River Chess Workparty – Water Voles (update)

Having completed one training day and one volunteer day, we have successfully installed two large berms, two deflectors and a couple of other features on the River Chess at Latimer Park – all part of the project to improve the local habitat for water voles. The ‘volunteers’ this time were being guinea-pigs for how we’d run a genuine volunteer day, so the Chilterns Society team, the Chilterns Chalk Stream Project and Chilterns AONB had a very well-deserved break from the day-to-day and were also joined by a couple of the Restore Hope staff.

We were very thankful to the tree-work volunteers who provided much of the material for use in the berms (see post on 23rd March), but even with their earlier effort it definitely counted as a physical day – those 6 feet posts take some ‘wellie’ to embed into the channel! But it was also rewarding – we created structures that were intrinsically beautiful, used local materials and fitted well into the landscape (see photos), and, despite the low water we are experiencing at the moment, we could see the change we are trying to effect: increasing flow patterns and sediment movement in the channel.

As we move up the river working with existing features and installing new ones to restore the full 900m length (more physical days!), we will continue to look at how the channel responds and in particular whether we get the hoped-for clean gravels, ecological variation and vegetation growth. This is an important part of the project not just during its implementation, but also in the years that follow; to help with this we have a keen group of citizen scientists who have started conducting physical river (MoRPh) surveys.

Hopefully you’re getting a sense that the good work at Latimer Park is definitely underway.

Hopefully also, the water voles are watching developments with appreciation and some sense of optimism for a better future.

There’s lots more to do, here and at other sites at which we hope to be working, so if you want to help, please keep a watchful eye out for the next volunteer days.