london-again-for-the-first-time-in-400-years-16291086/


We wiped the beaver out in this country over 400 years ago, but it is now being reintroduced across many areas as part of various "rewilding projects".


Beavers require freshwater habitat with lots of woody vegetation. They’ll build dams to create ponds where they can construct their lodges and stay safe. They are herbivores, feeding on grasses and trees. They’ll forage the land around their homes, felling trees and moving branches and twigs into the water. Hall Farm has this.


Beavers need a minimum of a couple of hectares, including freshwater habitat and ample supply of trees and shrubs. Final territory size depends on food availability. Hall Farm has this too, but it would require the University of Reading to do more than just paint "Climate Stripes" on its buildings and hang banners proclaiming how committed they are to protecting the environment.


I am, as ever, heavily reliant on the internet for my information and invite contributions from those better qualified to comment on this idea. Could it work? How much space do they need to be a fully independent and sustainable community ? What, if any, are the downsides? Personally I think it could be the salvation of our Loddon valley environment.


Some good background information on beavers can be found here:

https://www.nwt.org.uk/wildlife-explorer/mammals/beaver?gclid=Cj0KCQjwy5maBhDdARIsAMxrkw23qiq-Q1oUy4D8UUoPeHlEP6nQ1gLaHQ54FI7SQTGNxxXVMvdfpcYaAkSvEALw_wcB


One last point. The houses we need can be built elsewhere, Ashridge or Twyford for example, and they have better infrastructure, particularly transport. But Hall Farm is the site with existing wetlands, floodplain and woodland and the University of Reading is the only land owner I am aware of making such a big deal of its environmental credentials.


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