Immortalised as Ratty in The Wind in the Willows, the water vole is set to benefit after 750 metres of luxury “waterside apartments” for the popular rodents were created along the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
Water voles are a protected species in the UK and the country’s fastest declining mammal, with the population having fallen by 95% since the 1970’s due to loss of habitat and predation by mink.
In an attempt to reverse the trend the Trust has planted water vole friendly coir rolls along the bank of the canal. The rolls protect against erosion and at the same time provide food and shelter for the animals known to live on this popular part of the canal.
The project is being supported by the Tesco’s ‘Bag for Life’ campaign and the Trust has received £12,000 towards materials for the works. The scheme uses the proceeds generated from the sale of carrier bags in stores and donates the money raised to good causes to create or improve green spaces in communities. Volunteers from the Wildside Activity Centre are also helping by planting the canal bank with water vole loving plants.
Paul Wilkinson, ecologist at the Trust, said: "Water voles are one of our iconic waterway animals, but have suffered one of the most dramatic declines in recent years. The familiar sighting and ‘plop’ noise as they hit the water has declined massively on many of our waterways, thought to be mainly due to the release of the American Mink, but also loss of habitat and water pollutions playing their part.
"They are desperately in need of our help, and so projects such as this really can make a difference. Water voles are quite shy creatures that depend on lush cover and can happily live amongst all our other activities such as boating, cycling, walkers and anglers."
The habitat works are part of a £1million project to dredge the 46 mile Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal from Tixall Lock in Staffordshire to Falling Sand Lock near Kidderminster.