Water voles were once a common and familiar British mammal, but sadly today habitat loss has diminished the water vole population in Britain by over 90%.
This water vole release project, to be implemented in partnership with Derek Gow, on the exemplary regenerative cattle farm, Hayes Meadow, aims to re-establish a substantive, genetically diverse population back into West Devon.
Water voles are a keystone species and the gardeners of our waterways. West Devon, with its abundance of rush pastures, purple moor grasslands, culm, sedge interwoven with streams, brooks and springs, mostly hidden in marginal corners of mixed farms, is an ideal re-establishment area for water voles.
Meanwhile, the local community and schools need a destination where they can study and reflect on the wonders of the local ecosystems and in turn influence parents and farmers to manage land differently, to the benefit of nature.
A thriving community of water voles would stimulate the plant diversity on ‘Wet Farms’ resulting in significantly enhanced biodiverse ecosystems. Hayes Meadow farm aims to show the local ‘lowland’ mixed farming community the ecological value of rush pastures, purple moor grasslands, sedge, springs and stream – demonstrating to peers how they can form part of a profitable farming system. (Currently these habitats are routinely drained, over stocked with sheep, and sprayed with herbicide.)
This project will collaborate with another water vole project funded by DEF – the Devon Wildlife Trust’s Water Vole Surveys programme in the Lower Avon Valley, South Devon – using the training programme developed to engage the West Devon community in tracking and mapping water vole activity in their local area too.