Water Voles Given New Home on Dorset River
One of Britain's most iconic animals, the water vole, is being given a helping hand in Dorset where the Environment Agency is creating a valuable new habitat for this fast disappearing mammal.
Immortalised as ‘Ratty’ by Kenneth Grahame in his childrens’ book ‘Wind in the Willows’, the water vole is now only found in a tiny fraction of rivers and streams where it was once a common sight. The main reasons for its decline are habitat loss and predation by the American mink.
This week Agency officers will set to work restoring an over-grown pond on the River Brit at Bridport just upstream of Bridport Gundry weir. As well as boosting water vole numbers, the restored pond will provide a safe haven for a wide range of wildlife including fish, birds, amphibians, dragonflies and waterside plants.
The new habitat will compensate for the loss of a small area of bank beside Bridport Gundry weir where the Environment Agency is installing a fish pass to help salmon and sea trout migrate up the River Brit to spawn.
Known locally as Allington Pond, the silted-up pond was originally put in by the Agency in the 1980’s as part on a flood alleviation scheme. It has received virtually no maintenance in the last 10 years and is completely overgrown with willow, alder, dogwood and nettles.
The restoration work involves the removal of young trees and scrub, de-silting of the pond, the installation of a silt-trap and creation of an island. The area will be especially useful at times of high river flows when it will serve as a refuge for fish fry and water voles.
“This pond was in a sorry state, so its restoration is a great opportunity to provide a valuable habitat for a host of wildlife including water voles. We are working in partnership with Bridport town council and the local community to ensure the site is looked after in the future,” said Sandie Moors for the Environment Agency.
The Agency is keen to involve local people in the future maintenance of Allington Pond and would like to hear from anyone interested in becoming a volunteer. The restoration of this important water vole sanctuary is expected to take approximately a week, depending on weather conditions.