Home / News
06 Feb 2013
The water vole, much loved ‘Ratty’ from Wind in the Willows, has become one of the fastest declining mammal species in the UK. Two thirds of the UK’s water voles vanished between in the forty years up to 1990.
This catastrophic collapse has been the result of increasing habitat loss and pollution made much worse by the arrival of a deadly new predator, the American Mink, introduced to our rivers and streams in the late 1950s. So serious has the decline of the water vole become that some fear it could soon become extinct altogether across much of England.
These dire predictions make the Isle of Wight’s situation of national importance, because we have here perhaps the largest and most stable population of water voles in the country thanks to our many small streams and brooks and critically because we have no mink. But thereâ€™s no room for complacency; many of our watercourses are suffering from a lack of management, thick bramble and scrub are taking hold and growing over the grassy riverbanks that water voles most like and need.
This is why Natural Enterprise, with the help of the Isle of Wight Council and the expert advice of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has set about restoring a stretch of waterside once famous for its voles. Essential works by the Council to the Island’s National Cycleway 23, between Alverstone and Sandown, presented an opportunity to clear back a dense jungle of bramble and willow along over 200m of ditch near to the Gift to Nature Wetland Walk at Longwood Lane.
15 years ago, when this site was first created by the Island 2000 Trust visitors were almost guaranteed the sight of a water vole paddling its way from bank to bank or at the very least hearing that characteristic ‘plop’ of a vole diving in! The work completed by Natural Enterprise will allow site managers to now maintain a grassy sward with wetland flowers and rushes perfect to feed water voles and encourage them to stay where people can once again stop and watch this delightful little animal.
Ian Boyd of Natural Enterprise said: “It’s been great to get in and clear this area for water voles. We’ll be working now to keep the banks just right for them and encourage them to move back into the ditches and drains around the Wetland Walk.”
Why not join us for a guided walk (8 May)or pond-dipping (28 July) at Sandown Wetlands? For full details of these and all our other summer walks see Gift to Nature Wetland Walk at Longwood Lane