The Ingrebourne Valley Nature Reserve is an important site for water voles both locally and nationally, as it is part of one of the biggest remaining populations in the country and its the first place I even saw one. Here is a (bad) photo of it back from my early days photographing wildlife.
It is also the best site locally for the banded demoiselle, being one of the few decent rivers in the area. Ive have walked along the bankside path with 4 or 5 taking to the air with every step.
So last week when a friend told me they had done some less than sympathic work there I was quite worried. What I saw when I went there was quite shocking. The river had been dug down to an almost rectangular cross section with steep banks and all the vegetation on and between the banks removed.
To make matters worse the mud was just dumped on the bankside vegetation.
This was carried out for a 700m stretch, which was almost the entire length of the stretch of river in the nature reserve. Surely it should have been done in stages -if at all! Thats half a mile of river with no food or cover in the river. There is now no sign of fish in the river and perches I seen kingfishers fly from have been cut back.
Whats worse I cant see any reason for it. The nearby path did sometimes flood but there are no houses on either side for 100s of metres and they are high enough to be safe from flooding.
The question is, now water voles have an increased protection is this work recommended or even legal?
Ive looked on the DEFRA website at the law in practice water vole section (page 3 of the pdf). NE86 Water Voles - the law in practice
It states it is illegal to:
intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or
obstruct access to any structure or place which
water voles use for shelter or protection or disturb
water voles while they are using such a place
I'm pretty sure digging out and covering their burrows and removing the plants they use for food and cover is not legal....Update:
Turns out it was Havering council as first I suspected (its not the first time they have carried out less than sympathetic management).
I have been contacted by the local wildlife crime officer and sent them some photos and a statement. Apparently it was already being investigated.
I've also contatced Essex Wildlife Trust and they are definately aware of the situation. They in fact stopped the work once they found out what was happening, so hats of to them. Heres the quote from their facebook page
in response to my question:
Yes, we are aware. As soon as we were aware of the damage we halted the work to prevent a further stretch of the river being affected. An investigation was immediately instigated. We have been working with the Environment Agency and the London Borough of Havering Council. We have also carried out our own environmental survey of the site to assess the damage and impact on the Water Voles.
Hopefully some good will come from this.
Theres another update here