Cropton Forest, North Yorkshire: Beavers are being reintroduced to maintain flood defences but some seem happier about it than others

We make a strange procession as we descend the steep trail in single file, like a scene painted centuries ago on a Chinese silk scroll. We wind between tall pines and rhododendrons, crossing tiny water courses and cascades. In the midst of the group, two large wooden crates are carried, slung from stout branches. The bearers pause often to rest.

It feels out of time and far from home, but this is Cropton Forest, a part of Yorkshire that, thanks to a Forestry England flood management project, is about to regain something of its primeval identity. Earlier in the day, a huge and deeply disgruntled female European beaver hurtled into one of the crates from her temporary lodgings at a local zoo, 25kg of rage. Through the mesh door I glimpsed lustrous fur, two bright eyes and a flat black nose before she turned and slapped a tyre-tread tail against the mesh, an emphatic gesture of rejection.

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