Anglers to the rescue for Ratty on the River Gade
22nd November 2021
The water vole, immortalised as Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows, was once a common sight along our rivers, lakes and canals, but is now perilously close to extinction.
But on a secluded stretch of the River Gade in Croxley Green, a group of anglers is working to reverse the fortunes of one of the UK’s rarest mammals.
In partnership with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, and thanks to funding from Three Rivers District Council, a team of anglers has begun the task of improving the habitat for water voles along a 350m stretch of the river.
The stretch of river at Croxley Hall Fisheries is currently heavily over-shaded, with very little suitable habitat for water voles. The project will see a team of anglers working through the winter removing fallen and over-shading trees. This will reduce shade, open up the river corridor and encourage in-channel vegetation and bankside vegetation to grow.
Lydia Ennis, Colne Valley Rivers & Wetlands Officer, explained: “Not all the trees and scrub will be removed along the river for water voles, as other wildlife depend on these habitats and we do not want to lose them.
“The aim is to create a balanced mosaic of riverside and wetland habitats which can support a range of species: water voles, fish, kingfishers, bats and different types of invertebrates. The fishery is also actively involved in monitoring and controlling American mink, ensuring that water voles and other species can make the most of the habitat provided for them through this project.”
This project forms part of a wider landscape-scale initiative, jointly run by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and the Colne Valley Fisheries Consultative and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to help angling clubs in the Colne Valley maximise the potential of their fisheries for fish and wildlife. The project, running from 2019-2022, to date is working with 21 fisheries sites in the Colne Valley, in addition to Croxley Hall.
Cllr Phil Williams, Three Rivers District Council’s Lead Member for Environmental Services, Climate Change and Sustainability, added: “Thanks to ongoing conservation work, we are lucky that Croxley Hall Fisheries has one of the largest water vole populations in the local area, but they are still vulnerable to many threats. Small-scale interventions, like the work being carried out in this project, can make all the difference for securing the future of this species.”
Cllr Alex Hayward – Leader of the Conservative Group
Cllr Alex Michaels – Independent Councillors Group Joint Leader