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News article created on 8 August 2013

Will you help us create homes for water voles?

We're calling on waterway wildlife lovers to support our appeal to create more water vole friendly habitats on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The water vole is the UK’s fastest declining mammal so managing the special habitat which it needs to thrive is an important job.

Canal & River Trust environment manager, Oda Dijksterhuis, said: “Water voles can be very shy. They like to live along canals and rivers where dense reed fringe vegetation and steep banks offer both food and protection from predators. Water voles have to eat around 80% of their body weight each day to survive.

“They use their orange teeth to burrow into banks, forming complicated systems of underground tunnels and nesting chambers.

“The Kennet & Avon Canal provides a great home to water voles, because in many areas, we’ve got just the right habitat for them to live. You might hear their distinctive 'plop' when they dive into the water, which is thought to be vital in their community as a warning call. But we still need to do more for these special creatures and help ensure that there are plenty of locations for them to call home and to provide room for existing water vole populations to grow.”

New, water vole friendly, green bank is being restored on the Kennet & Avon Canal between Pains Bridge and Milkhouse Water near Pewsey in Wiltshire. The bank has been badly eroded, which means that important potential water vole habitat has been lost.

Innovative design

Oda explains: “We are rebuilding the soft bank using an innovative design that combines coconut fibre matting with a special man made mesh material, which is planted up with various native reeds. This tried and tested design creates the perfect home for water voles and helps support a range of other vital wildlife like dragonflies, butterflies, nesting birds and it makes a super fish nursery. The new bank will also help to secure the crumbling towpath here, making it better for walkers and cyclists.”

To improve one mile of canal bank for the benefit of wildlife and people will cost approximately £138,000. This summer we're spending eight weeks rebuilding a 500m stretch of the canal towpath and soft bank so that humans and wildlife alike can continue to enjoy this beautiful stretch of waterway.

Last year we installed a 400m stretch of this special habitat. Now we're appealing to the public to help us raise the final £25,000 needed to complete the last section of water vole friendly habitat that will help the canal provide an essential home for water voles and other waterway wildlife.

Tamsin Phipps, chair of the Canal & River Trust’s Kennet & Avon Waterway Partnership said: “The Kennet & Avon Canal is enjoyed by a whole host of visitors from walkers and cyclists to boaters and canoeists. Part of the appeal of the canal, to all of these visitors, is the rich variety of wildlife that can be spotted from its banks."