A TEAM of volunteers has helped the Canal & River Trust to improve habitats for water voles on the Chesterfield Canal.
Immortalised as Ratty in The Wind in the Willows the water vole is the country’s fastest declining mammal with the population having fallen by 95% since the 1970’s due to loss of habitat and predation by mink.
In an attempt to reverse the trend the trust enlisted the help of volunteers to install water vole friendly coir rolls along the canal bank at Clayworth. The canal in this area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its rare aquatic plants and rich marginal vegetation and it’s thought that water voles also live nearby. The rolls will provide much-needed food and shelter for the mammals.
The works are part of a wider project to improve 10 SSSIs across the trust’s national canal network. The ‘Making Special Places for Nature’ project has been made possible thanks to a £350,000 award from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The two-day project saw a team of volunteers brave the cold to install the coir rolls along the wall of the canal. Made from coconut husks, the rolls will also be planted with a variety of aquatic plants which over time will grow and give a natural-looking edge to the canal. Once established they will provide food and shelter, allowing the voles to burrow into the bank and make their homes away from predators.
Volunteers included members of the trust’s Chesterfield Canal Rangers and Towpath Taskforce as well as members of the local community.
Imogen Wilde, ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Water voles are one of our most endearing mammals but sadly they’ve seen a real decline in recent years and, working with local people, we want to give them a helping hand.
“By installing these rolls the volunteers will be helping us to establish vital protective corridors where the voles can shelter from predators and make their way safely along the canal.”
The ‘Making Special Places for Nature’ project is a 12-month programme to improve vulnerable wildlife habitats across 10 key sites totalling 400 hectares – a combined area greater than the City of London. The improvements span reservoirs and canals in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Berkshire and mid Wales. It will benefit water shrews, voles, otters, bats, dragonflies and other rare fauna and flora.