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Turning the tide for water voles

Published on Friday 26 February 2021

Work has been completed at Woodside Farm near Ilkeston to prevent water voles from struggling due to rising water levels, all thanks to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund from The Heritage Lottery Fund.

Water voles feel most at home in areas next to slow flowing streams and brooks, where they burrow into the banks to nest and graze on the bankside vegetation.

Unfortunately, the brooks at Woodside had become overgrown with mature willow trees which means there has been less opportunity for the grasses, rushes and low growing herbaceous plants - that water voles like to eat - to grow.

Along with this, fast flowing water has scoured the river streambed making the channel too deep and narrow so the water that flows through the brook will be too fast for the good water vole habitat.  The quicker the water flows the quicker their burrows will flood when the water levels rise.

To combat these issues, staff at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have been cutting selected willows along the brook, managed by Kate Lemon, Regional Manager (Trent and Erewash), and her team. Kate said, “We’ve been hard at work felling the willows down at Woodside to let the light hit the bankside so the vegetation water voles love to eat will grow. We’ve then added cut willow branches to the stream which is slowing the flow down to a speed that water voles can swim happily in. The slower moving water will create a wider channel which stays at a more constant level so water voles can dig their burrows on the water line and not have to worry about getting flooded out or being left too high above the water line.”

The Trust will now spend the next few months monitoring the brooks for signs of water vole to see if their work has been successful. Kate added, “We are hopeful that all of the working taking place will benefit some of the beautiful wildlife we see down at Woodside, including other key species such as kingfisher, water rail and amphibians. We’d like to say a big thank you to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund for enabling this vital work” 

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