July, 2012

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Exposé on the South East

The south east corner of England is a haven for wildlife, with a variety of habitats and some spectacular landscapes.
  • Ratty the water vole - from Toad Hall to Arundel Castle!

    If you have ever visited the beautiful and historic town of Arundel, you may have enjoyed a stroll along Mill Road and the stream below the Castle.

    Whilst wandering along you may also have heard a distinctive ‘plop’ – if so, there is a very high chance that you heard a water vole (Arvicola terrestris) entering the water.

    This small furry mammal, made famous as the character Ratty in The Wind in the Willows, inhabits the banks of the stream near Arundel Castle.

    The water vole is found throughout Britain, usually near open water, and they can dive and swim with ease.

    Occurring along well vegetated banks of slow flowing rivers, ditches or lakes, they are sometimes confused with brown rats (who are also often found near water courses) and are occasionally referred to as the ‘water rat’, which is how ‘Ratty’ got his name.

    While Ratty and his friends come out on top against the squatting stoats in the story book – in real life water voles are not doing so well.

    A national survey in 1989-90 revealed they had disappeared from 68% of sites occupied earlier in the century. More recent evidence indicates that water voles have disappeared from 94% of their former sites.

    The water voles on the Mill Road stream are descendants of the water voles reintroduced at WWT Arundel Wetland Centre in 2005. Over 150 were released and they have successfully bred and dispersed around the reserve and into the countryside beyond.

    With water voles becoming increasingly rare, conservation efforts like this are vital for the survival of what is now the UK’s fastest declining mammal.

    Water voles are legally protected in Britain, but it seems to be a combination of factors which have affected the water voles

    One of the main problems they face is that they’ve lost a lot of the grassy banks they used to live on because people have made changes like removing the vegetation and putting cement along the sides of streams.

    Other factors include poor water quality and predation by mink.

    From the 11 August until 2 September, the RSPB will be running a Date with Nature project along Mill Road, where they will be showing visitors the water voles, explaining more about the problems they face and how people can help little Ratty.

    How Cute? One of the water voles along Mill Road, Arundel.

  • Together For Trees: Our planet needs you... what do you say? Asks Nathan Davidson, community fundraising volunteer

    As you may be aware Tesco have stepped up to partner with the RSPB to protect our tropical rainforests.

    As part of the Together For Trees campaign we've been invited to hold bucket-collections at each of their stores in the south east on 21st and 22nd September. We could use this opportunity to raise over £50,000 - but only if we have enough volunteers to cover all the available slots.

    Please help us collect if you can, this short video explains more about the work the RSPB are doing in this area.

    I'm ashamed to say I've not held a bucket for any reason other than car-washing, so it got me thinking. If I were to give up two hours of my time to collect at my local Tesco store, what would be the best way to gain a shopper’s attention? What would it take for them to stop and make a donation?

    House rules stipulate that shaking of buckets is a definite non-starter. Techniques I've observed in the past that appear to be the most effective would be to dress up, and many RSPB collectors have worn their starling costumes with pride and to great effect.


    Props can do a job and draw a crowd, but it struck me that the most important tool in your armoury is your opening line. As the saying goes, life moves pretty fast, and so do shoppers as they either rush in to get the job done or home to prevent thawing! So your introductory line needs to hit the spot if it's to stop traffic.

    It's going to be difficult to sum up the essence of the campaign in a sound-bite - but if someone is to make a donation, they'll want to know what it's going towards. So the opening line must capture their interest and buy you time to summarise the nature of the campaign.

    What would be your opening gambit? Share your ideas and together we can be more effective collectors!

  • Wildlife’s Knight in Shining Armour

    Wahoo – we’re in the final!

    Followers of this blog may remember some of our previous posts on the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Awards (here and here) and now we are pleased to say, that our south east regional winner, Peter Knight (Estate Manager for the Norfolk Estate, Arundel), has made it through to the final four.

    Of course all our wildlife-friendly farmers are fabulous and deserve huge recognition and celebration for the wonderful work they do – which is why the RSPB started the awards (the UK’s largest farm wildlife competition) in the first place.

    With farmland covering over 75% of the UK, much of our wildlife is dependent on farmland and our farmers.

    Peter will now, along with the other three finalists, face a public vote – and only one of them can be crowned the UK’s Most Wildlife-friendly Farmer and win the £1,000 prize money.

    Here’s what the judging panel had to say about Peter:
    “What really shone though in this application was the level of detail regarding the benefits of management for wildlife. Not only were a wide range of wildlife friendly measures being undertaken, but he appears to be a great advocate to landowners, the public and others, and has gone above and beyond the ‘norm’ in his overall ethos and approach. Plants, birds, butterflies and other wildlife all appear to have a healthy future on the estate.”

    So, after winning over the judging panel (made up of experts from the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and BBC wildlife magazine), it’s now over to you to decide who really is the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer as voting opens today (Friday 20 July.)  

    The 1240ha arable and sheep farm has been under Peter’s dedicated management for the past 24 years. In that time he has supervised the change from a fully production based system to a commercially managed estate that has conservation at its heart.

    The Estate manages over 1000ha of arable farmland, which benefits skylarks, yellowhammers, corn buntings, grey partridge, linnets, harvest mice, brown hares, short-tailed voles and a variety of insects, all of which have increased in significant numbers with the implementation of Natural England’s agri-environmental schemes.

    Lapwings, barn owls and buzzards are flourishing across the whole Estate and the woodland is home to two rare species of butterfly – the Duke of Burgundy and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

    Peter is a real ambassador for farming in the 21st century – running a sound commercial business with conservation at its core. We believe he deserves to be crowned the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer in 2012.  But to do that, he needs your vote.

    So if you hadn’t guessed by now – we really admire what Peter and his team have achieved, are very excited that he has made the final four and are beginning to get ever so competitive!

    In case you needed any extra incentive – by voting, you help the RSPB fight for a fair deal for wildlife-friendly farmers.  And you might even win a luxury break for two people worth over £500!  Find out more here.


    Brown hares (Chris Gomersall, www.rspb-images.com) have flourished in the grass leys and spring crops, reaching a total of 520 last winter.

    The EU LIFE+ Programme funds RSPB work which supports wildlife-friendly farming that furthers sustainable development in the European Union