Returning Water Voles to the Hogsmill

Citizen Practise

water voles reintroduction
Water voles - Get InVOLEd project


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.

Bringing back water voles to the Hogsmill


Where: Hogsmill River, Kingston

Species: Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)

IUCN Red List Status: Endangered – Britain’s fastest declining mammal

Threats: Habitat loss and fragmentation, predation by non-native American mink


Our project to reintroduce water voles has already achieved so much! We have engaged with over 6,000 people telling them about these amazing mammals and the project! We have amassed an incredible group of over 100 local volunteers, and through regular meetings and actions we are making good progress with the project. We’ve carried out habitat surveys, run community engagement events and run habitat restoration projects throughout the catchment. However, there is still much that can be done and anyone can get involved to support the project! Please do let us know if you would like to get InVoled here.

Habitat Assessments for Water Voles and Mammal Rafts

We’ve trained a team of 60 volunteers and together, surveyed the habitat along the Hogsmill to identify potential and suitable habitats for water voles. The Survey results were later presented to a packed audience at the 2019 London Recorders Day at the Natural History Museum. Following on from this event, we purchased, built and deployed 10 aquatic mammal detection rafts throughout the catchment. These help us to identify what mammals are currently using the river.

Green – Potential good habitat
– Sub-optimal habitat
– Unsuitable habitat
– Inaccessible

Community Engagement & Internships

We hold regular strategy meetings and have written a detailed re-introduction plan, and our team of volunteers work on a range of activities and are critical to putting the plan into action. The Working Groups for the project include – Habitat restoration, Community engagement, Project management and Fundraising. This project started with a primary component of community engagement to raise the profile of water voles across the borough and London. We have run community and school talks and attended community festivals, and during lockdown we have moved all our engagement online.

We have also had some fantastic paid interns who have supported the administration and engagement of the project, and from 2021 the project will be led by our Urban Rewilding Officer.

Partnerships & Collaborations

The project is a collaboration with Thames Water, Greenspace Information of Greater London (GiGL), Kingston University and The Hogsmill Partnership. The project will also benefit from the expertise of the UK’s leading water vole expert Derek Gow!

We’d like to send a big thank you to the Chessington Conservation Fund for the seed funding invested to get this project off of the ground, and thankful for the endorsement from the Royal Borough of Kingston Council and the Environment Agency.

How to #GetInVOLEd

Help us raise funds for this incredible project and check out our donation page to support this work!

Thank you all for your ongoing support!