The Cheshire Water Vole Project

Water vole, Nantwich (c) Richard SteelWater vole, Nantwich (c) Richard Steel

Following the success of the North West Lowlands Project and the ongoing need for water vole conservation in the North West, Cheshire Wildlife Trust have continued to survey and provide habitat management advice as part of the Cheshire Water Vole Project.

The Cheshire Water Vole Project concluded in January 2014, but that doesn’t mean Cheshire Wildlife Trust is no longer involved in water vole conservation!

The project conducted 92 surveys and assessed over 100 km of waterways for water vole habitat suitability with the help of over 390 volunteer days.

For an overview of the project, it’s achievements and the Trust's future water vole plans, please see the project overview report.

We now have a much better picture now of how water voles are faring in Cheshire and have revealed strong populations on the River Gowy and tributaries in the Mickle Trafford area, and on various canals, rivers and brooks in the Crewe/Nantwich area. The data collected during the course of the Cheshire Water Vole Project has enabled targeted habitat improvements to be made through a project called Canal Connections, with the initial phase completed in March 2014.

The project aims to reconnect water vole populations in Nantwich and Whitchurch using the Llangollen Canal corridor. The completed work was focussed on protecting the banks and improving vegetation along the canal in and around Whitchurch, with the intention of attracting further funding and continuing work on both the canal and associated brooks towards Nantwich. You can see the final report for the first phase of work here.

See the water vole survey results here.


Water vole (c) Richard Steel

If you were trained with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and wish to carry out some water vole surveys or habitat assessments for us then please arrange this with the Trust so we know where you are and when – your safety is very important to us.

We still want sightings of water vole, mink and otter for our records and to contribute to national databases so please email or call them in when you have the time.

If you are interested in getting out and about to spot a water vole, remember they are an elusive mammal but they do leave behind plenty of field sign for us to spot. So why not get out and see what you can see! But don’t confuse them with the very similar brown rat – there are many differences between them. If you are unsure about American mink and otter, check out our ID tips and field signs.

The Northwest Lowlands Water Vole Project

The successful three-year Northwest Lowlands Water Vole Project came to an end in March 2011. Over 150 volunteers assisted Project Officers in their hunt for ‘ratty’ along waterways in the northwest.

The Project Officers would like to extend a huge thank you to all those volunteers who clambered up and down water courses and to all those landowners who allowed us access to carry out the surveys. We now have a better understanding of where our water voles are doing well and where they most need our help.

An impressive 630 sites were surveyed, with 46% showing no water vole signs, 17% showing possible water vole signs and a reassuring 37% showing definite water vole presence. Only 1% of sites showed signs of otter and 6% of sites showed signs of American mink.

Advice to manage habitat for water voles has been given to landowners of over 50 sites, and more than a dozen sites have benefited from practical habitat improvements.

Listen to the podcast on water voles with Project Officer Andrea Powell: