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Last modified: 03 August 2012
Image: Tom Marshall
Visitors to Arundel will be able to watch wild water voles with the RSPB, starting from Saturday 11 August.
This small furry mammal, made famous as the character Ratty in The Wind in the Willows, inhabits the banks of a stream near Arundel Castle.
Staff and volunteers from the RSPB will be running a Date with Nature at Arundel, an event which helps visitors watch the water voles feeding on a floating raft in the stream.
Mark Weston of the RSPB said: “Water voles live along vegetated banks of rivers and streams, and the banks of Mill Road stream near Arundel Castle provide just the right kind of habitat.
“Grassy banks provide food, and also shelter from predators, which usually makes them quite hard to see. But by providing some bits of apple and carrot on a floating raft, we can let them enjoy a tasty snack while you get a fantastic view of these special creatures.”
The water voles on the Mill Road stream are descendants of the water voles reintroduced by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Arundel Wetland Centre in 2005.
Over 150 were released and they have bred and dispersed around the reserve and into the countryside beyond.
Conservation efforts like these are vital, as water voles are becoming increasingly rare in the UK and are now our fastest declining mammal. 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.
Mark Weston added: “By coming along to the Date with Nature, you can enjoy some really close-up views of the water voles and their habitat, and get a better understanding of how we can protect them.”
The RSPB will be based along Mill Road, opposite the putting green and the tea garden on several dates from 11 August to 2 September, between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm. Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/datewithnature for further details.
There is no entry charge to the Date with Nature project and no need to bring binoculars or other viewing equipment.
There is free and charged car parking at the location, and cafés nearby for drinks, snacks and lunches.
Date with Nature projects aim to bring people closer to nature and inspire young people. In addition to learning about wildlife at Arundel, visitors can also talk to staff and volunteers about how they can help save and protect wildlife by getting involved in the charity’s new campaign, Stepping Up for Nature. More information can be found at the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup.
To find out more about A Date with Nature Arundel, call 01273 775333.
Visitors to Arundel can see more water voles on board the free boat safari at Arundel Wetland Centre, ¼ mile down the road from the Date with Nature site. These quiet, electric boats can get fantastically close to the rare creatures. Admission to WWT Arundel Wetland Centre is £10.30 for an adult, £8.60 for a concession ticket and £5.15 for a child. Entry is free for WWT members.