We've been commended by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIWEM) for our work to balance the needs of our historic canal, boats, visitors and those of the UK's fastest declining mammal.
We have pioneered a technique to repair deteriorating canal banks using a fabric called Nicospan, which is installed on posts below the waterline to rebuild and protect the bank, leaving water voles and other wildlife with access to their natural habitats.
So far sites along a nine mile stretch of canal bank have been fixed in this way, recycling dredged material to rebuild the canal banks, at a total cost of £1.7 million.
Fighting a battle
Oda Dijksterhuis, senior ecologist at the Canal & River Trust, said: “We've been working on this project for the last 10 years, so it's great to get this kind of recognition. The work we have done here has contributed to the thriving population of water voles on the Kennet & Avon Canal, but we can't be complacent. Water vole numbers are still declining nationally and we are fighting a battle to stop them from disappearing entirely.
"When Kenneth Graeme wrote about the most famous water vole, ‘Ratty', in Wind in the Willows, they were a common sight on Britain's canals and rivers. We are determined that future generations will still be able to experience the pleasure of seeing this extraordinary and beautiful creature in its natural habitat.”
Mark Evans, waterway manager at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Water voles are one of the real characters of the waterways, and we're lucky to as many as we do on the Kennet & Avon Canal. The wildlife is one of the things that makes the canal so special, so it's important that we do everything we can to support it. We're proud that new ideas like this one have made a real difference.”