Water Voles (Arvicola amphibius) are one of the UK’s most endearing and charismatic mammals, immortalised in British culture in famous tales such as The Wind and Willows (yes Ratty was indeed a water vole). Water voles hold a special place in British hearts, however, are sadly the UK’s fastest declining wild mammal and without proactive conservation measures, they’ll likely be lost forever.
This project is working to bring water voles back to the Hogsmill River in Kingston Upon Thames, a place which has a special affinity with water voles. Local residents speak of a time only 30 years ago when these furry critters were teaming in our rivers. The famous Millais painting ‘Ophelia’ depicting the Hogsmill river was originally set to feature a water vole until art critics thought it would be mistaken for a rat.
The last official record of water voles in Kingston was in 2017 and they are now extinct throughout the Hogsmill catchment. Water voles play an important ecological role and bring immense joy to people who encounter these fantastic animals perched on the banks of our rivers for the first time.