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Bishop's Stortford Town Council, Canal & River Trust and Environment Agency roll out welcome mat for water voles



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Bishop's Stortford Town Council has backed a project to turn the River Stort into a des res for water voles.

The council and its Waterside Stortford partner, the Canal & River Trust (CRT), teamed up with the Environment Agency to create a tempting habitat for the creatures, one of the UK's fastest declining mammals.

The team hopes to emulate the success of the Essex Wildlife Trust and Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, which helped to re-establish a water vole population on the Stort downstream at Thorley Wash Nature Reserve in 2015.

Reintroducing water voles (55638636)
Reintroducing water voles (55638636)

The European water vole, or northern water vole, is a semi-aquatic rodent, often informally called the water rat and made famous by Ratty in Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's book The Wind in the Willows.

The project team – volunteers and staff from the CRT supported by Environment Agency staff – has installed coir rolls in nets along the banks. The cylinders are made of coconut husk, a sustainable waste product.

Where rivers or canals flow through towns, there is less vegetation, hampering the water voles' ability to migrate safely along the watercourse.

River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince

The rolls have a dual purpose of protecting the riverbank from erosion and, when planted with wetland flora, providing a water vole-friendly home. The work also benefits waterfowl, providing cover and nesting opportunities.

Kate Nixon, biodiversity officer for the Environment Agency, said: "This fantastic partnership project will see a 60m stretch of pre-planted coir rolls installed along the toe of a steep bank close to the Goods Yard footbridge.

"We'll also be adding bankside vegetation to provide a source of food and cover, allowing water voles to safely move along riverbanks protected from predators.

"Through this exciting venture, we're very much looking forward to seeing the return of Ratty and friends once more in Bishop's Stortford."

River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince

Water voles (arvicola amphibius) have suffered one of the most serious declines of any wild mammal in Britain in the 20th century. Intensification of agriculture in the 1940s and '50s destroyed or degraded habitats, and in the '80s and '90s the population was decimated by American mink. Numbers fell by around 90% and today there are estimated to be around 875,000 in Britain.

They feed primarily on reeds, grasses, rushes, sedges, water plants and wetland plants in spring and summer, and roots, rhizomes, bulbs and bark in autumn and winter; they occasionally eat insects and other invertebrates. Each vole needs to eat 80% of their body weight every day.

They live in colonies, strung out along a watercourse, and each year females produce two to five litters of two to eight young each. Their predators include mink, foxes, stoats, weasels, owls, herons, pike, brown rats and cats.

River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
River Stort by Millennium Bridge, Bishop's Stortford – joint project by Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust, funded by the town council, to put coir tunnels on the bank of the river to protect water voles and other creatures. Pic: Vikki Lince
Water vole swimming (55638632)
Water vole swimming (55638632)
The installation site (55638634)
The installation site (55638634)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846814)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846814)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846820)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846820)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846822)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846822)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846824)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846824)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846826)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846826)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846828)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846828)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846830)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846830)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846857)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846857)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846859)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846859)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846861)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846861)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846863)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846863)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846865)
Rolling out the welcome mat for water voles in the River Stort in Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Arthur Southwell (55846865)


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