Water voles are seriously under threat across Britain, being the fastest declining mammal in the country. The Chilterns is no exception; between 2001 and 2003 the local population crashed by 97% due to predation by mink and habitat loss. The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), the Environment Agency and the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project have worked together to successfully reverse this decline. Impress the Chess has played its part in the project by helping to improve river habitats for water voles in Chesham.
Thanks to the many projects across the Chilterns, water vole populations were able to cover. The 2011 survey found that vole numbers were slightly greater than those recorded in the first survey in 2001. However, it's not all good news; there have been mink sightings in close proximity to the vole colonies on the outskirts of Chesham, so local landowners who have been working with the conservation organisations to trap the feral mink are urged to remain vigilant to protect our resident voles.
Since then, surveys have been carried out every 2 years in a partnership between Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, Chilterns Chalk Streams Project, the River Chess Association and the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The population has fluctuated and at times the surveys have revealed worrying declines of up to a third of the population. We are currently waiting for the results of the 2019 survey. If you see mink in the Chess Valley, please let the River Chess Association know, by making contact via their web site.