Thursday, 14 March 2013

Volunteering For Voles

Local volunteers will help Britain’s endangered water voles to flourish at Bar Hill nature reserve when they carry out habitat improvement work following a cash grant.

Bar Hill nature reserve provides an important haven for water voles, which live along rivers, ditches, and ponds. Nationally their decline is a combination of habitat loss, poor land management and predation by the American mink. Once very widespread, the voles have been lost from up to 94% of their former range.

On Sunday 17 March the Cambridge Conservation Volunteers, supported by South Cambridgeshire District Council and Bar Hill Parish Council, will be carrying out careful conservation work to improve the habitat for these creatures at the two hectare site on the southern eastern edge of Bar Hill.
The nature reserve hasn’t been managed for twenty years and now willow trees, which have started to colonise the wetland site, are shading out the plants that water voles feed upon  whilst ponds that were previously created have become very overgrown. This latest initiative is just one of several improvements that both Councils are supporting to enhance the reserve for the benefit of wildlife and local residents. The project is similar to one carried out in Melbourn in 2012 when riverside clearance created space for an excavator to restore a reedbed in Stockbridge Meadows.

The District Council has awarded a grant of £2400 from its Wildlife Enhancement Scheme which supports £2000 already donated from Bar Hill Parish Council. Some of the funds have been used to hire the services of a tree surgeon team for one week to thin out the large spreading willows. Remaining funds will be used to commission a topographical survey of the nature reserve and stream so that any flood risk posed to the village can be lessened, possibly by careful re-shaping of parts of the reserve and stream.

Cllr Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We are always working to make sure the habitat for local wildlife is maintained and where possible enhanced. It is important to protect South Cambridgeshire’s biodiversity for our residents to enjoy and for the sake of future generations.

“It’s great that there are lots of water voles in Bar Hill this year but, as the national picture reflects, these animals can easily be lost. We are keen to support the efforts of the Cambridge Conservation Volunteers and any other communities who wish to take action to improve their wildlife.”