Endangered water vole gets a helping hand at Mount Grace Priory

By Culture24 Staff | 14 May 2009
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a photo of a woman on a river bank peering into the river

(Above) Mount Grace Priory custodian Becky Wright looking for water vole burrows at the 600-year-old monastery.

The endangered water vole, better known as Ratty in the Wind in the Willows, has taken up residence at the 600-year-old Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire.

Tell-tales signs of the creature's presence were detected during a wildlife survey of the Priory grounds undertaken by English Heritage.

Water voles have endured a dramatic decline in recent decades, particularly in lowland areas, due to habitat loss and predation by American mink. But the Carthusian ruin, near Osmotherley, already famed for its population of stoats, has become a refuge.

"We suspected that we had water voles, but this survey, which found the creature's droppings and burrows, provides conclusive proof," said Becky Wright, English Heritage Visitor Operations Manager.

"Their general resemblance to a rat has done them no favours over the centuries, but in truth they are very lovable looking creatures and it's fantastic to count them amongst the Priory's expanding wildlife."

a photo of a small water vole nibbling away on a reed

The endangered water vole

English Heritage has produced a free leaflet detailing the amazing range of wildlife on North Yorkshire sites including Mount Grace in a range of eco-friendly local initiatives being backed by £40,000 from a European scheme called Converting Sacred Spaces (CSS).

Cycle stands have been installed at Byland and Rievaulx Abbeys, near Helmsley, and leaflets will soon be published on bike routes linking these and other monuments to promote green transport.

Two vegetable beds will also be created at Rievaulx to supply the Abbey's popular café with summer greens like lettuce, chives and spring onions. Tendered by local staff, it is designed to revive the spirit of self-sufficiency once practised by the monks in the timeless Rye Valley.

Back at the Priory a bog garden has also been replanted, a dovecot erected and a hedgehog house installed to enhance the surroundings for the prickly resident. A podcast about the Priory's critters has also been produced, narrated by Becky Wright, which can be downloaded from English Heritage's website.

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