Amy is one of our dedicated water vole volunteers and has worked as part of this thrilling community project for the last couple of years.
We caught up with Amy to talk about her experiences and what she thinks we can do to bring this charismatic species back to the Hogsmill River.
How and why did you become involved in the Water Vole Conservation project?
I work for Kingston Libraries and first met Elliot from Citizen Zoo whilst taking part in a volunteer day that was open to all Kingston Council staff. Before we got to work, Elliot gave us a tour of Berrylands Nature Reserve, telling us some wonderful stories and facts about the Hogsmill River, including that water voles used to live there. I have always been a huge fan of water voles as they are so sweet (like guinea pigs that can swim!) and I used to spot them a lot when I was younger. I knew that there had been a sharp decline in their numbers nationally so was astounded to hear that they used to call the Hogsmill their home as recently as 2014. I moved into the area in 2011 and had no idea there were water voles right under my nose! Following on from the volunteer day I then started following Citizen Zoo on social media, attended the spectacular WILD Kingston live event that they put together and signed up the Water Vole Conservation project as soon as I heard about it.
Can you tell us more about your role and experience in the project?
I will confess I am a flaky volunteer! I work full-time and have a rescue dog that I like to spend a lot of time with during evenings and at weekends so I find it difficult to attend the monthly meetings. However I thoroughly enjoy the things I do manage to help out with. I attended the initial water vole training day to find out more about the project and how to survey water vole habitats. Following on from this I surveyed the Bonesgate tributary which runs off the Hogsmill River – checking the habitat to see if it would be suitable or unsuitable for water voles. I attended London Recorders Day 2019 with some of the other water vole volunteers where the project was showcased alongside lots of other fantastic conservation projects happening around London. I attended a content party event where some of the volunteers got together to discuss, plan and create some fun content to use on social media to promote the Aviva crowdfunder. Most recently I have bought a Get InVOLEd face covering, donated to the crowdfunder and have been posting regular updates on my social media channels to help spread the word amongst friends and family.
Why do you think the community should be involved in such a vital project?
It would be a great opportunity for the community to see and celebrate what is right under their noses! I have lived near the Hogsmill for almost 9 years and it is only in the last 12 months that I have learnt about it’s true magic and biodiversity. Whilst walking along the river I have seen little egrets, have heard woodpeckers pecking wood in the trees, have seen newts, tadpoles and dragonflies in wildlife ponds nearby, and apparently there are kingfishers flitting about too! Some water voles plopping into the river would be the icing on the cake. Lots of young children and teenagers have become so engaged in the natural world in the last couple of years as climate change becomes a huge concern for many. If families, children and teens can get inVOLEd and see that communities and conservation can successfully improve the prospects for nature and wildlife – on their doorstep – then I hope that it will give them hope that all is not lost and motivate them to do other great things to help the environment. They are the next generation, it is their planet and their Hogsmill River to be guardians of.
What does the return of the water vole along the Hogsmill river mean to you?
A positive news story at a time when positive news stories feel few and far between. If I was to hear about this project on the news or through word of mouth I would’ve thought, ‘That’s so cool! I wish I could get involved in something like that’, and I am! Everyone can make changes, big or small, that can make a difference to the natural world. It also means I can add another place to my list of places I have seen water voles over the last 32 years. So far my list is quite small (There have only been 5 places where I have spotted those fuzzy rodents) so would be delighted to add one more place to the list! One final word – JOY – if I was to spot a water vole on my local river I would feel full of joy and hope and magic.
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