A pair of beavers are busy settling into their new home after being brought to north Essex to help prevent flooding.

The Eurasian beavers were released into an enclosure at Spains Hall estate, Finchingfield, yesterday and are the first of their species to be exploring Essex in more than 400 years.

It is hoped the beavers, who are originally from a fenced colony in Devon, will help reduce the risk of flooding in Finchingfield by building dams along the brook flowing through their enclosure, which features up to four hectares of woodland.

The introduction of the furry animals forms part of a wider scheme run jointly by the Environment Agency, Essex Wildlife Trust and Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust which has also seen the construction of leaky dams.

The structure sees tree branches and trunks laid across a river or stream in a bid to slow the flow of water when there is a period of heavy rain.

Archie Ruggles-Brise, whose family has lived on Spains Hall estate for 250 years, said: "We are delighted to welcome beavers back to the estate, and to East Anglia, for the first time in almost half a millennium.

"It’s especially exciting to be able to utilise their unique skills to deliver flood risk reduction and biodiversity benefits locally.

"It will be fascinating to see how the beavers perform alongside the man-made natural flood management dams and we are fortunate to have lots of high-tech devices and expert support in place to record the changes.

"As a farming estate this is an unusual venture for us but by working with others we are confident the beavers and the wider project will bring benefits to everyone locally. Once the beavers have settled in we will be offering tours and photographic opportunities so people can get up close to these magical animals.”

It is expected it will take the two beavers several months before the benefits of their work will be seen.

The Environment Agency will be collecting data from specialist equipment based in the beavers' enclosure to help scientists determine if the scheme is more successful than more conventional flood prevention methods.

Area director Dr Charles Beardall said: "We are extremely pleased we have been able to support the first release of beavers back in to East Anglia after many years absence.

"It will be fascinating to watch how they progress and to see the benefits they will provide for improving water quality and natural flood protection."