The River Marteg Water Vole Project
This project ran from March 2008 to March 2009 focussing on the Marteg Valley - and was expanded to search for water voles more widely in Radnorshire until Sept 2009. Click here to find out what signs to look out for if you think you might have water voles, and here for a report on findings from the Marteg Water Vole Project.
Water Vole by K Crooks
The project involved:
- Surveying the River Marteg (the river that runs through Gilfach), its tributaries and the wider catchment for water voles Arvicola terrestris.
- Monitoring the presence of mink within the catchment and instigating control measures where necessary.
- Talking to landowners on how they might enhance their riparian habitats for the benefit of wildlife.
Project Officer Darylle Hardy spent the spring and summer season searching along the banks of the River Marteg, the Nant Tawelan, the Marcheini and their tributaries, from the upland headwaters to the confluence with the Wye, looking for signs of water voles and other wildlife.
Water voles, often called water rats and fondly known as "Ratty" from ‘Wind in the Willows', used to be a common sight of rivers, streams and ditches as they scurried along paths on the edge of the water, munched away at reeds or ‘plopped' into the river to hide from a predator.
However, populations have been declining since the early twentieth century, largely because of the loss of abundant riverside habitat, making colonies more fragmented and vulnerable to local extinction. More latterly this has been exacerbated by the invasion of that highly efficient semi-aquatic riverbank predator, the American mink (Mustela vison). Originally this was as a result of releases and escapes from fur farms, but now they have spread widely across Great Britain.
Afon Macheini Fawr
Consequently, the water vole is now recognised to be Britain's fastest declining mammal and is thought to have disappeared from nearly 90% of the waterways and wetlands that it used to inhabit. In 2008, the species and its habitat were given full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended) in England and Wales and the water vole is a Biodiversity Action Plan species in Powys.
The first 6 months of the project were funded by CCW Species Challenge Fund and the Environment Agency. A continuation of a further 6 months was kindly funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
We would particularly like to thank the many landowners who have given their help and support to the project. Click here for survey results.