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Restoring Hope for Water Voles

Wednesday 27 April 2022

The Chalk Stream and Wetlands Meadows project to extend the habitat for local populations of water voles at Restore Hope, Latimer, has already begun but more needs to be done!

Massive thanks to the volunteers who came out during three glorious spring days in March to help with the pollarding & coppicing work, which was completed under an application approved by the Bucks County Council Tree Officer. We’ve not only caught up with a backlog of much needed hazel, elder and hornbeam management, we’ve improved the light levels reaching the channel and collected material for use later in the year. Much of it was quite tricky work, involving precarious (but safe!) balancing on the river bank and retrieval of cut material from the channel; and as we wanted the 6m lengths kept intact there were some interesting methods used to drag the material to the safe storage locations. Excellent examples of ingenuity, collaboration and occasional brute-strength were shown by all!

 Baby water voles snoozing #4

But how does this help the water voles?

There are two known populations in the area, one just downstream of the restoration site and the other just above it and the objective is to improve the area between so that the two groups can expand and ultimately inter-breed. If we can support the growth of a larger water vole population with greater genetic diversity and an increased range, it will be far more resilient to external impacts from predators, pollution and climate change. By increasing the light levels reaching the channel we hope to encourage the growth of in-channel and marginal vegetation which will provide both populations with the immediate benefit of additional sources of food & shelter. And later this year we would like volunteers to be donning waders and work in the channel providing opportunities for water voles to burrow and establish permanent populations.

And we haven’t forgotten the other river users. By improving the character of this part of the chalk stream, we will also be supporting the native insects, fish and birds, and we will be creating a more attractive and natural looking channel that can be appreciated by everyone who visits Restore Hope, Latimer.

STOP PRESS: The Environment Agency have just given the consent for us to complete the channel restoration work – We will be on the look-out for volunteers who might be interested in helping create berms, install deflectors and stabilise existing natural features. We still need to work out the schedule, but please do get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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