This October, 17 year-old student Matt Knowles is completing a 50 mile Swim-Run through the English Lake District to support the reintroduction of English Beavers.
Starting in the Irish Sea at Seascale, the two-day challenge will see Matt summit the four tallest peaks in England, and swim the highest lakes in the country, in aid of the Devon Wildlife Trust and their efforts to reintroduce English beavers.
Donate today to support Matt's challenge and help raise £500 for the Devon Wildlife Trust's Beaver Project.
Growing-up in the southern reaches of the Lake District, 17 year-old Matt quickly became familiar with the rugged fells and cloud-covered valleys of England's tallest mountains.
A highly talented fell-runner, Matt is a member of the British U20 mountain-running team and helped Great Britain win team gold at the 2019 World Mountain Running championships in Patagonia, Argentina - placing 5th individually.
Currently studying for his A-Levels, Matt is passionate about the future of Britain's wilderness - using sport and adventure to raise awareness for its conservation.
Matt's route will take him to the top of the four highest peaks in England (Sca Fell, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and Skiddaw), whilst swimming in Wastwater, Angle Tarn and Grisedale Tarn.
Starting in Seascale on the Cumbrian coast, Day 1 will see Matt run East towards Langdale before summiting Scafell and Scafell Pike, and swimming in Wastwater and Angle tarn. In total, 38km of running with 1800m of ascent.
Day 2 continues from Langdale towards Grasmere before a steep climb onto Helvellyn via Grisedale Tarn. From here, Matt will continue north along the tops before dropping down from Clough Head towards Threlkeld. He will finish the 42km 2nd day, and the challenge as a whole, with a final ascent of Skiddaw.
Throughout the route, Matt will be stopping at pre-selected meeting points where a support vehicle will help him with gear and nutrition.
The total distance for the challenge will be 80km with an elevation gain of 13,000 feet.
A History Of English Beavers
At the end of the 16th century, after decades of habitat destruction and an unrelenting fur-trapping industry, the Eurasian Beaver was declared extinct in the UK.
In the years that followed, native fish populations dwindled in the absence of beaver ponds as declining water quality and biodiversity loss weakened forest ecosystems to devestating effect.
Shortly after the disapearance of Beavers, aggressive agriculture and expanding industry sweeped the land - shrinking British forests to just a fraction of the size they once were.
400 years later however, as Beavers return to the forests and wetlands they once thrived in, a new revolution is unfolding.
From wildflowers to water voles, dragonflies to river otters, the reintroduction of Beavers across the UK is triggering a chain reaction of ecosystem restoration.
In the summer of 2020, thanks to the incredible efforts of the Devon Wildlife Trust, the UK Government announced that wild Beavers would be allowed to roam freely in South-West England.
Following this landmark success, the Trust is now looking to secure the future of Beavers across the whole of England, working with scientists, land-owners and businesses alike to reintroduce this incredible speces back into English forests.
The Devon Wildlife Trust
The Devon Wildlife Trust are at the forefront of national efforts to bring Beavers back into England.
After conducting a pioneering trial for over 5 years, in which a group of Beavers were studied to assess their impact on local ecosystems, their findings were submitted to the Government to assist a decision on the future of English Beavers.
Eventually, after a number of delays and setbacks, the Government announced in August of 2020 that Eurasian Beavers will be allowed to roam freely through the forests and rivers of South West England.
The decision marked the first time an extinct native mammal has been officially reintroduced in England and is the first step in a long road to restoring ancient forests across the UK.
Remarkably, the incredible staff and volunteers at the Devon Wildlife Trust are not stopping here. The team are now working harder then ever to monitor the Beavers to ensure that they are successfully reintroduced, whilst also working to support other projects across England as they move into trial periods.
By raising £500, we will help the Devon Wildlife Trust invest in a 'Beaver Deceiver' - an innovative piece of technology which provides a practical solution to conflicts between Beavers and land-owners in areas where Beaver activity is unwelcome.
The deceiver works by regulating the water level of Beaver ponds to reduce unwanted flooding whilst slowly returning the water back upstream. In areas where tensions between land-owners and Beaver reintroduction projects are high, technology such as this enables for peaceful and sustainable co-existence.
How To Follow
Matt's challenge will be taking place during the week beginning the 24th of October and you can keep up to date with his progress by following Matt on Instagram @matt._.knowles
You can also follow Matt's challenge on Strava by clicking here.
Throughout the planning process of this challenge, Matt has received some incredible support from a number of local groups and businesses. Their unfailing generosity has helped turn this project from a simple idea to a soon-to-be reality. Special thanks goes to Andrea Kelly of Puffin Swim Ambleside, James Gray of The OMM, Alice Peyredieu of AlpKit, and Jake Chant of the Devon Widlife Trust, amogst many others. We would also like to express our gratitude to local videographer Luke Briggs, whose dedication and skill has made documenting Matt's efforts a possibility.