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Ratty has reared his head in Kiveton Community Woodland - delighting local conservationists.
The endangered water vole has been detected on the 53 hectare (132 acre) South Yorkshire site, which is managed by the Forestry Commission and owned by the Land Restoration Trust, according to the preliminary results of an on-going survey.
The creature - made famous by the Ratty character in the Wind in the Willows book - has vanished from many of its former haunts and now merits its own Biodiversity Action Plan.
Adrienne Bennett, Forestry Commission Ecologist and Biodiversity Officer, said:
"Habitat creation is a key goal in Kiveton's transformation from a derelict colliery site into a thriving woodland so the fact that we have water voles is tremendous news. Loss of river bank habitat and predation by mink are just two of the factors behind the water vole’s demise. Over the last 60 years they are said to have vanished from 90 per cent of their UK homes. Kiveton is doing its small part in helping reverse that decline."
Rangers found numerous water vole latrines along a 400 metre stretch of streamside in the wood. Although it's a smelly job, hunting for droppings is the best way of confirming the creature's presence as actually sighting one can be very difficult.
The survey will provide experts with a benchmark to measure the water vole's fortunes in future years.
Vince Carter from the Forestry Commission's Yorkshire and Humber region, added:
"Nurturing new woodland on brownfield sites is one of the priorities in the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Forest Strategy. Not only do they provide people with a place to chill out and enjoy exercise, but they add greatly to the range of local habitats for wildlife. The news that water voles seem to be doing well at Kiveton is very encouraging, given how tough times have been for the elusive animal."
Kiveton Colliery closed in 1994 and its green makeover saw 37,000 trees planted, complimenting 40 acres of existing woodland, with another 50 acres of ponds and grassland created, along with four kilometres of trackways. Smooth newts and many bird species have gained a foothold in the beauty spot.
NOTE TO EDITOR
Water voles are distinguished from rats by their small hidden ears, silky mid-brown fur, blunt nose and shorter, furry tail. The most recent survey suggested a UK population 1.2 million adults. They are recognised as a "priority species" by the Government and its is an offence to destroy water voles or their habitats.
Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive woodlands.http://www.forestry.gov.uk/http://www.forestry.gov.uk/NorthEastEngland To find out more about the region’s woods log-on to www.forestry.gov.uk/eastmidlands
The Land Restoration Trust, a company established by English Partnerships, Groundwork, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, will improve the environment and quality of life for communities by providing long-term sustainable management of public spaces across England. Within 10 years it will acquire, own and manage 10,000 hectares of previously derelict and under-used land, to deliver environmentally informed, community-led regeneration. For further information about the Trust please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Darn on 01226 246351. Mobile: 0775 367 0038.