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This is a sad tale of water voles who got in the way of the planning process.

This is a water vole (taken near Sheffield). They are shy . Because they are supposed to enjoy some very strong, legal protection, we did not try to photograph or interfere with the voles that thrive along Germany Beck during the project.

I would like to make it clear that no criticism of the Police is intended or implied - They are the only 'good guys' in this sad story.

 

In summary
  • As we worked along the Beck we often heard voles 'plop' into the water but you don't often see these shy mammals.
  • There was lots of evidence of tracks and holes and this was presented at the public Inquiry.
  • But the water voles do not officially exist - They don't exist because the powers that be decided not to look for them.
  • There are two thriving colonies - with a blank space between them.
  • In February I spotted that the voles were re-colonising the area so I wrote to officialdom.
  • Letters were not answered so I made a fuss
  • In spite of my efforts, the habitat was destroyed, so I told the police.
  • They know who did it but prosecution was not considered possible.
  • This links to the timetable I provided for the police
  • The legislation
  • But there is some evidence that at least some of the voles survived (Jan 2010)
     

 

Before -

IN February 2009, when the vegetation had died back, these holes were visible. It is very hard to reach the bank from which these pictures were taken, and special permission and safety equipment was required to reach this place.

When we started looking for a battlefield in 2001, we had talked with Natural England (aka English Nature) to make sure we did not disrupt or destroy wildlife during our work. They told me that Germany Beck had the reputation as a water vole habitat. We did many surveys along the beck looking for fording places and often heard the characteristic plop as a water vole took to the beck to avoid us.

 

This habitat was raised during the public inquiry and evidence presented. The inspector concluded that there was no evidence for water voles even though he was shown one of the tunnels during his site visit.

My correspondence

City of York, Police, Timetable

These are some vole tracks (you have to look hard!) snapped during one walk along the beck. We observed that the tracks seem to 'migrate' away from the river - perhaps that explains their direction of colonisation. 

After -

  • right - the habitat scraped clean. This image was taken from almost exactly the same location as the images above - The position has marked with an industrial GPS when some soil cores were being taken.
  • Below - The marks left by the digger. It is a criminal offence to damage water vole habitats. It is not clear from the image of this stretch of the beck at the destruction has significantly widened the flow. And this widening was not continued further back. It was only the portion where there was evidence of water vole holes that was scraped.
  • Below, right - The whole of the area covered by the images where vole-holes were seen.
water vole habitat

What a shame that those who are supposed to be responsible did not do their job.

The big question

Now that the habitat has been destroyed - does it remove it as a consideration for the planners? 

It cannot be right that those with a financial interest in this land can start by denying the existence of water voles and then benefit by the destruction of the voles habitat.

There was some good news - The other colonies of water voles are thriving when I last checked so they will be back. (Nov 2009)

In 2013 and 2014 I searched the beck and am sad to report that no colonies were identified.

Jan 2010 - While they have destroyed the habitat to on the north bank, it looks as if there is a colony already established immediately opposite, on the south bank. Did the colony move or did I miss the evidence when I last checked?

My correspondence

City of York, Police, Timetable

 

It is incompressible that the existence of water voles was denied at the public inquiry when the evidence was clear. First, one of the colonies was destroyed - Although the Police investigated it, the culprits were not prosecuted. But some water voles crossed the river and made new burrows. 

And now the central stretch, with the two strongest colonies, has been completely dug out along both banks. This time there was no hiding place. I will check, but the destruction was so through that I doubt if there will be any survivors to re-colonised the area. (there has been no sign of the voles this summer 2012)

So when a water vole survey is carried out these charming mammals will have conveniently vanished. That is really not how the system is supposed to work, but it is what happened. This deliberate destruction has gone unpunished.

Many tracks have been seen and photographed in the soft mud along the banks of Germany Beck. Interestingly they nearly always head up stream - My theory is that they walk one way because the flow is always strong and then go with the flow the other way .

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The author of the content is Charles Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com   Last updated April 2015

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