Water Vole Recovery Project

Copyright Margaret HollandCopyright Margaret Holland

Saving Ratty!

Water voles are now one of the UK’s most endangered animals.

Water voles were abundant when Kenneth Graeme gave Ratty his starring role in Wind in the Willows. That was back in 1908 and since then water voles have suffered one of the most catastrophic declines of any British mammal in history. Numbers have plummeted - surveys have found numbers are down by around 90% to 95% over 30 years.

The decline is mostly due to losing the places they need to live. The way we manage our rivers, ditches and canals doesn’t focus on water voles and the habitat they need. The problem is made worse by their main predator, the American mink first found breeding in the wild in 1950’s. 

Water Voles found in Warwickshire

Thankfully, recent surveys by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust found a small number of water voles have come back to North Warwickshire. This area is now a really important part of a network of canals, rivers and brooks.
Our Water Vole Recovery Project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund with the aim of creating the big changes needed in this area to help the water vole population.

We provided training for local people to help preserve their valuable waterways and water vole populations. Our work has improved habitats for water voles and other species and will hopefully encourage them to spread into other waterways.

  • 47 practical volunteering days
  • 1350 volunteer hours
  • 96 metres of banks have been improved through coir roll installation and water vole motels
  • 1.2km of water course has been improved through bank clearance, coppicing, planting and hedge restoration
  •  1.1km of river bank cleared of Himalayan Balsam
  •  120m of over grown canal hedge laid for multiple wildlife benefits
  •  Planted over 1000 wetland plug plants
  •   Installed woody debris across 3 sites to increase bank diversity for water voles to use

Thanks to all involved who made it a great success!

Watch this short film about water voles by film-maker Stephen de Vere. Find out more about Stephen's wildlife films.


Vital funding allowed us to:

  • Survey how good the habitat is and check for water voles
  • Enhance habitat, improving links between waterways so water voles can move freely and have more feeding and nesting opportunities.
  • Give water voles more cover to escape predators 
  • Monitor American mink to make sure we keep numbers as low as possible to prevent them wiping out water vole colonies
  • Provide training opportunities and run volunteer groups in local communities

Volunteers were essential to the work:

We ran training days and habitat enhancement days through 2016 and 2017 and training volunteers in valuable traditional skills, for example: 

  • Water vole survey training – Learning about water voles in Warwickshire with a site visit to identify signs of water voles
  • Hedge laying training – letting more light onto river and canal banks for lush vegetation to grow and the ancient skill of hedge laying.
  • Water vole survey – carrying out surveys of water voles in North Warwickshire




Please get in touch to find out how you can get involved and help to save our water voles. 

To find out more please contact:

 Tim Precious, Wetlands Projects Officer
 024 7630 2912
 Tim Precious

Have you seen a water vole?

Please fill in our Water Vole Sighting form and let us know more. 


Water Vole Recovery Project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund




FilenameFile size
Water vole leaflet (designed by Chris Harris).pdf2.92 MB